WASHINGTON — Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), along with 19 of their colleagues, wrote to Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on June 4 to express their alarm at President Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act as a response to protests across the country calling for justice and accountability for George Floyd’s murder and an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
The letter instructs DOD to answer whether it would deploy combat-designated troops; what the mission, scope, and rules would entail for the use of force; if the troops would be authorized to perform arrests; how these troops would be trained and prepared; and whether the department would deploy federal troops apart from the use of the Insurrection Act.
“President Trump’s behavior over the last three years has repeatedly politicized our Armed Forces and portrayed their mission not as one to protect and defend the Constitution, but rather to protect and defend his political interests,” the senators wrote. “Those peacefully protesting are not ‘thugs’ or ‘terrorists’ but are individuals exercising their fundamental constitutional rights. The military should never be weaponized by the president to limit these expressions for liberty and justice. We believe it is antithetical to what those in uniform have sworn to protect and defend, and a serious threat to our democratic system.”
The senators continued, “This is a critical moment for our nation. How our institutions respond will determine whether the coming weeks and months lead to healing and unity, or continued derision, discord and injustice. We urge you to refrain from using the United States military to diminish or suppress the peaceful, free expression of Americans who are exercising their civil liberties in a call to hold government institutions to a higher standard in the fight for racial justice.”
In addition to Hirono and Bennet, the letter was also signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).