Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered nearly 500 of the active-duty troops brought in to help with riots in the nation’s capitol to leave after a fourth day of largely peaceful protests in Washington, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and other officials said.
But a small active-duty contingent of the Arlington, Va.-based "Old Guard" — the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the U.S. president — will remain on standby if D.C. law enforcement needs, McCarthy said Friday.
“The Old Guard still remains in support. It is our intention to try and turn that off as soon as possible. We’ve had four peaceful days in a row, projecting a fifth,” McCarthy said, adding there have been enough National Guard personnel brought in to provide any needed support for the protests in Washington.
McCarthy told The Associated Press that he was told about the reversal after Esper attended a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, and after other internal Pentagon discussions.
McCarthy said he believed the change was based on ensuring there was enough military support in the region to respond to any protest problems.
The active-duty troops were brought to the region early this week as protests in the city turned violent. The protests came in the aftermath of the death in Minnesota of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has repeatedly complained about the growing contingent of National Guard troops in the city to help handle the protests, and has opposed the use of active-duty forces.
The AP contributed to this report.
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