State Watch

Virginia refuses, Maryland agrees to Pentagon request to send National Guard to DC

The governors of Maryland and Virginia took different approaches to direct requests from Defense Secretary Mark Esper to send National Guard members to help counter mostly peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., with Maryland sending troops and Virginia declining to do so.

In separate calls made on Monday, Esper asked Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to deploy troops into the District, sources with knowledge of the calls said. 

Esper made the request without consulting Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who had already declared a curfew in the nation’s capital. Northam declined to send National Guard troops; Hogan agreed, and 116 Maryland troops will deploy to guard the National Mall on Tuesday.

“Virginia has three localities under curfew, and we are focused on working alongside our communities as Virginians process the anger and pain arising from yet again another senseless murder of a black American,” Clark Mercer, Northam’s chief of staff, said in a statement.

“When this request came in, we quickly learned it had not been made at Mayor Bowser’s request or coordinated with her, and we have heightened concern based on the President’s remarks that the administration is looking to use the Guard to escalate — not deescalate — the situation,” Mercer added.

The calls came hours before members of Washington’s National Guard began shoving protesters away from Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House, firing rubber bullets, releasing tear gas and setting off flash-bang grenades to disperse what had been a mostly peaceful protest.

The flash-bangs could be heard from the Rose Garden on Monday afternoon, where President Trump declared himself “your law and order president.”

Later Monday and into the early hours of Tuesday, military helicopters hovered dangerously low over protesters, using “show of force” tactics to disperse the crowds. Blackhawk helicopters buzzed low over crowds across Washington’s downtown region.

Bowser said Tuesday that city officials heard from other jurisdictions that the Pentagon had made the requests for troops, without the city’s knowledge.

“We did not request an armed guard for any purpose in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said. “We become concerned about any police or non-police force in our District that does not share our values and are not accountable to the police chief or to me.”

The curfew in Washington will be imposed again at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Bowser said most protesters Monday had complied with the city’s orders.

“What we observed last night is protesters largely complying with the curfew, and we’re going to implore them to comply with the curfew again,” she said.

Police Chief Peter Newsham said he was informed that President Trump would be on the move just moments before Trump left the White House. He said Metropolitan police officers were not involved in Trump’s visit to the church.

Trump has urged states to deploy National Guard members to quell the protests that have hit nearly 100 American cities after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder. 

In a call with governors on Monday, Trump demanded governors “dominate” the protestors to calm the unrest.

“Take back your streets,” Trump told the governors. Sources with knowledge of the call said governors were taken aback, and that Trump attacked Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) after Pritzker said Trump’s rhetoric was exacerbating the already-tense situation.

About 17,000 National Guard troops have been activated in 23 states and the District. Another 45,000 members have been deployed to help combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 105,000 Americans.

The Pentagon has requested additional National Guard troops from Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Utah, who are either already in Washington or on their way, a senior defense official told The Hill.

The official said some active-duty service members are on a shortened alert status. Those troops have not deployed to Washington, though they could do so if necessary. They are members of military police and engineering units.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this story inaccurately said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) refused to send National Guard troops to Washington. Hogan deployed 116 troops to guard the National Mall on Tuesday.

Jonathan Easley contributed.


Tags Donald Trump flash bang George Floyd J. B. Pritzker Larry Hogan Mark Esper Maryland Muriel Bowser National Guard police brutality Protests Ralph Northam tear gas Virginia Washington D.C.

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