Defense secretary pledges Pentagon support to help 'dominate the battlespace' amid unrest

04 Juin, 2020, 00:36 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • A protester vents at a line of Tucson Police Officers in riot gear at Cushing Street and Church Avenue in Tucson Arizona

Esper already has ordered military police active-duty troops from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum and a ready battalion from the 82nd Airborne to stage in the Washington, D.C. area at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base and Virginia's Fort Belvoir.

"I've always believed and continue to believe", Esper added, "that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations, in support of local law enforcement". "We are not in one of those situations now". Prior to this, Milley was appointed by Trump as a key person observing possible military deployments in U.S. cities under the yet to be invoked Insurrection Act.

During Trump's latest White House press conference, the president called on governors to "establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence" as means to control violent protests that have taken place across the country since Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed in police custody on May 25.

During a speech at the Rose Garden Monday evening, Trump said he is "dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to confront protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C. and other USA cities, a plan that Democratic lawmakers condemned as a "declaration of war" against the US public.

When the Constitution describes the president as "commander-in-chief", it refers to his ability to deploy military force against foreign enemies.

The National Guard in D.C.is investigating the use of a guard medical helicopter with a red cross painted on it using the wind wash from its rotors to try to disperse protesters below.

Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have faced a flurry of questions in the wake of Trump's comments, pressure that culminated in Esper's appearance at the Pentagon briefing room podium Wednesday. "What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when we arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there", he said.

"They were not aware that park police and law enforcement made the decision to clear the square", the official said. It was also used to enforce federally mandated desegregation efforts in the 20th century, with Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy invoking the law in opposition to state leaders. "The president is among them", Cuomo tweeted Tuesday afternoon, referencing Trump's threat.

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Esper, asked if he regretted participating in the event, did not answer directly.

"(I'm) not sure who thought that was a good idea", another official told CNN.

"The sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates, and we can get back to the right normal", Esper said on the call with Trump and the governors.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Esper characterized the term as military jargon for area in which troops operate and said it was not meant to depict protesting Americans as an adversary or suggest a harsh response.

Referring to Milley, he said fatigues are the appropriate uniform for a service member to wear at the government command center set up to monitor the protests, which he and Milley had scheduled to visit.

"The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman is a awful crime", the defense secretary said. The only exception is when state conditions grossly violate federal laws, and the president has taken other actions, short of military force, to demand enforcement.

"Remaining apolitical means that there are times to speak up, and times not to", he said.

The District of Columbia's federal status gives the president outsized authority to act, allowing him to direct the deployment of the National Guard. "In retrospect, I would use a different word", he said.

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