Delray Beach, Florida – As the riots spread to dozens of U.S. cities on Friday, the Pentagon took the unusual step of ordering the Army to put several of its military police units on active duty, ready to deploy. in Minneapolis, where the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police sparked widespread protests.
Soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Drum, New York, were ordered to be ready to move within four hours if they receive the call, according to three people with direct knowledge of the initiative. Troops at Fort Carson, Colorado, and Fort Riley, Kansas, received the same directions, but within 24 hours. The sources asked not to be identified because they did not have authorization to discuss the preparations.
Preparation orders were sent verbally on Friday, after President Donald Trump asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper for military options to help curb the unrest in Minneapolis after protests led to looting and fire in some parts of the city.RELATED
Trump made the request in a phone call from the Oval Office on Thursday night, in which Esper and National Security Advisor Robert O ‘Brien, among others, participated. The president asked Esper for rapid deployment options in case the Minneapolis protests remained out of control, according to a senior Pentagon official present at the conversation.
“When the White House asks for options, someone opens the drawer and takes them out, so to speak,” he added.
According to the source, the mil itary units would be deployed under the Insurrection Act of 1807, which was last used in 1992 during riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King trial.
“If this is where the President directs his response, it would represent a significant escalation and a determination that the various state and local authorities are not ready for the task of responding to the growing unrest,” said Brad Moss, a Washington, D.C. attorney. specialized in national security.
At dawn on Saturday, members of the selected police units were at an alert level, which means that if they receive the warning, they must return to their bases within 30 minutes of the operation to reach Minneapolis within four hours. The Fort Drum units are slated to be the first to go to Minneapolis, according to the three sources, two of them officials at the Department of Defense. Around 800 soldiers would mobilize in the city if they receive the call.
Protests in Minneapolis erupted this week following the appearance of a video showing a white police officer pinning Floyd to the ground with one knee to his neck. Floyd later died of the injuries and the agent, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.
The protests turned violent and nonconformists on Thursday burned the Minneapolis 3rd District Police Station near the place where Floyd was arrested. City Mayor Jacob Frey imposed a curfew at 8:00 p.m. starting Friday. But the peaceful mobilizations again led to riots as night fell and thousands ignored the restrictions and walked the streets of the south of the city. Some cars were set on fire in scattered neighborhoods, business robberies began, and eventually, larger fires were reported.
The unrest has spread across the country, with protests, in some cases violent, in cities like Washington DC, Atlanta, Phoenix, Denver and Los Angeles.