Washington, Jun 7 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that he has ordered the withdrawal of the 3,900 National Guard reservists who had been deployed in Washington DC to help contain recent protests.
“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control. They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!” said the president on Twitter.
Some 3,900 National Guard troops from 11 states were sent to the US capital last weekend, when the wave of peaceful protests began turning violent, with looting and confrontations between demonstrators and local security forces.
The aim of deploying the Guard was to help Washington police, who were seeing themselves unable to deal with the unrest, get a handle on maintaining law and order amid the largely peaceful protests.
Also making up part of the security contingent were 1,200 National Guard troops from Washington DC itself, reservists who – for the moment – will remain activated, although it was not clear from the president’s tweet whether these troops will remain deployed on the streets of the capital.
The US National Guard developed from the colonial militias created in 1636 and is currently a military force of troops from each state made up of volunteers that is under the control of state governors, who usually activate it only to reestablish order in serious situations like widespread rioting or amid natural disasters.
In the case of the US capital, which has less autonomy than individual US states, the president has the authority to activate reservists from other states and move them into the city to bolster local law enforcement and other security forces.
The presence of those troops on the streets of the capital sparked tension between Trump and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, an African American Democrat, who on Sunday called the operation an “invasion” during an interview with Fox News.
Bowser had already asked Trump to withdraw the Guard from the city because, in many cases, they were not wearing name tags or badges giving their identities, calling into question their personal accountability should they engage in actions that might deny civil rights to protesters or others.
She sent a letter to Trump on Friday in which she said that the additional security forces deployed in the capital were “inflaming” the situation and “adding to the grievances” of the people who turned out to peacefully protest.
“The protestors have been peaceful, and last night, the Metropolitan Police Department did not make a single arrest. Therefore, I am requesting that you withdraw all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from Washington, DC,” Bowser wrote, going on to say that she had ended the state of emergency in the capital related to the protests.
On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets in Washington in the largest protest since the May 25 murder of George Floyd, the black man who was asphyxiated by a white Minneapolis police officer as he and fellow officers were arresting him for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase in a local store.
The demonstration on Saturday unfolded peacefully with dancing, chants, songs and artistic expressions, while security forces monitored the proceedings in small relaxed groups without helmets, bullet-proof vests or other riot gear, EFE noted.
In recent hours, Trump has mocked the protests and has said that fewer protesters turned out than had been anticipated.
Organizers reportedly had wanted a million people to congregate on Saturday, the number achieved during the “Women’s March” in January 2017, just after Trump took office.
Although no official figures have been released regarding the number of demonstrators, The Washington Post estimated that about 10,000 people showed up.