DC National Guard activated again, this time to protect capital monuments

Elizabeth Howe
June 24, 2020 - 12:57 pm

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The D.C. National Guard has again been activated -- this time to protect the capital's monuments. 

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy signed a memo activating up to 400 D.C. NG troops to "provide security for local monuments and critical infrastructure," Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper, a spokesman for the District's National Guard, said in a statement to Connecting Vets Wednesday. 

McCarthy activated the Guard troops in response to a request from the National Park Police and they will serve in a "civil disturbance and security role" around the district.

Since activation, none of the Guard troops have been dispatched to actual monument locations so far, Clapper said. 

"They remain on standby at the National Guard Armory at this time," he said. "They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction." 

Clapper did not elaborate on which "key monuments" Guard troops would help defend.

These troops will be unarmed, a defense official told CNN.

The 400 troops represent a third of the D.C. National Guard's total force of 1,200 troops -- the entirety of which was activated for "civil unrest" operations during the end of May and beginning of June. An additional 3,900 Guard troops from other states were also deployed to the nation's capital.

McCarthy signed the memo the same day President Donald Trump warned that anyone who "vandalizes or destroys" any monument, in the United States will be arrested and imprisoned for up to 10 years under the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act or other federal laws.

Trump warns of 10 years in prison for monument vandalism under Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act

"I have authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent," Trump wrote the day after an attempt to remove the statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House. "This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!"

McCarthy and Trump's use of the D.C. National Guard in response to protests at the beginning of the month was criticized by D.C. officials. In his most recent use of the National Guard, 250 Oklahoma National Guard troops were activated over the weekend to provide security at President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. 

DC officials push back on aggressive response to protests
Oklahoma National Guard activated for Trump rally in Tulsa

The D.C. National Guard is still being investigated over its low-flying helicopters on June 1. During one of the earliest days of protests over the killing of George Floyd, helicopters with D.C. National Guard were reportedly ordered by Trump administration officials to fly low over protestors to display a "show of force."

Former helicopter pilot, senator wants answers from low-flying DC helicopter investigation

While few details of this most recent activation are available, defense officials told CNN that the 400 Guard troops will likely be activated through the 4th of July weekend. 


Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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