The Trump administration announced it is withdrawing active duty troops from the Washington region, as violent protests subside and the capital’s mayor said the “extraordinary” federal law enforcement footprint in the region had inflamed tensions.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave a verbal order for remaining active-duty units in the region to return to their homes bases, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
The federal plan to respond to protests in the nation’s capital called for about 7,600 civilian law enforcement, National Guard and active-duty Army personnel, according to an internal document compiled for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, obtained by Bloomberg News.
The document, which isn’t classified, shows 2,950 law enforcement personnel from U.S. agencies working alongside 2,935 National Guard troops as of Thursday. Their ranks were bolstered by 1,704 active-duty troops currently stationed within easy reach of the capital at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and Fort Belvoir and Fort Myer, both in Virginia.
“The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans,” Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a letter to Trump released on Friday.
The lack of identifying information on the law enforcement personnel added to the confusion and her concern, Bowser added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced similar concerns on Thursday, asking Trump in a letter to specify “who is in charge, what is the chain of command, what is the mission, and by what authority is the National Guard from other states operating in the capital.”
Pelosi Pushes Trump for Details on His Push to Quell DC Protests
Trump responded on Twitter Friday, calling Bowser “incompetent” and accusing her of being unable to control her city’s budget and asking the federal government for “handouts.” Trump went on to say Bowser “is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment over the last number nights.”
Bowser was asked to respond to Trump’s criticism during a press conference Friday. “You know the thing about the pot and the kettle?” she said. “Our nation is hurting and in need of healing and leadership at all levels.”
Trump earlier this week threatened to deploy the U.S. military to end “riots and lawlessness” across the country, and announced that he was sending thousands of heavily armed personnel into the nation’s capital after days of violent outbursts following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Trump has gotten pushback from Esper and other current and former military leaders.
Muralists commissioned by mayor’s office are painting “Black Lives Matter” in 35-foot-tall letters on the pavement of a two-block stretch of 16th Street NW, just north of the White House, ahead of expected protests Saturday, CNN reported.
Bowser tweeted a link to the mural Friday and said the area had been officially renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
“There are people who are craving to be heard and be seen and have their humanity recognized and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street,” Bowser told reporters.
Meanwhile, a lobbying firm with ties to the Trump administration that had been hired by Washington to help with pandemic relief announced it has dropped the city as a client.
“We are no longer in a position to deliver effective representation, so we have respectfully withdrawn our engagement,” Ballard Partners said in a tweet. The firm as founded by Brian Ballard, who was a top fundraiser for Trump in 2016.
— With assistance by Anthony Capaccio
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