Senate Panel Passes Amendment to Block Using Troops Against Protesters

June 11, 2020 Updated: June 11, 2020

A Senate panel on Wednesday morning passed an amendment to bar using active-duty military troops against protesters in the wake of riots, looting, and peaceful protests following George Floyd’s death.

The amendment was introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and it was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a voice vote on Wednesday, according to a statement from the senator’s office. The amendment was part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“My other priority was something I would never have thought I needed to do until last week: prevent the use of military force against peaceful protesters,” Kaine said in a statement Thursday in confirming the amendment was passed. “I was pleased my colleagues voted to include my amendment in the defense bill. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

Kaine said last week that he would introduce the amendment after President Donald Trump said he might consider using the Insurrection Act, a seldom-used measure that was first introduced in 1807, following nights of violence, looting, riots, arson, and vandalism across the United States. Several officers and sheriff’s officials were also shot—some fatally—in several cities, although protests across the country have mostly been peaceful.

Trump told governors that if police cannot contain the unrest, he would deploy troops to “dominate the streets.” It drew criticism from some members of Congress, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the Insurrection Act likely won’t be used.

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Protesters gather in front of a liquor store in flames near the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 28, 2020. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Esper said that active military troops should only be used as a last resort to quell the violence.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” he told reporters earlier this month.

It comes as some officials in several cities have called for defunding the police, including in Seattle and Minneapolis.

“We are portrayed in the press and everywhere else as the enemy and we want people to know that we take our jobs seriously, we’re professional, and the vast, vast majority of the time we act appropriately and honorably and that’s what we do and that’s not being portrayed right now in the media and in the world,” New York Police Benevolent Association President Mike O’Meara told Fox News on Wednesday.

“Our legislators in New York—we have had a partnership with our legislators in New York for years and years and years. I know many of them personally. And they dropped us like a hot stove when this happened,” the union leader said, adding that “reform isn’t just about saying that all police are bad.”