The National Guard has drastically increased its response to unrest sweeping America over what prosecutors say was the murder of a handcuffed black man by Minneapolis police. There are now more than 17,000 National Guard troops in 23 states and the District of Columbia have been activated to help quell the unrest.
That’s more than a three-fold increase in just over a day.
“The hardest mission we do is responding in times of civil unrest,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a statement posted on the NGB homepage .”The activation of Guard members in response to civil unrest has unfolded in multiple cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.”
Protests first erupted May 26, a day after Floyd’s death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. On the video, Floyd can be seen pleading as Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving. The 3rd Precinct covers the portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested. Chauvin, one of four officers fired from the force after Floyd’s death, was arrested Friday and charged with murder.
Guard troops have now been activated in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and D.C., according to Army Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman.
“Guard personnel assigned to these missions are trained, equipped and prepared to assist law enforcement authorities and first responders, said Lengyel. “We plan, train, and prepare for emergency response missions with our local, state, and federal partners.
“We’re part of the communities we serve,” said Lengyel. “We know the police, fire departments and hospital workers. We know their capabilities because we live with their capabilities.”
Guard members are slated to perform a variety of mission sets including traffic control, support to law enforcement, transportation and communication support. They’ve also been called up on to assist with extinguishing fires burning as a result of the unrest.
“Aircrews were using forest fire equipment, including helicopter water buckets, to put out building fires at protests last night,” said Lengyel.
Responding to civil unrest is the hardest mission your National Guard does. Our unique, longstanding partnerships with local civilian first responders mean we are Always Ready, Always There to help, when needed, where it's needed. (2/2)
— General Joseph Lengyel (@ChiefNGB) May 31, 2020
The overall mission of Guard members is to assist local authorities and ensure safety.
“We’re here to help and assist local authorities,” said Lengyel. “Our troops are trained to protect life, preserve property and ensure people’s right to peacefully demonstrate.”
Those Guard members called up are in a state active duty status and remain under the command and control of their respective governors, said Lengyel, adding those responding will continue to adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures.
“Governors have used Guard members many times during response efforts to support local and state law enforcement in a wide range of capacities, to include assisting in upholding the rule of law.” said Lengyel. “While conditions may change, the National Guard’s ability to respond is constant.”