National Guard deploying unarmed personnel to protect DC monuments
The National Guard has agreed to send unarmed members to assist U.S. Park Police in securing Washington’s national monuments.
The request comes as President Trump and other administration officials have been critical of protesters responding to the police killing of George Floyd and efforts to remove or deface various statues.
A statement from the Pentagon said the 400 National Guard members would play a civil disturbance and security role around the District.
“They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement.
“The National Guard personnel will not be armed, and will serve as a uniformed deterrence and crowd management capacity to maintain closures and restricted areas.”
Guard members are expected to stay in the area through July 8, the Pentagon said. The National Guard assistance was first reported by CNN.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who oversees Park Police, told Fox News Tuesday evening he requested the assistance.
“This evening, I requested from the secretary of defense that the National Guard be available to us to begin to protect additional monuments,” Bernhardt said, adding that he also requested fencing be placed around Lafayette Park as well as at St. John’s Church — the area where protesters were cleared with chemical irritants on June 1.
“They’re dedicated and they are dealing with a savagely significant situation,” he said of law enforcement.
Trump on Tuesday vowed to crack down on anyone caught vandalizing a monument.
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act,” he tweeted.
Floyd’s death has spurred mass protests in the U.S. and solidarity marches around the world, but activity in Lafayette Square directly in front of the White House has repeatedly sparked outrage from Trump.
His Tuesday tweets came after some protesters attempted to topple the park’s statue of President Jackson.
Bernhardt had previously requested National Guard assistance, arguing his officers had experienced violence.
“I just left Lafayette Square where another so called ‘peaceful protest’ led to destruction tonight,” Bernhardt tweeted just before 11 p.m. Monday. “Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”
Interior’s involvement in the June 1 incident has already sparked a probe by its Office of Inspector General, though the competing law enforcement agencies involved at the scene have already complicated their review.
“After we make an initial determination of which agency had command and control of the law enforcement operations, we will conduct a review of Park Police actions accordingly,” an inspector general spokesperson said Monday.
The probe was spurred by at least three congressional requests for an investigation.
—Updated at 12:33 p.m.