About 1,000 citizen-soldiers with the Tennessee National Guard were deployed to the nation’s capital this week to help keep the peace outside the White House.
Like many major cities, Washington has seen massive demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was allegedly murdered by Minneapolis police. Many of the protests have taken a violent turn as Washington braced for what was expected to be its largest protest yet Saturday night.
Gov. Bill Lee activated the Tennessee National Guard last Sunday after rioters set fire to the Metro Courthouse the night before.
“The right to peaceful protest is foundational to our country, but the violence and vandalism that occurred in Nashville last night was unlawful and tears at the fabric of our community,” Lee said in a statement. “We have reason to believe that many of those involved in unlawful acts are not Tennesseans and we will be working with law enforcement to investigate this further and bring those responsible to justice.”
At the request of President Donald Trump’s administration, Tennessee sent soldiers from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment to Washington on Thursday to provide additional support.
“We are here to promote a safe atmosphere and we stand proudly to protect the right to peacefully assemble,” the National Guard said on Twitter.
Happening today: Soldiers from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment are headed to Washington D.C. to provide additional support to our fellow guardsmen. We are here to promote a safe atmosphere and we stand proudly to protect the right to peacefully assemble. pic.twitter.com/4rBCPBtgvl
— Tenn. National Guard (@TNMilitaryDept) June 4, 2020
At a news conference, Tennessee Adjutant General Jeff Holmes said he received the request this week from the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph Lengyel. Holmes said the deployment would not impact any of the guard’s local missions in support of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security or missions involving the coronavirus pandemic.
“After consultation with the governor and under his authorization and direction, we alerted the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Holmes said during the Tuesday press conference, noting that he wasn’t able to provide further details on the “operational aspects.”
Tennessee is one of several states to send National Guard troops to Washington. At least three states – New York, Virginia and Delaware – have so far rejected the request.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo “Tennessee National Guard” by The Tennessee National Guard.