National Guard units put on standby ahead of possible civil unrest this fall
The National Guard has put military police units on standby in two states to respond to any potential civil unrest following violent protests across the country this summer, Pentagon officials confirmed Wednesday.
The two units total 600 troops, equally split between Alabama and Arizona.
A National Guard Bureau spokesman said the units “will be ready to deploy within 24 hours if requested by a governor in another state.”
“The forces in Alabama would respond in the eastern half of the country, and those in Arizona would respond in the west,” the spokesman said.
Additionally, the Guard has bought more than $200,000 in new protective equipment and “increased troop training on proper procedures in dealing with protests,” the Guard spokesman said.
“Our goal is to protect the people and property in the communities where we live and serve. This task force will allow us to do so with more speed and efficiency,” National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson said in a statement.
The Associated Press first reported on the Guard designating the two units.
A military official who spoke to The Hill on the condition of anonymity would not say whether the units were put in place in response to possible violence and civil unrest after the presidential election.
Instead, the official stressed that the units were set up as part of “standard procedure” in case state governors requested support and that they would not deploy unless a governor asked for assistance.
“National Guard support of elections is not a new concept,” the official added “If [governors] request assistance, they will be able to contact the National Guard to support the police while the police are the front lines.”
The move comes after a summer of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, with the National Guard deploying to various states and cities to handle demonstrations that turned violent.
National Guard service members have previously been deployed in the U.S. to help with natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, and to quell civil unrest.
The most contentious use of the National Guard after Floyd’s killing came in June, when more than 43,000 Guard members were deployed across 34 states and Washington, D.C.
The D.C. National Guard backed up law enforcement officers when they deployed tear gas and smoke grenades against protesters in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. After protesters were cleared from the area, President Trump was photographed holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, a move that brought intense criticism.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has since told lawmakers that he didn’t see the military playing a role in any possible election-related disputes.
Trump has also refused to say whether he would accept the election results if he loses in November.