In the days before an insurrection at the Capitol, the Pentagon placed significant restrictions on the DC Guard, according to The Washington Post.
In memos issued Monday and Tuesday in response to a request from the D.C. mayor, the Pentagon prohibited the District’s guardsmen from receiving ammunition or riot gear, interacting with protesters unless necessary for self-defense, sharing equipment with local law enforcement, or using Guard surveillance and air assets without the defense secretary’s explicit sign-off, according to officials familiar with the orders. The limits were established because the Guard hadn’t been asked to assist with crowd or riot control.
The D.C. Guard was also told it would be allowed to deploy a quick-reaction force only as a measure of last resort, the officials said.
Then the mission abruptly changed — and the Pentagon is now facing criticism from governors and local officials who say it moved too slowly to send National Guard troops to respond, a charge that its leaders denied Thursday.
The Capitol Police, the law enforcement force that reports to Congress and protects the House and Senate, hadn’t requested help from the Guard ahead of Wednesday’s events. But early Wednesday afternoon, its chief made an urgent plea for backup from 200 troops during a call with top Pentagon and city officials, according to officials familiar with the call.
The Post reported that officials were concerned over the optics of having armed military personnel on the Capitol grounds, particularly after criticism sustained during June protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The Army official — who was speaking on behalf of the secretary of the Army, who was de facto commanding the D.C. Guard but was not on the call — said the “optics” of soldiers inside the Capitol building was not something they wanted, the two District officials said.
According to the report, Pentagon officials say they did not expect the rally to turn violent on Wednesday, even though Trump supporters clearly called for violence on social media posts.
Speaking alongside [DC Mayor Muriel] Bowser on Thursday, [Army Secretary Ryan] McCarthy said the military acted as quickly as it could once it received local authorities’ request for additional support and said officials had not been anticipating such a violent event, despite prolific calls on online platforms for violent action to overturn the Nov. 3 election.
Image credit: Screengrab / Washington Post / YouTube