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article imageMilitary: Troops issued bayonets and live rounds for DC unrest

By Karen Graham     Jul 4, 2020 in Politics
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has confirmed that soldiers who were deployed to Washington to quell the protests over George Floyd’s death were issued bayonets, live rounds of ammunition and riot gear.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley confirmed the issuing of the bayonets in a letter dated June 26 addressed to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) after the congressmen had asked him about the reported use of the weapons in a June 22 letter, reports the Associated Press.
The two Congressmen had written to Milley after the Associated Press reported that bayonets were issued to military troops called in to quell what was a peaceful protest that took place in Washington D.C. on June 2, over the killing of George Floyd in May.
On that Monday night, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to do a photo op at St. John’s Church, known as the church of presidents.
According to The Hill, members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment based just outside D.C. were mobilized to D.C. because of the growing demonstrations over police treatment of Black Americans.
Milley said the soldiers were issued bayonets for their June 2 deployment — but told they were to remain in their scabbards and not attached to their service rifles. The soldiers were also told no weapons were to enter the capital without clear orders and only after nonlethal options were first reviewed, he said.
Milley also said the order for the mobilization of the nearly 700 members of the 82nd Airborne Division came from Major Army Gen. Omar Jones, who serves as commander of the military district of Washington. However, neither the 82nd nor The Old Guard was ever called off base and into the city to respond to protests, according to CNBC.
The death of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests  including this one in Washington near the...
The death of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests, including this one in Washington near the US Capitol on June 3, 2020
The Congressmen respond to Milley's letter
In their letter to Milley, dated June 22, the Congressmen raised their concerns over the use of armed soldiers in response to legal protests. They drew parallels to the 1970 Kent State shootings in which four students were killed by National Guardsmen.
"The escalation and violence leading up to and following those killings included those same troops meeting peaceful demonstrators with bayonets,” the representatives wrote.
But Milley, in his response to the letter, stopped short of agreeing to bar service members from deploying to domestic protests with bayonets in the future. He noted that each situation must be dealt with on its own merits.
In a joint statement to the Associated Press on July 3, the U.S. representatives wrote: “While we are grateful for General Milley’s responses to our questions concerning the arming of troops with bayonets for potential deployment against protesters, we were disappointed he was not willing to commit to banning the practice."
They added: “We recognize the necessity of the Joint Force preserving flexibility to respond to varying circumstances, but it is difficult for us to imagine a circumstance which could necessitate or justify the deployment of bayonets against American civilians.”
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