The New York Times reported Wednesday that the only reason the National Guard was called in was not to clear protesters for President Donald Trump’s photo-op, but to “appease him.” Now there’s an investigation into why peaceful protests turned violent.
One white National Guard commander told the Times it was “the Alamo,” while some Black members of the D.C. Guard won’t even tell their families were there.
In the Texas battle with Mexico at the Alamo, Mexico won, so it’s unclear how the commander thinks the siege on Lafayette Square was similar.
Attorney General Bill Barr said that he ordered the “clearing” of the protesters, but claimed it was done hours prior for the president’s photo-op. Now, there is a call to uncover what happened and why the siege on the protesters was so violent.
“There has been a torrent of criticism from Congress, senior retired military officers and Guard members themselves since more than 5,000 Guard troops — from the District of Columbia and a dozen states — were rushed to the streets of the capital to help in the crackdown on mostly peaceful protesters and occasional looters after the killing of George Floyd in police custody,” said the Times. “The D.C. Guard has halted recruiting efforts, and at least four National Guard troops have tested positive for the coronavirus.”
The Guard members are typically sent to other states to help after hurricanes or other natural disasters, but now, the Times reported that they “feel demoralized and exhausted.” One soldier said he and some of his fellow guard members “were so ashamed in taking part against the protests that they have kept it from family members.”
“Typically, as the D.C. National Guard, we are viewed as the heroes,” said a different soldier.
“It’s a very tough conversation to have when a soldier turns to me and they’re saying, ‘Hey sir, you know my cousin was up there yelling at me, that was my neighbor, my best friend from high school,’” said Lieutenant Jenkins-Bey, a Black guardsman.
The Times then dug into who was stationed where and what official was behind the command to send in helicopters to scare protesters. Guardsmen revealed that they didn’t have the training to handle crowds and some were even just out of basic training with no experience working with the public.
“But General Mark Milley and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy warned the Guard throughout the day that if it could not control the protests, Mr. Trump would most likely call in the 82nd Airborne,” said the Times. “The pressure was particularly intense on the D.C. Guard, which had the only sizable military force on the streets.”