WASHINGTON (WWNY) - Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says he doesn’t support invoking the Insurrection Act to use active-duty military to stop violent protests.
Esper said that at a news conference at the Pentagon Wednesday morning, the day after a military police unit from Fort Drum was sent to the Washington, D.C. area.
The Insurrection Act forbids the use of active-duty troops in police roles except in extreme circumstances.
"The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act," Esper said.
Esper’s comments directly contradict President Donald Trump, who has threatened to use the military if state and local governments don’t bring the protests under control.
Esper spoke as Trump took credit for a massive deployment of National Guard troops and federal law enforcement officers to the nation’s capital, saying it offered a model to states on how to quell protests nationwide.
Fort Drum’s 91st Military Police Battalion was sent to the D.C. area along with units from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In a release on Tuesday, defense officials called the move “a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations.”
Washington has been one of several cities across the nation experiencing protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody. Some of those protests have turned violent.
Many news outlets report that protests were largely peaceful Tuesday night.
In all, the Army is sending 1,600 troops to military bases in the capital region, but not into the city itself.
In the release, officials said the units are on heightened alert but are not actively supporting police efforts.