U.S. President Donald Trump has clashed with Pentagon Chief and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who says that Trump shouldn’t use the military against American civilians protesting the death of African American George Floyd and overall police brutality.
“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” the Pentagon chief said.
This comes after Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to states to “quickly solve the problem” if governors and local authorities didn’t do more to “dominate the streets” and stop the protest movement “that has spread throughout our country.”
It also follows the deployment of troops around the District Of Columbia (DC.)
The defense secretary’s advice to the president follows concerns that the military and its leadership have been politicized amid nationwide protests raging in support of Black Lives Matter expressing outrage over the murder of George Floyd. Floyd was an unarmed Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police who caused him to die of asphyxiation when one of the officers put his knee on the man’s neck, according to the autopsy.
Since then, protests, and in some places riots and looting, have been taking place all over the country which authorities have struggled to contain.
Esper expressed to reporters his thoughts about using the U.S. military against protesters, condemning the move publicly, Yahoo News reported.
“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,” Esper said. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Esper also used the press conference to criticize the killing of Floyd and the officers responsible. Esper stated it was “a horrible crime” and urged that “the officers on the scene that day should be held accountable for his murder.”
The defense secretary added that on behalf of himself and the Pentagon he wanted to extend “the deepest of condolences” to Floyd’s family and friends. “Racism is real in America, and we must all do our very best to recognize it, to confront it and to eradicate it,” Esper said.
The Pentagon further confirmed reports that it had deployed soldiers from bases in North Carolina and New York to military installations near DC. Esper also briefly said he had begun calling troops back to their home base, however, that move was later reversed, Associated Press reported.
Associated Press further reports:
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press that the reversal came after Esper attended a meeting at the White House, and after other internal Pentagon discussions. It is unclear if Esper met with President Donald Trump. “
Peaceful protests across the country have been marred by occasional violent clashes between police with several videos of police brutality going viral. As the New York Times reported, authorities have used more excessive force in their response to the protests than the protesters. Various videos uploaded online shocked the internet showing officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against protesters and bystanders alike.
As another example in DC specifically, there was even a red cross helicopter that was used to intimidate protesters, which flew very low to the ground above the crowd. In DC alone there were an estimated 1,300 active-duty troops brought in to the capital region early this week as protests turned violent.
Since the event, it was announced today, that the District of Columbia National Guard launched an investigation into the low-flying maneuver by one of its helicopters over the protesters, CBS reported.
“I hold all members of the District of Columbia National Guard to the highest of standards,” Major General William Walker said in a statement Wednesday. “We live and work in the district, and we are dedicated to the service of our nation.”
It’s a massive statement for the Defense Secretary and Pentagon Chief to stand against the Commander in Chief and is not something that is usually publicly seen. The ‘Insurrection Act’ has only been evoked a handful of times in its more than 200-year history.