Defense Secretary Breaks With Trump over Protest Response

For the past few days, President Donald Trump has threatened to authorize the US military to quell protests across the country. The protests in question are mostly peaceful, though some have escalated into looting and property damage in the evenings. Trump’s threat to authorize the military to perform law enforcement duties in the US has been worrying to people both within and without the federal government.

While the president could technically invoke the ancient and obscure Insurrection Act to use the military as a domestic peacekeeping force, it would likely not help the perception of the US as a country that uses excessive force against its own people. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Wednesday noted that he does not support the use of active duty troops in policing protests within the US.

Defense Secretary Gives Remarks at Pentagon

Esper noted that military should only be used a policing authority as an absolute last resort. The remarks were given at the Pentagon. “The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” Esper stated.

The Secretary of Defense continued by condemning the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. He referred to Floyd’s death as a “horrible crime” during his remarks. Further, Esper added, “racism is real in America, and we must all do our very best to recognize it, to confront it, and to eradicate it.”

Military Command Uncomfortable With Trump’s Statements

Reporting from outlets like CNN has suggested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are uncomfortable with Trump’s assertions about the Insurrection Act. On Monday, in a speech given from the Rose Garden, Trump suggested that the military could be used against protesters. He threatened to send the military to states that, in his view, were not sufficiently responding to the protests.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Esper have been fielding questions from reporters regarding Trump’s statements. Concern over the potential of seeing US military in American cities has built in the recent days. This, in turn, led to a flurry of reporters asking the Pentagon for clarification.

As tensions between the protesters and police continue throughout the country, all eyes are on the US. The following days are likely to be critical in the ongoing battle for civil rights and equality.