President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy more federal forces to Washington, opposing Mayor Muriel Bowser after she requested the White House remove troops and law enforcement officers from the city.
“The incompetent Mayor of Washington, D.C., [whose] budget is totally out of control and is constantly coming back to us for ‘handouts,’ is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment over the last number of nights,” Trump announced on Twitter on Friday.
“If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!” he wrote.
It is unclear what Trump is referring to when he wrote of “different groups of men and women.” Various federal forces were ordered into the city to quell violent activities in the past week.
…over the last number of nights. If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
The threat comes after Bowser on Thursday asked Trump to “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence” from the city.
The Democratic mayor told reporters during a press conference on Thursday she is fine with the National Guard helping to keep order. But she is examining all legal options to reverse the Trump administration’s deployment of forces from elsewhere.
“We want troops from out of state, out of Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said.
Bowser wrote in a letter to Trump that the curfew for the city had expired 6 a.m. on Thursday, and with that, she ended the state of emergency in Washington related to the demonstrations. To justify her request to remove federal troops and law enforcement, Bowser asserted that the protesters in the city “have been peaceful” and that the Metropolitan Police Department “did not make a single arrest” on Wednesday night.
“I continue to be concerned that unidentified federal personnel patrolling the streets of Washington, D.C. pose both safety and national security risks,” Bowser also alleged, adding that “the deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing black Americans.”
She also wrote that the “multiplicity of forces,” which include “additional, unidentified units … operating outside of established chains of command” can “breed dangerous confusion.” One such example, Bowser wrote, is when helicopters are being used “in a war-like tactic” to “frighten and disperse peaceful protesters.”
“Adding to the confusion and my concern are the units that lack identifying insignia,” she expressed. She asserted that “unnecessary risks” befall both protesters and officers when the officers can not be clearly identified.
“In fact, we found many years ago that conflict between police and citizens is reduced when law enforcement affiliation is apparent; thus, identifying insignia is mandatory in Washington, D.C.” Bowser wrote.
A National Guard helicopter was seen over crowds on the evening of June 1. According to The Associated Press, the helicopter, normally designated for use in medical evacuations, hovered low enough to create a deafening noise and spray a number of people on the ground with rotor wash. The commanding general of the Washington National Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, said in a statement on Wednesday (pdf) that he has directed an investigation into the use of the helicopter.
The district doesn’t have a governor, and as such, Walker reports directly to Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy.
Troops Leaving Region
McCarthy and other officials said on Friday that nearly 500 active-duty troops have been ordered to leave the region. The troops include about 350 soldiers from the 91st Military Police Battalion from Fort Drum, New York, about 30 members of the 16th Military Police Brigade from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and about 100 military police from Fort Riley, Kansas.
Another more than 700 active-duty troops from the 82nd Airborne Division’s immediate response battalion departed from the region on Thursday evening and were back at their home base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, overnight.
The active-duty troops were earlier sent to the region to help if needed to stamp out unlawful activities in Washington, amid protests following the death of George Floyd on May 25. The protests in the city had occasionally turned violent, but while the troops were available, they were not used in response to the protests and never went into Washington, AP reported.
A number of other active-duty soldiers remain on alert in the region, prepared to respond if needed. This includes the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, which remains on alert just outside the city.
“The Old Guard still remains in support. It is our intention to try and turn that off as soon as possible. We’ve had four peaceful days in a row, projecting a fifth,” said McCarthy, adding that there have been enough National Guard personnel brought in to provide any needed support for the protests in Washington.
On June 1, around 7 p.m., Trump walked across Lafayette Square from the White House to St. John’s Church and held up a bible. He was accompanied by senior aides, along with Secret Service agents and reporters. The church had been partially damaged due to arson over the weekend.
Trump announced earlier that day that he was sending military personnel and other federal assets to quell violent riots in Washington.
“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he announced at the time, strongly recommending that governors deploy the National Guard in their states.
U.S. Park Police on the day had evacuated protesters at the park around 6:30 p.m., ahead of a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by Bowser. Police officers used smoke canisters and pepper balls to aid them in dispersing the crowd after protesters became combative and started throwing objects at the officers, according to a USPP statement on June 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.