Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper late Thursday announced an “After Action Review” of the National Guard’s controversial role in nationwide protests last week.

The Pentagon chief named Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to lead the review, which is due by July 30 and will look at the Guard’s “recent efforts in support of law enforcement to address civil unrest,” specifically in the past two weeks, according to a Defense Department statement.

In the statement, Esper said the Guard “has performed professionally and capably in support of law enforcement in cities across the United States.”

Lawmakers are pressing for answers on the use of military forces in the protests sparked by the May 25 death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, after a white, Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

President Trump last week threatened to deploy active-duty troops to quash the unrest, and his administration ordered the use of National Guard troops to back law enforcement when they forcefully cleared peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square outside the White House on June 1.

The use of force came ahead of Trump’s photo-op at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, a move that has drawn harsh criticism over the past week. 

The House Armed Service Committee is also demanding that senior Pentagon officials testify before their panel on the use of the National Guard in the protests, which many have seen as an unnecessary show of force.

Esper’s order of the review also comes as the Army is holding an internal investigation into National Guard helicopter pilots who performed low-flying maneuvers to disperse crowds of protesters in Washington, D.C., on June 1.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) asked Trump last week to “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence” from the nation’s capital, arguing that the protests in the city have been mostly peaceful. 

Tags D.C. Department of Defense Donald Trump George Floyd protests Mark Esper Muriel Bowser National Guard Ryan McCarthy St. John's Episcopal Church Washington
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