THE D.C. NATIONAL GUARD will send unarmed members to assist the U.S. Park Police in defending national monuments around Washington, D.C., as protesters across the country deface and damage statues and increase calls for the removal of many.
“The District of Columbia National Guard is responding to a request to support law enforcement officials and has dispatched unarmed personnel, with others on stand-by,” National Guard spokesman Maj. Robert Perino said in a statement to CNN. “Activated Guardsmen are expected to provide security for local monuments and critical infrastructure.”
A defense official told CNN that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy approved the move on Tuesday, after Park Police made a request for assistance. The official said that no forces have been deployed yet and all remain inside their barracks. Currently, about 100 troops are in the D.C. area, but that number could grow to 400 in total if needed.
The request for more security comes as President Donald Trump and officials criticize protesters who have vandalized and called for the removal of monuments across the U.S. in the course of demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he “authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent.
“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!” he added.