Milley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley confirmed that soldiers who were deployed to Washington to quell the protests over George Floyd’s death were given bayonets, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment based just outside D.C. were mobilized to D.C. last month as demonstrations over police treatment of Black Americans rocked the city. 

For their June 2 deployment, these soldiers were given bayonets but instructed to keep them in their scabbards and not linked to their rifles, Milley confirmed in a letter to two U.S. representatives that was obtained by the AP. 

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But the members of the division and the regiment never were sent to the demonstrations to respond and were told no weapons would enter the city without orders or before nonlethal response methods were analyzed. 

Milley described the issuing of the bayonets in a letter dated June 26 addressed to Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHouse Democrats find Trump officials overpaid for ventilators by as much as 0 million Milley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Democrats seek information on Treasury's administration of 'opportunity zone' program MORE (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuGOP official says Elizabeth Warren 'endorses voter fraud' after joke about Bailey voting for Biden Milley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Trump campaign touts 4M online viewers for Tulsa rally MORE (D-Calif.) after the congressmen had asked him about the reported use of the weapons in a June 22 letter. 

The congressmen had expressed concern in the letter that the use of bayonets could escalate violence, comparing the situation to when the troops had the weapon at the 1970 Kent State shooting. Milley did not commit to discontinue use of the weapon in his response saying the situation would depend on individual circumstances.

An unclassified military document obtained by the AP also detailed that some of the soldiers were not trained in riot response, and commanders planned to train them within 96 hours of arriving in D.C.

About 700 members of the 82nd Airborne Division were activated to two military bases near D.C. and were armed with live rounds, bayonets and riot gear. But they never were sent off base and were sent back two days after their arrival.

Bloomberg News had reported on June 11 that the 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the “Old Guard,” was also given bayonets. 

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The reported use of bayonets sparked backlash online and prompted Krishnamoorthi and Lieu to write their letter to Milley.

“While we are grateful for General Milley’s responses to our questions concerning the arming of troops with bayonets for potential deployment against protesters, we were disappointed he was not willing to commit to banning the practice,” the representatives said in a statement obtained by The Hill.

“We recognize the necessity of the Joint Force preserving flexibility to respond to varying circumstances, but it is difficult for us to imagine a circumstance which could necessitate or justify the deployment of bayonets against American civilians,” the statement continued.

Protests rocked D.C. and other cities after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody after a former officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Defense for comment.