US President Donald Trump said that he has ordered the National Guard recently deployed in Washington, D.C. to deal with the ongoing protests, to begin withdrawing from the nation’s capital.
“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control,” the President tweeted on Sunday.
“They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated.”
A group of uniformed military personnel were seen in front of the White House on Saturday, as thousands of protesters swelled into D.C. to stage what has been the largest demonstration in the capital triggered due to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis black man in police custody, reports Xinhua news agency.
Demanding change in police practices and paying homage to Floyd, Saturday’s protest remained peaceful.
Music blared from a truck, impromptu dance parties took place, and people used chalk to write messages on the streets.
Less than a week ago as the protests escalated and reached the doorsteps of the presidential residence, Trump threatened the use of active-duty military forces to quell the protests, a decision that drew harsh condemnation from both incumbent and former officials.
On June 4, Gen Martin Dempsey, who served as the country’s most senior military officer under former President Barack Obama from 2011-15, said that Trump’s threats were “very troubling” and “dangerous”.
Dempsey’s remarks came a day after former Marine Gen Jim Mattis, Trump’s former defence secretary, denounced the President, saying he “tries to divide” the American people, instead of uniting.
Incumbent Defence Secretary Mark Esper has also openly opposed Trump’s suggestion to use the military to quell the disturbances.
Esper said on Wednesday that the nation was not in a situation that would legally allow Trump to call out the troops for domestic operations.
Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote Trump a letter on Friday, urging him to “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence” in her city citing the peaceful nature of the demonstrations.
The D.C. National Guard confirmed on Saturday it was investigating whether it was appropriate to use one of its helicopters during protests on June 1.
The helicopter flew low above the White House area as law enforcement on the ground reportedly used non-lethal weapons to clear the way for Trump to walk to a church near the White House for a photo op, which caused tremendous controversy.
“The completion of a thorough and transparent investigation is of the highest priority to me and to the investigative team,” Major General William Walker, the D.C. National Guard’s commander, said in a statement.