Pentagon disarms National Guard activated in D.C., sends active-duty forces home

June 6, 2020 in News by RBN Staff

by Paul Sonne, Fenit Nirappil, Josh Dawsey

The Pentagon has told National Guardsmen deployed to the nation’s capital not to use firearms or ammunition, and has issued orders to send home active-duty troops that the Trump administration amassed outside the city in recent days, a sign of de-escalation in the federal response to protests in the city.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper made the decision to disarm the guard without consulting the White House, after President Trump ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington to quell demonstrations that were punctured by an episode of looting Sunday, two senior administration officials said. Trump had encouraged the National Guard to be armed.

Initially, a small group of guardsmen deployed in the city had been carrying guns while standing outside monuments, but the bulk of the forces, such as those working with federal park police at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, didn’t carry firearms out of caution. Now, all of the roughly 5,000 guardsmen deployed to Washington from the District of Columbia and 11 states have been told not to use weapons or ammunition.

At a news conference Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that some guardsmen in the District had been carrying arms on Monday, but he noted that they did not have magazines of ammunition in their firearms. Beginning Tuesday, the Trump administration de-escalated further, he said, by removing firearms from the equation altogether.