All out of state National Guard troops will be returning home after a relatively peaceful weekend in Washington, D.C.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was joined by Army Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commander of the District of Columbia National Guard at a briefing with reporters yesterday prior to the departure of National Guard troops from Mississippi, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and South Carolina by Tuesday.
No active-duty troops were used in support of law enforcement in Washington, McCarthy said.
Roughly 5,000 National Guard troops were deployed to the region with about 1,500 actively participating at one time in rotating shifts.
There were reports on social media saying that some of the troops had 82nd Airborne, 3rd Infantry Division or 101st Airborne patches on the shoulders; however, those were combat patches earned during previous active duty service, McCarthy said.
More than 45,000 people gathered in downtown D.C. according to reports, “They rallied mostly around Lafayette Square, in front of the Capitol, along the monuments, as well as 14th and U Street,” he said. “It was a day of peaceful demonstrations that really started around lunchtime and dissipated around midnight.”
The Guard’s mission was to be there to protect people as they peacefully protest and protect national monuments in their support of local and federal law enforcement agencies.
Last week on Sunday, after a very violent day of rioting and protest violence, there was a lot of discussion about the Insurrection Act that would have allowed active-duty forces to be assigned to the mission. This was “because we didn’t know if we could put enough support into the city quickly by marshaling national guardsmen from surrounding areas — think Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware,” McCarthy said.
If that were not possible the only alternative would have been to call up active forces, he said.
“We made a lot of phone calls and got tremendous support from neighboring states,” he said. Guardsmen rushed to Washington and provided the forces to back up law enforcement. McCarthy said that from Sunday through Tuesday, the Washington Metro Police Department made 437 arrests.
The mere presence of the National Guard seems to have a calming effect on the public. “There are photos, videos, on Twitter, Facebook, of protesters doing fist bumps and shaking hands with guardsmen,” Walker said.
“Our men and women [who] were out there on the streets, they were talking with protesters, and they were hugging protesters,” McCarthy said. “Because they recognize that we are them, and they are us.”
“But there’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of frustration,” he continued. “We just want people to let it out peacefully. And, … as horrible as an event was two weeks ago, we’re trying to bring a platform or a moment where we can talk and have uncomfortable conversations, and try to prevent something like that from ever happening again.”