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DC National Guard Chief Says Pentagon Hamstrung His Ability to Command Prior to Capitol Insurrection

The former chief of US Capitol Police said that he called the Pentagon for assistance half a dozen times as his officers lost control of the deadly insurrection outside the legislature on January 6, but was rebuffed by senior defense figures reportedly over fears of how the public would react to the move.

In the lead up to the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, which saw five people killed, including a police officer, the Pentagon severely restricted the authority of the commander of the District of Columbia National Guard, the latter told the Washington Post on Tuesday. The revelation sheds further light on how the senior political military command hamstrung the ability of law enforcement to defend the nation’s capitol against the riot.

Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told the Post that he was deprived of the ability to deploy even small numbers of troops on his own by Trump-appointed political higher-ups who feared a repeat of the June 2020 White House public relations disaster. 

Helicopter Attack Draws Ire

When the national guard was called in to suppress massive antiracist and anti-police-brutality protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by white police, their heavy-handed tactics aroused fury across the nation. No incident better captured the guard’s excesses than their use of a “buzzing” tactic against protesters by hovering several helicopters just feet over their heads.

Sputnik Screenshot
A National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter is seen hovering just feet above the heads of protesters in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2020

Orders to perform the so-called ‘persistent presence’ maneuver, which is commonly used by US forces occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, came from the Pentagon, not the DC Guard, the New York Times reported. According to the paper, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. James C. McConville, pressured Walker to end the protests, in order to convince then-US President Donald Trump that active duty troops would not be needed.

‘I Did Not Have That Authority’

The incident was so egregious it prompted an outcry from many, including Human Rights Watch, which typically directs its ire at US enemies. As a result, Walker told the Post, he was not allowed control over even the small reserve force of 40 guardsmen on January 6, 2021, when thousands of protesters fresh from Trump’s White House ‘Stop the Steal’ rally came crashing down upon police outside the US Capitol building, destroying public property and killing five people.

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