Mayor Muriel Bowser is activating D.C.’s National Guard to respond to upcoming protests against the 2020 election results scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said at a new conference Monday that the National Guard will assist MPD with crowd management and traffic control as every police officer in the city will be on duty during both days of protests. Contee said city officials expect the pro-Trump crowds to outnumber the two violent demonstrations backing the president in D.C. late last year.
The Washington Post reported that Pentagon officials approved 300 Guardsmen for D.C. this week. The National Guardsmen in D.C. will not be armed and will enter the District without armored vehicles, helicopters or backup from other states – all of which were utilized in June during racial justice protests, according to The Post.
Contee said the National Guard’s activation will help MPD officers better enforce public safety amid heightened anticipation that pro-Trump activists could resort to violence similar to when tensions burst at a December demonstration.
“That will allow for the police officers to focus on anyone who is intent on instigating, agitating or participating in violence in our city – again, unacceptable and we will not tolerate that – so the National Guard will be assisting us in our efforts,” he said at the conference.
MPD officers arrested a leader of the Proud Boys group Monday for burning a Black Lives Matter flag during the December demonstrations.
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that he plans to attend this week’s demonstrations, where he might deliver an address at the Ellipse Wednesday – the same day Congress is set to certify the presidential election results.
Bowser’s decision to activate the National Guard will be the second time the mayor has deployed federal forces in less than a year following its first deployment during citywide protests against police brutality and the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in late May and early June.
Contee said officials “have received some information” that individuals plan to bring firearms into the city for the pro-Trump demonstrations, and he doubled-down on stressing MPD’s enforcement of the District’s gun laws, where openly carrying a firearm is illegal.
“Anyone in violation of District of Columbia law will be arrested,” Contee said. “I want to be very clear about that because we have received some information that there are people intent on bringing firearms into our city, and that just will not be tolerated.”
A presentation at the conference stated that city officials posted gun restriction signs downtown Sunday with reminders of the District’s prohibition of open-carry firearms and federal laws that prohibit firearms on U.S. Capitol grounds and National Park Service areas, like the National Mall.
Bowser issued a statement Sunday urging local residents to avoid downtown D.C. and nearby demonstrations, as officials anticipate protesters to stir violence and carry firearms into the city.
“I am asking Washingtonians and those who live in the region to stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation, and we will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful,” she said in the statement.
Bowser said city officials will evaluate whether they will impose a curfew amid the protests.
Bowser and other city officials at the conference emphasized the distinction between lawful First Amendment demonstrations and unlawful acts that incite violence and crime.
“Of course people are allowed to come into our city to participate in First Amendment activities, and they will be mindful of the laws of the District of Columbia,” Bowser said. “We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”