WASHINGTON (AP) – Defense leaders are reviewing restrictions on the use of force by members of the National Guard and could allow troops to carry batons or weapons in Washington, DC, as they prepare for more protests and possible violence. post on Jan. 20, the Associated Press learned.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP on Friday that any changes would be determined by intelligence gathered in the coming days for potential threats. But he said they want to allow troops to carry their M-4 or 9mm Berettas rifles and he will know more in a day or two.
The review reflects concerns about the security of Guards troops following the deadly riots in the US Capitol on Wednesday, and will also look at legal restrictions that prohibit the use of military for domestic law enforcement.
Allowing troops to carry deadly weapons would face deep-seated fears about the optics of anything, suggesting that U.S. military forces are being used against Americans on American soil. And this will require permission from different authorities, depending on where the guards are located. For example, DC city authorities must agree so that the guard can carry weapons within city jurisdictions, such as checkpoints or subway stations. Federal approvals will be required for places on federal land, parks, monuments, and places like Capitol Hill.
In June, after a chaotic response by law enforcement officials to street protests in Washington over the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, some critics warned of an overly militarized approach to tackling the problem. This is partly due to the military-style clothing worn by some federal law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Bureau of Security Forces, and their inability to wear identification.
In a letter to Trump just days after the June chaos, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the administration for answers. “We are concerned about increased militarization and a lack of clarity that could increase the chaos,” she wrote. “I am writing to request a complete list of participating agencies and clarifications on the roles and responsibilities of the troops and federal law enforcement resources operating in the city.”
As a result, the deployment of the guards in DC this week includes a number of restrictions, including the fact that they will not carry weapons. Because they are unarmed, they are usually limited to tasks that prevent them from having direct contact with potentially violent protesters, such as personal checkpoints.
McCarthy also said they expected better information about the protests and the crowds.
He complained earlier this week that reports of the potential size of the crowd on Wednesday were “everywhere” – ranging from about 2,000 to 80,000. He said on Friday that there were new plans for more frequent meetings with law enforcement agencies. review intelligence reports so that law enforcement is better prepared.
He added that he has already made a change. As of Thursday night, he said DC members of the Guards were allowed to wear their ballistic helmets. The decision comes amid news that a Capitol police officer in the United States has died from injuries sustained during the riot. Police officer Brian D. Siknik, 42, was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, two law enforcement officials said. Officials could not discuss the ongoing investigation in public and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Four more people were killed in the riot, including a rebel shot dead by police.
As the chaos in the Capitol unfolded, the Pentagon moved to activate guards in five nearby states to support the DC National Guard and law enforcement agencies already in the city. Altogether, 6,200 guards have been activated and are expected to arrive in DC over the next few days.
General Daniel R. Hokanson said on Friday that he had contacted all other countries, asking them what capabilities they could contribute if needed.
For now, McCarthy said, they will have 850 members of the National Guard in the Capitol, who make 12-hour shifts, as well as another 90 at various checkpoints. He said there was also a request from the park’s police for a rapid reaction force of 150 people, which is likely to be approved. And he said there were other demands.
Leaders of the National Guard from nearby states said their troops were well trained, equipped and prepared for deployment in DC. They said their troops would be stationed in DC with all their equipment and weapons, and local commanders would determine whether troops would be authorized to carry them depending on their specific task or situation.
Brig. Pennsylvania National Guard General David Wood told reporters during a conversation Friday that his troops would bring the equipment they had.
He added that the goal would be to de-escalate any situation, and the way the weapons would be used would be “based on the situation and the commander’s intention”.
Major General Timothy Gowen, Adjutant General of Maryland, said his troops had been deployed in this type of volatile situation in the past and would have the equipment they needed to defend themselves.
“I will be happier when they get home,” he said. “But I think we’ve done everything we can to mitigate the risks.”
AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.