About 350 troops will help with crowd control — seven months after a fraught deployment in June.
Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller has approved the deployment of a small number of unarmed National Guard forces in Washington, D.C., in response to Trump supporters expected to protest the 2020 election results in the nation’s capital this week.
About 350 Guardsmen will move into the city between Tuesday and Thursday to help with crowd control at Metro stations, street closures, and traffic management, according to a D.C. Guard press release. Specially trained “Civil Support Team” personnel will support D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services and Guardsmen “are prepared to respond to augment the main missions, should additional personnel be required,” the release said.
“Our main mission is augmenting select traffic control points and metro stations identified by MPD,” Maj. Gen. William Walker, the D.C. Guard commanding general, said in a statement.
The high-profile deployment comes amid ragged tensions over the election results. The deployment also raises the spectre of a past deployment, in June.
Some Republican lawmakers are refusing to acknowledge President-elect Biden’s victory, despite repeated losses in courts across the country, and supporters of the president are expected to gather in Washington this week as Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results. Past gatherings by Trump supporters protesting the election results have resulted in violent clashes. Four people were stabbed during a similar protest gathering in Washington in December.
Acting Police Chief Robert Contee said during a press conference on Monday that the city is expecting larger crowds than during previous such protests — and that some protesters may be carrying guns, armed.
“Some of our intelligence certainly suggests there will be increased crowd sizes,” said Contee. “There are people intent on coming to our city armed.”
Anyone who carries a gun at a protest or within 1,000 feet of a protest will be arrested, in line with D.C. law, he said.
The D.C. Guard was called up to respond to widespread protests in response to the May killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police officers. The D.C. Guard drew fierce fire when two of its helicopters, unauthorized, flew low over protesters’ heads in what critics described as an unacceptable “show of force” against American citizens. An internal review into that incident has yet to be made public.
At the time, President Trump considered invoking the Insurrection Act and calling up active duty service members to help quell unrest and tamp down protests by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In this instance, Trump has supported the protesters, and is expected to attend on Wednesday.
The Guard deployment comes at the request of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, according to Walker. Trump is officially the commander in chief of the D.C. Guard, through Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
“The District of Columbia National Guard is in a support role to the Metropolitan Police Department which will enable them to provide a safe environment for our fellow citizens to exercise their first amendment right to demonstrate,” Walker said.