The Pentagon blocked the DC National Guard from receiving riot gear or interacting with protesters without explicit approval from Trump’s defense secretary

GettyImages 1295091200 WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DC National Guard guardsmen stand outside the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Supporters of President Trump had stormed and desecrated the building the day before as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

  • The Pentagon placed major restrictions on the DC National Guard leading up to Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
  • Officials curtailed the ability of DC guardsmen to deploy troops, receive ammo and riot gear, engage with protesters, share equipment with local police, and use surveillance without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.
  • Guardsmen didn’t arrive to support US Capitol Police — who were ill-prepared and quickly overrun — until more than two hours after the USCP chief called for them, according to the Post.
  • The muted approach was allegedly meant to avoid backlash that followed an aggressive response to BLM protests last summer, but the response has drawn sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers, activists, and even some law enforcement experts for being insufficient.
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In the days before Trump supporters’ attempted insurrection, the Department of Defense placed major limitations on the tactics, equipment, and resources the DC National Guard could make use of in dealing with protesters, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Pentagon officials sent memos on January 4 and January 5 banning DC guardsmen from receiving ammo and riot gear, engaging with protesters (except for self-defense), sharing equipment with local police, or using surveillance or air assets without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.

The additional bureaucratic hurdle delayed the DC Guard’s response after US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked on Wednesday for 200 guardsmen to provide backup – with guardsmen not arriving until 2.5 hours later – according to the Post.

Five fatalities, including one law enforcement officer, have been confirmed so far in connection with Wednesday’s violence.

USCP, who had only planned for peaceful protests – despite numerous warning indicators suggesting protesters may turn violent – were massively vastly outnumbered by the rioters and were quickly overrun.

It’s not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but USCP has a total of 2,300 officer and civilian employees who patrol 16 acres of land and protect 535 members of Congress and their staff.  By comparison, Minneapolis has around 840 uniformed officers who police 425,000 residents spread across a 6,000-acre area, according to the Associated Press.

DC Guards were not initially deployed to the US Capitol in large numbers, in part because city and Pentagon officials wanted to avoid the backlash that followed Trump’s aggressive use of federal law enforcement to attack peaceful protesters following the death of George Floyd, according to the Post.

USCP itself rejected multiple offers for help from federal law enforcement ahead of Wednesday’s events, and according to the Post, Mayor Muriel Bowser had only requested 340 guardsmen, mostly to monitor traffic and public transit.

But DC guard troops answer to state governors, and since DC is not a state, Bowser had to request additional support on Wednesday from the Pentagon, which answers to Trump – a task that proved to be difficult and slow-moving.

Bowser and her staff, as well as lawmakers trapped in the Capitol, called on the governors of neighboring Maryland and Virginia, who themselves were initially ignored by the Pentagon when they asked military leaders to deploy additional guardsmen.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who effectively commands the DC Guard, said at a press conference Thursday that 6,200 guardsmen would be deployed by the weekend and that a “non-scalable” 7-foot fence would be set up around the Capitol. He added that military officials had planned for Wednesday assuming it would be like other recent protests and that not in their “wildest imagination” did they expect rioters to breach the Capitol.

But decisions by law enforcement – USCP as well as local and federal agencies – not to prepare for riots have drawn sharp criticism. Former DC Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey slammed the police response, telling CNN that “they need to be locking them up without question,” with regards to rioters inside the Capitol.

USCP “were not prepared for today,” Democrat Rep. Val Demings told the Baltimore Sun, adding: “I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force.”

Activists also pointed to the disparity between law enforcement’s relatively passive response to violent protesters Wednesday and the mass arrests and aggression used against largely peaceful anti-racism protests.

Sund, the USCP chief, and another high-ranking Capitol security officer have already announced their plans to resign, and more are expected to go.

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