The Department of Defense moved about 1,600 troops near Washington as rioting continued in multiple U.S. cities.
The movement was described as “a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations” by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman.
Movement took place by military aircraft.
Infantry troops assigned to a force based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were among the soldiers moved, along with the 16th Military Police Brigade headquarters.
The 91st Military Police Battalion moved from Fort Drum in New York state.
The brigade acts as a command and control element for the battalion, which primarily provides military police and engineering capability.
“Active duty elements are postured on military bases in the National Capitol Region but are not in Washington DC. They are on heightened alert status but remain under Title X authority and are not participating in defense support to civil authority operations,” Hoffman said in a statement.
Rioting in various cities, including Washington, started last week amid protests sparked by the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis.
Senior Department of Defense officials said Monday that troops were moved to the National Capital Region so they could respond faster if needed but had not been deployed.
Based on the number of National Guard forces and police officers responding to riots, “the hope and expectation is that calling out additional active-duty forces will not be necessary,” one of the officials said in a call with reporters.
Active-duty troops can only be deployed by President Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief.
The Insurrection Act, which Trump has been pushed by some to use, had not been invoked, one of the officials said.
The act says that a president can call the military to enforce laws or suppress rebellion if he decides “unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.”
About 1,200 fully activated National Guard forces in the District of Columbia were going to be supplemented Monday by additional forces from Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah.
New York was planning to send National Guard members but didn’t end up doing so.
Some of the forces were carrying lethal weapons.
Vice President Mike Pence told KDKA Tuesday that he and Trump are ready “to deploy active-duty military personnel to quell the violence, to quell the looting.”
Pence said he saw rioters engaging in looting and committing acts of violence against police officers, drawing attention to the ramming of officers with vehicles in New York and the shooting of a retired police captain in Missouri.
But, like Trump, Pence said governors should deploy more National Guard forces.
“The president and I will continue to urge the governors, like Governor Wolf, to call up the National Guard, deploy them to the streets and in a strong and decisive manner to restore order. The American people expect nothing less,” he said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has only called up 500 or 600 members, Pence said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, refused to accept an offer of National Guard Support, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat, told reporters Tuesday. The city—the largest in the United States—experienced continued rioting Tuesday night.
The mayor said later Tuesday in a radio interview that National Guard forces and New York State Police officers “are not trained for the circumstance, they are not trained for the challenges that come with being in city neighborhoods, understanding how to deescalate, how to handle really complex, difficult situations.:
Ed Mullins, the president of the Seargants Benevolent Association, whose members served or serve in the New York City Police Department, said in a statement the same day that he was inundated with calls, messages, and emails pleading for help.
“I know we are losing the city,” he said. “We have no leadership, no direction, and no plan. I know you are being held back and used as pawns.”
Mullins urged officers not to give up.
Cuomo mused at a press conference that he could “displace” de Blasio and take over the mayor’s duties, but said the situation doesn’t currently merit such a move.
In a Morning Consult poll this week, 71 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support cities calling in the National Guard to supplement police forces. And a majority—58 percent—said they support calling in the U.S. military to supplement police officers.
Trump has repeatedly urged state and local officials to step up enforcement of law and order.
The president said in an address to the nation Monday that “all Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd,” adding: “My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served.”
“He will not have died in vain,” Trump said. “But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
“But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others. A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residents. Innocent people have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street, or the woman in Upstate New York viciously attacked by dangerous thugs.”
Calling violent actions “acts of domestic terror,” Trump said he was mobilizing all available federal resources, both civilian and military, to stop rioting, looting, and widespread destruction.
For Washington, where rioting took place over the weekend, Trump said he was dispatching thousands of armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop violence and enforce a new, temporary 7 p.m. curfew.
“I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail. This includes Antifa and others who are leading instigators of this violence,” he said.