The US military on Friday ordered several police units to be ready for potential deployment to Minnesota as the state experiences protests over the death of George Floyd.
Three defense officials confirmed to CNN that military police units at three US bases – Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York – have received “prepare to deploy” orders should Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz request federal assistance.
A separate official told CNN any units from Fort Drum would be drawn from the 10th Mountain Division.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley “have personally spoken with Governor Walz twice in the last 24-hours and expressed the department’s readiness to provide support to local and state authorities as requested,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement Saturday.
Walz announced Saturday that he would move to “fully mobilize” the Minnesota National Guard after protests, sparked in part by the death of Floyd, turned violent and destructive in cities across the nation. Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck Monday night.
The Minnesota National Guard confirmed that it would be deploying 1,000 additional personnel Saturday, adding to the 700 citizen-soldiers and airmen who were on duty Friday night.
Hoffman said “at this time there is no request by the Governor of Minnesota for Title 10 forces to support the Minnesota National Guard or state law enforcement.”
“As a prudent planning measure, the department has directed U.S. Northern Command to increase the alert status of several units should they be requested by the Governor to support Minnesota authorities. These are units that normally maintain a 48-hour recall to support state civil authorities for several contingencies (like natural disasters) and are now on 4-hour status,” he added.
During a news conference Saturday in Minneapolis, Walz told reporters he spoke with Esper and Milley about the possibility of deploying military police to areas where protests are happening.
Walz also said that he “understand(s) very clearly the militarization of a civilian population is a deep concern,” suggesting that he wants to avoid any invocation of the Insurrection Act, which allows the President to deploy federal forces.
“I think it’s really important again for folks to think about the uniqueness of our nation, of protecting civil liberties, is to make sure that civilians control the military and – especially inside the United States – is carried out by civilians, by citizen-soldiers, by National Guard,” Walz said.
“That’s why we’re accessing and they’re helping us access all these assets through the National Guard and our surrounding states,” he added.
“They’re not talking about mobilizing the entire United States Army,” Walz said, adding that the number of troops would likely be around several hundred.
He also made the case that it would be “easier” and “quicker” to rely on state partners, rather than federal troops.
The possible activation of military units was first reported by the Associated Press.
Military police could most likely be used for crowd control, but under federal law would not engage in any law enforcement or lethal activity other than self-defense.
A defense official emphasized to CNN “unequivocally” that President Donald Trump “did not direct” options for invoking the Insurrection Act, which could pave the way for sending troops even if a governor does not ask for them.