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Pentagon Orders Active-Duty Military Police Unit to DC Region Amid Protests

Matthew Cox, Gina Harkins

The Pentagon has ordered an active-duty battalion of military police soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to deploy to the Washington, D.C. area as the city braces for more violent demonstrations.

CNN was among the first to report the deployment order for between 200 and 250 MPs from Bragg. A Pentagon official confirmed to Military.com that the MPs are from the XVIII Airborne Corps.

The official did not specify what orders the MPs had been given. ABC reported, citing a Defense official, that the troops were being sent into the D.C. region but only on standby capacity, in the event that they are needed.

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The move comes after the Pentagon on Friday put active-duty MP units from Bragg, Fort Drum, New York; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Riley, Kansas on alert to deploy on short notice to reinforce police dealing with civil unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a unarmed black man who died in police custody May 25.

Demonstrators protesting police brutality have clashed with law enforcement in major cities which led to the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops over the weekend.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley joined President Donald Trump on a Monday call with governors that was leaked to news outlets. In the call, Trump urged governors to "get much tougher" on protestors. The call followed days of sometimes-violent clashes between protestors and police.

Trump called the protesters "anarchists" who needed to be arrested and tried. He also told the governors, "most of you are weak."

"They're going to run you over and you're going to look like jerks," Trump said.

Esper added that "we need to dominate the battlespace."

"I stand ready, the chairman stands ready, the head of the National Guard stands ready to fully support you in terms of how they mobilize the Guard at doing what they need to do," the defense secretary said.

Trump said Milley was put in charge of the military's response, though he didn't elaborate what role the chairman would play. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, later told reporters Milley will oversee a command center, but declined to provide additional details, saying, "I'm not going to get ahead of any actions that will be announced."

The president also on Monday tweeted support for Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's call to send active-duty soldiers to respond to protests.

The boldness of protestors prompted Cotton to call for the deployment of active-duty combat units such as the 101st Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Infantry Division to do "whatever it takes to restore order."

Meanwhile the National Guard has presented a less aggressive message in talking about the 17,000 Guard troops deployed in 23 states.

"We are here to protect life and property, and preserve peace, order, and public safety," Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a statement released today.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached matthew.cox@military.com.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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