Some governors balk at Trump request to send troops to DC

RICHMOND, Va. — Some governors are rejecting President Donald Trump’s request to send National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., for a massive militarized show of force in the nation’s capital after several days of unrest over the death of George Floyd.

Several states, including New York and Virginia, have so far rejected the request, with at least one governor citing Trump’s rhetoric about using troops to “dominate” protesters as a reason why. All of those states are led by Democrats. Meanwhile, several other states around the country are sending troops to Washington with more expected in coming days.

The Trump administration has asked multiple states to send troops to Washington at the same time as the president derided many governors as “weak” for not using the National Guard more aggressively in their own states.

D.C. National Guard troops waiting for demonstrators at 16th and K. Howard Altman photo.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam rejected a personal appeal from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday to send thousands of the state’s National Guard members to Washington D.C., the governor’s office said. Northam said he was concerned that the Trump administration would misuse the troops to escalate tensions.

“I am not going to send our men and women in uniform — a very proud National Guard — to Washington for a photo op,” Northam said, referencing an incident Monday when police used tear gas to clear peaceful demonstrators from a park near the White House so Trump could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible.

Trump has declared himself to be the “president of law and order” and has vowed to deploy the U.S. military to America’s own cities to quell a rise of violent protests, including ransacking stores and burning police cars.

Floyd died last week after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. The death set off protests that spread across the U.S. The president’s critics say Trump is deepening divisions at a time when leadership was crucial to help unify a fractured country.

Delaware Gov. John Carney’s office said the state did not send troops because Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser did not request “additional assistance,” a reason Northam also cited.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he was unaware of any request to send New York’s Guard to Washington but said he wouldn’t have granted such a request because they are needed at home. Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said 200 New York National Guard troops were requested and the decision to deny the request was made at an agency level that did not directly involve Cuomo.

Trump has been particularly critical of how officials have handled looting and violence in New York City.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Members of California National Guard stand guard outside the City Hall, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declined to dispatch any National Guard members to Washington, while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he is still evaluating the Trump administration’s request.

Other governors have been more receptive.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said almost 1,500 guardsmen were coming to Washington on Tuesday from several states and more were expected Wednesday.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his state’s troops were sent “explicitly to protect federal buildings and federal monuments.” Murphy is the only Democratic governor who has sent troops so far. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, also a Democrat, said the Connecticut Air National Guard may provide help with transportation.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is sending 116 members of the National Guard to be stationed on the National Mall. Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said they will be used in support of the D.C. National Guard and the U.S. Capitol Police and “are not there in any law enforcement capacity.”

National Guard troops lay down their shields at the request of protesters in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, June 1, 2020. Troops had rushed to get the shields as the crowd walked up the Capitol steps but as the George Floyd vigil participants remained calm, the National Guardsmen granted protesters' request to put the shields down. (Kimberlee Krkuesi/AP)

Tennessee said it is sending 1,000 troops that should be on the ground no later than Saturday. Utah is sending approximately 200 National Guard troops. And about 445 Guardsmen left South Carolina on Tuesday afternoon bound for Washington, where the duration of their deployment was undetermined.

“When the South Carolina National Guard is activated, we are prepared to respond as long as needed,” Capt. Jessica Donnelly told The Associated Press.

Associated Press reporters around the U.S. contributed to this report.

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