UPDATED 6:00 PM PT —Thursday, July 9, 2020
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has defended the role of the National Guard in upholding “law and order” amid recent riots. While testifying before Congress, Esper stated active duty troops never engaged with the rioters nor used force against them during the George Floyd protests.
“The guard remained in a static role as backup to law enforcement, if needed,” he said.
According to the secretary, the National Guard was on the scene in case the situation got out of hand.
“With regard to the role the National Guard played in Lafayette Park on June 1st, I also want to make clear the following: the guard did not advance on the crowd, the guard did not shoot rubber bullets, the guard did not employ chemical agents of any type,” reiterated Esper.
He has said the Pentagon has the right to use active duty forces to directly perform law enforcement functions, but noted this is a last resort option.