THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT has begun positioning active duty troops around the Washington area in anticipation of President Donald Trump following through on his historic threat Monday to use the military to quell widespread and at-times violent protests across the country, including in the nation’s capital, if local authorities didn’t do more to stop them.
Active duty military police and combat engineers had not entered the District of Columbia but were, as of Monday evening, staging in the region – likely on one of the military bases nearby – “to ensure faster employment if necessary,” according to a senior defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Some had come from units based elsewhere in the country, but the official declined to offer specifics. Other news outlets, including Military.com, reported soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg in North Carolina were among the forces that had deployed.
In Trump’s first national address since widespread protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the president Monday evening threatened to use the military to “quickly solve the problem” if state governors and local authorities didn’t do more to “dominate the streets” and stop the protest movement “that has spread throughout our country.”
Trump has singled out far-left protesters known as antifa and over the weekend said he would designate it a terrorist organization, despite the left-wing “anti-fascist” militant group having no clear organization or leadership. It also remains unclear how Trump could make such a designation legally, since no current statute gives the U.S. authority to declare wholly domestic groups terrorist organizations in the same way that it can foreign groups.
Widespread protests intensified into the night in D.C. and elsewhere after Trump spoke, many in violation of local curfews. It was not clear as of Tuesday morning how Trump planned to follow through on his warning, though in a tweet he said “D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.”
A U.S. president has not invoked the authorities to employ active duty military forces against U.S. citizens since the LA riots in 1992 during the administration of George H.W. Bush, using the collection of statutes now known as the Insurrection Act. Active duty troops have not policed the streets of Washington, D.C., since the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Other presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, used the law to enforce desegregation during the civil rights era.
Source: US News