President Donald Trump announced June 1 that he would mobilize “all available federal resources, civilian and military” to end the civil unrest sweeping the country since the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being arrested by a white police officer in Minneapolis a week earlier.
Trump said he “strongly recommended” that governors deploy sufficient National Guard forces to occupy the streets and stop violent protests. Earlier in the day, the number of Guard troops called up to quell violence had swelled beyond 17,000 in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Among them are at least 375 Air Guard members.
“Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden. “Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”
Violence boiled over in Louisville, Ky., where National Guard and Louisville Metro Police were shot at. One individual died in the aftermath, Gov. Andy Beshear announced earlier in the day. One day earlier, a Minnesota National Guard member fired his rifle at a vehicle approaching police at high speed when the driver failed to slow down, according to Stars and Stripes. The driver apparently escaped arrest, and no injuries were reported.
Trump warned he would intervene militarily if “city or state” officials failed to safeguard residents’ lives and property.
He also announced the immediate deployment of “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers” to the nation’s capital to bring an end to “rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”
Trump condemned the May 31 rioting in Washington, D.C., in which vandals marred the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Lincoln and World War II Memorials. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser set a 7 p.m. curfew throughout the District.
“Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Trump warned. “I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail.”
Trump said his administration “is fully committed” to getting justice for Floyd and his family.
Where Guard Activations Stand
The number of Guard personnel responding to the crisis more than tripled June 1 from the prior day. Guard personnel are currently on state Active duty in:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington state
The District of Columbia National Guard is also activated under Title 32 orders.
“Governors have used Guard members many times during response efforts to support local and state law enforcement in a wide range of capacities, to include assisting in upholding the rule of law,” said NGB Bureau Chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel in a release. “While conditions may change, the National Guard’s ability to respond is constant.”
The Air National Guard Role
While Air Force Magazine previously reported on what ANG involvement in this response looked like in Minnesota, Colorado, and Georgia, here’s how Air Guardsmen in other parts of the country are taking part:
District of Columbia
Facebook photos posted by the 113th Wing on May 30 show Airmen getting ready to reinforce the U.S. Park Police’s response to demonstrations there the same day. “The DCNG members are trained with various crowd management control equipment and techniques,” the wing wrote. “The DCNG was activated at the direction of the Secretary of the Army to help maintain order during protests in the vicinity of the White House.”
Airmen from the state’s National Guard Response Force were sent to Cleveland and Columbus to assist “law enforcement agencies” there, according to an Ohio National Guard Facebook post. “Our members are specially trained and equipped to support law enforcement professionally and responsibly,” the Ohio Guard wrote, calling citizens’ “safety and wellbeing” its “main priority.”
Airmen from the 151st Security Forces Squadron on May 30 provided security backup at the Utah State Capitol and the Salt Lake City and County Building amid protests and rioting, according to photos that the Utah Air National Guard published on DVIDS.
An unidentified number of Air Guardsmen are helping police following a May 31 state of emergency declaration by Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia National Guard spokesperson A.A. Puryear told Air Force Magazine on June 1.
“During domestic operations, the VNG responds as part of a multi-agency team,” he wrote. “VNG Soldiers and Airmen are providing direct support to the Richmond Police Department, Capitol Police, and the Virginia State Police to help keep their fellow Virginians safe.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on June 1 at 9:24 p.m. EDT to include comments from President Donald Trump, and on June 2 at 4:28 p.m. EDT to clarify that the District of Columbia Guardsmen were activated under Title 32 orders and reflect the Arkansas National Guard’s role in the response.