Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Monday approved a request from the mayor of Washington to deploy DC National Guard forces to the city to support local authorities during pro-Trump demonstrations scheduled in the city this week, a defense official told CNN.
Mayor Muriel Bowser made the request Thursday in a letter addressed to Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, in which she referenced protests in the city in November and December that “resulted in a large influx of participants, violence and criminal activity.”
“No DCNG personnel shall be armed during this mission, and at no time, will DCNG personnel or assets be engaged in domestic surveillance, searches, or seizures of US persons,” Bowser, a Democrat, wrote in the letter.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee told reporters on Monday that the National Guard will assist with “crowd management” and traffic control, freeing the city’s police officers to focus on potential acts of violence and other security issues.
Speaking during a news conference on Monday, Bowser asked protesters to refrain from violence, regardless of their political views, and again urged residents to avoid the downtown area this week, as well as “people who are coming here to look for confrontations.”
The mayor also said that a potential curfew for the city was not off the table, saying it will be “a tool that we will evaluate during the week.”
DC’s attorney general, Karl Racine said, in a statement Monday that while DC respects freedom of speech and the right to protest, “the Constitution does not grant the right to commit violence or vandalize property, and there is certainly no right to engage in acts of hate.”
Racine added, “While we respect their right to protest, we will not tolerate criminal behavior — and we should deny them the opportunity to cause chaos.”
Bowser’s office told CNN that the plan includes the activation of 340 guardsmen, while the total deployment at any given time will be 114. The defense official said the personnel will be deployed to a few dozen points on the streets, accompanied by a DC police officer at each one.
The National Guard will also be deployed to Metro subway stations in the city alongside local officers. Their focus will primarily be on the Metro and traffic, a spokesperson for Bowser said.
A chemical-biological response team will be on standby if needed, the defense official said, which is a standard practice for any large event. Finally, some National Guard members will be activated but on standby should civilian law enforcement be pulled away to respond to a situation.