WASHINGTON D.C. (WWNY) - In an abrupt reversal, Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday overturned an earlier Pentagon decision to send a couple hundred active-duty soldiers home from the Washington, D.C., region, amid growing tensions with the White House over the military response to the protests.
That’s according to the Associated Press.
Fort Drum’s 91st Military Police Battalion was sent to the D.C. area along with units from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press that the reversal came after Esper attended a meeting at the White House, and after other internal Pentagon discussions.
It is unclear if Esper met with President Donald Trump.
McCarthy said he believes the change was based on ensuring there is enough military support in the region to respond to any protest problems if needed.
McCarthy said he received notice of the Pentagon order to send about 200 soldiers with the 82nd Airborne’s immediate response force home just after 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Hours later, the Pentagon notified him that Esper had reversed the decision.
Earlier in the day Esper told reporters that current conditions do not warrant using military forces for law enforcement in containing the protests.
President Donald Trump has in recent days talked about using the military to quell violent protests in U.S. cities.
About 1,300 active-duty troops were brought in to the Capitol region early this week as protests turned violent, in the aftermath of the death in Minnesota of a black man, George Floyd, who died after a white police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes.
The AP reported earlier Wednesday that the 82nd Airborne soldiers would be the first to leave and would be returning home to Fort Bragg. The remainder of the active-duty troops, who have all been kept at military bases outside the city in northern Virginia and Maryland, would get pulled home in the coming days if conditions allowed.
But then the Pentagon changed its plans.
“It’s a dynamic situation,” said McCarthy, adding that the 82nd Airborne troops “will stay over an additional 24 hours and it is our intent — we’re trying to withdraw them and get them back home.”
Pentagon leaders have consistently said there continues to be no intent to use the active-duty forces in any law enforcement capacity. They would be used to assist the National Guard or other forces.