Democratic senator plans defense bill amendment to bar using troops against protesters

Democratic senator plans defense bill amendment to bar using troops against protesters
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats MORE (D-Va.) said Tuesday he will introduce an amendment to the annual defense policy bill seeking to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE from deploying the military against protesters.

The move from Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, comes after President Trump threatened to deploy the military in response to demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice. The senator said he will introduce the amendment when the Senate panel takes up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) next week.

“I never thought we would have to use the NDAA to make clear that the U.S. military shouldn’t be used as an agent of force against American citizens who are lawfully assembling,” Kaine said in a statement Tuesday. “I thought that would seem obvious to everyone. But as we take up the NDAA next week, I’m going to be pushing to ensure the president can’t treat the U.S. military as his personal palace guard to try to ward off peaceful protests.”

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In a video released with his statement, Kaine said the amendment would block funding to the Pentagon to “marshal forces against protesters or American citizens.”

“We essentially can defund activities like that and if you do, they don’t happen,” he said.

“The president is trying to turn the American military against American citizens who are peacefully protesting on domestic soil, which they have every right to do. I’m not going to stand for it,” Kaine added in his statement. “As an Armed Services Committee member, proud supporter of our military, father of a U.S. Marine and senator representing a state so closely connected to the military, I can tell you: This is not what the United States military is for.”

Protests, some of which have turned violent or taken place amid looting, have spread across the country since last week in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for about eight minutes.

In a speech Monday night, Trump threatened to deploy troops across the country if governors do not “dominate” the protesters.

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As the speech was beginning, federal law enforcement officers started clearing peaceful protesters out of a park in front of the White House using pepper balls and smoke canisters so Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.

“The spectacle last night of the White House ordering federal law enforcement officials to fire tear gas — now these were not military, but federal law enforcement officials — to fire tear gas at peaceful protesters who were lawfully assembling prior to the curfew which would have required to them to disburse is just shocking,” Kaine said in the video. “But the thought that we would go beyond that, and now have it be the military who might have to do that, I’m not going to stand for it.”

Updated at 5:03 p.m.