“It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel – including members of the National Guard – forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church,” he wrote.
On Monday, Trump threatened to send U.S. troops into American cities to deal with civil unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, last week. After the president spoke, police forced peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square near the White House so he could walk to the church for a photo op.
Mullen, who served as chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, called the photo op a “stunt” that did little good:
“Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”
The retired four-star Navy admiral said armed forces would obey lawful orders.
“But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief,” Mullen wrote. “And I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.”
Mullen noted that American neighborhoods are our homes ― not “battle spaces,” as Defense Secretary Mark Esper described them over the weekend.
“Our fellow citizens are not the enemy and must never become so,” Mullen wrote.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the defense secretary.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.