The DC National Guard said Monday that the US Army has approved the call-up of 250 members of the DC National Guard, as the nation’s capital braces for potential protests and unrest ahead of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
The Guardsmen will support the DC Metropolitan Police Department with traffic management and safety at downtown public transportation stations, as well establish a quick reaction force in the event of larger protests.
The DC National Guard is approved to continue supporting law enforcement until May 9, the guard said in its statement.
The move comes amid nationwide tensions after recent police killings of Americans of color and while cities brace for more protests and potential unrest as the Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd nears a close. DC officials told reporters on Monday that they had requested National Guard assistance to help secure the District and acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley had been scheduled to meet with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday afternoon regarding the request, an administration official told CNN.
The final numbers of guard forces to be approved were expected to be settled Monday when Whitley met with Bowser. The official emphasized earlier Monday that final details of a deployment were still being discussed.
“The Army is reviewing a request from the Washington, DC, city government for the District of Columbia National Guard to provide support to the Metropolitan Police Department during anticipated upcoming First Amendment demonstrations,” an Army official told CNN. The official noted the precise wording of the formally approved statement does not reference the Chauvin trial but said that is what the statement is referring to.
The Pentagon acknowledged later Monday the request for National Guard assistance, with chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby saying that “there is a request that the Army is looking at right now,” but declining to provide additional details.
Under the laws governing the DC National Guard, the President retains authority to deploy the Guard. That authority is currently granted to the Army.
The request was made in a letter on April 8 from DC’s Director of Homeland Security, Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, to the DC National Guard commander, Maj. Gen. William Walker. It did not state how many total National Guardsmen were being requested but said that the bulk of them will be broken up into six “crowd management teams” at various metro stations and others “to assist at thirty designated traffic posts.”
“The mission of the DCNG during this activation will primarily be crowd management, ‘Quick Response Force’ (QRF) and to assist with blocking vehicles at traffic posts,” Rodriguez writes. The QRF would be staged at the DC armory “with the ability to respond within thirty minutes to a request for assistance.”
Rodriguez on Monday called the request “precautionary” and said they’ve asked for National Guard to support the DC Metropolitan Police Department with traffic management and security at downtown public transportation stations, as well as a quick reaction force of guardsmen to be deployed in the event of “large-scale protests.”
He said, if the request is approved, the assisting guardsmen will not be armed, noting that only the President can sign off on arming the DC National Guard.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.