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Esper orders review of National Guard’s nationwide protest response

Members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) of the Army National Guard in Knoxville, also known as the “Tennessee Cavalry”, returned to McGhee Tyson from a deployment to the Washington D.C. metro area June 9, 2020. TNG personnel assigned to these missions are trained, equipped and prepared to assist law enforcement authorities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Gagnon)
June 12, 2020

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Thursday that all the National Guard would review its nationwide deployments in response to civil unrest and law enforcement support missions over the past few weeks.

The Pentagon announced Esper’s decision in an emailed press statement Thursday, which noted that Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy was tasked with preparing the After Action Review.

“In recent weeks, the National Guard has performed professionally and capably in support of law enforcement in cities across the United States,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “I have the greatest respect for, and am deeply proud of our Soldiers and Airmen who served during this period to ensure that peaceful protestors could execute their First Amendment rights, and that they and others would not suffer from violence against themselves and their property. I have full confidence in Secretary of the Army McCarthy to lead a robust review.”

The Pentagon indicated the review would address a range of topics relating to the deployment of National Guard units in response to protests and rioting in recent weeks.

“The report will address a range of issues, including training, equipping, organizing, manning, deployment, and employment of National Guard forces,” the Pentagon statement read.

The review is scheduled to be completed by July 30 of this year.

Protests began following George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Video of Floyd’s arrest showed an officer pinning his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he was eventually pronounced dead. His death has sparked outrage over police brutality and has led to both peaceful demonstrations and rioting around the country.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was one of the first to call on his state’s National Guard units after he determined demonstrators were no longer protesting Floyd’s death and were instead becoming increasingly violent and destructive. National Guard units eventually deployed in several other states and in Washington D.C. as rioters gathered outside the White House and vandalized monuments in the capital.

The National Guard deployments became a contentious issue as President Donald Trump called on the governors of various states to consider using the units to respond to civil unrest. Trump warned that if governors did not take action, he would consider sending in active military units to respond to rioting.

“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” he said. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United State military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Two days later, after National Guard and military units deployed to the National Capitol Region around Washington D.C., Esper said he did not support using “active duty forces in a law enforcement role.” Esper’s public remarks reportedly set off a behind the scenes disagreement between the President and his Defense Secretary.

On Sunday, Trump ordered the removal of the various National Guard units which had deployed to Washington D.C.