Defense

Murphy reminds Defense leaders that forces in DC protests must visibly ID themselves

Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) reminded the acting U.S. attorney general and Pentagon leaders that any federal law enforcement or armed forces used in protests around Washington, D.C., this week must visibly identify themselves.

“The legislation enacted into law last week ensures that no administration has the authority to deploy unidentifiable law enforcement or members of the armed forces in response to a civil disturbance,” Murphy said in a Tuesday letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffery Rosen, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. 

“We all must ensure the safety of Americans who gather to peacefully exercise their constitutional rights,” he wrote.

The legislation Murphy referred to — which was included in the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed Jan. 1 — requires members of the armed forces and federal law enforcement personnel responding to civil disturbances to clearly identify which department they represent. 

The new law was included in the NDAA following the presence of unmarked federal law enforcement officers in the capital this summer used to address protests over racial injustice.

The security personnel, who were dressed in paramilitary uniforms and wore no identifying insignia or name badges, would not tell journalists and protesters which agency they worked for. Some would only say they worked for the federal government while others identified themselves as employed by the Justice Department.

“This lack of identification made it impossible for citizens to distinguish between legitimate law enforcement and dangerous private vigilantes, or hold accountable enforcement personnel who engaged in abusive conduct,” Murphy wrote. 

The issue is again front and center as more than 300 D.C. National Guard troops are in Washington from Tuesday to Thursday as thousands of President Trump’s supporters gather in the city to protest Congress’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win.

For this most recent protest, members of the D.C. National Guard are wearing black vests instead of their typical camouflage vests, highlighting a different mission from other domestic support operations, according to D.C. National Guard spokesperson Capt. Tinashe T. Machona.

“The black identification vest is not body armor nor a tactical vest. It is the traditional uniform worn by the D.C. National Guard members in multiple domestic operations including Presidential Inaugurations, the COVID-19 pandemic response, the 4th of July celebration and the ‘Anniversary March on Washington’ in the last year,” Machona said in a statement Tuesday.

Tags Chris Murphy DC national guard dc protests Donald Trump election certification Joe Biden joint session of congress Ryan McCarthy Trump supporters Washington

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