Hundreds of Utah National Guard soldiers deployed in Washington, D.C., to quell protests

(Patrick Semansky | AP file photo) President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after he visited outside St. John's Church across from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night.

Washington • Some 200 Utah National Guard soldiers are now deployed in the nation’s capital to help curtail the sometimes violent protests that have broken out near the White House and U.S. Capitol over the death of a black man in Minnesota at the hands of a white police officer.

The Utah troops were sent to Washington on Monday, joining some 1,300 soldiers from the District of Columbia's National Guard and others from New Jersey. More soldiers from Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee are expected to be deployed Tuesday.

President Donald Trump on Monday called on governors to quell the protests in their cities, vowing to mobilize “all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”

Trump’s use of military force, potentially even invoking a 19th century law dealing with insurrections, comes after some peaceful protests across the country turned violent in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bystander video showed Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite repeated pleas by Floyd that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin has been charged with murder, though it added to the continued concern about people of color dying at the hands of white police officers.

Trump, who had warned protesters that violence would not be tolerated, blasted the gatherings across the country and especially in Washington where federal officers on Monday used tear gas, rubber bullets and shields to move a peaceful crowd away from Lafayette Park so the president could leave the White House for a photo op in front of the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Some 400 people have been arrested in Washington in recent days and the city has now imposed a curfew at 7 p.m.

“What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace,” Trump said Monday. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”

The Utah soldiers were already ready for the deployment and flew from Salt Lake City to Joint Base Andrews near Washington at the president’s request, the Utah National Guard said in a statement. The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, made a request on behalf of the president to state adjutant generals on Monday, and the Utah Guard sought and received Gov. Gary Herbert’s approval for deployment.

“As a service member and fellow American, it has been heartbreaking to witness the pain and frustration of our communities across this nation,” said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Turley, adjutant general of Utah National Guard, in a statement.

“This mission to support civil authorities in our nation’s capital is one of our toughest missions, but one that we are trained and ready to do," the general added. "The Utah National Guard is committed to support our nation to preserve life, protect property, and to restore peace during these unprecedented times.”

Utah soldiers were already postured for a deployment and were able to be reassigned to rapidly respond to the president’s request for support. The soldiers were flown on military KC-135R aircraft from the Utah Air National Guard at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base, Salt Lake City, to Joint Base Andrews, Washington, D.C.

Maj. Jaime R. Thomas of the Utah National Guard said that it deployed approximately 200 soldiers on Monday “to assist civil authorities in our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, to preserve life, protect property and restore peace."