Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

President Donald Trump walks with Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

'This Isn't a Healthy Democracy': Warnings of Domestic Military Threat as Top US General Walks DC Streets in Combat Fatigues

"The commander of the joint chiefs is surveying the streets of D.C. in uniform like he's planning a military assault."

Jake Johnson

Why was U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, strolling through the streets of the nation's capital Monday night?

That question was raised by alarmed observers after videos on social media showed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—dressed in full combat fatigues—walking around Washington, D.C. in the wake of the brutal attack on peaceful protesters by National Guard troops and U.S. Park Police.

Soldiers and law enforcement officials, some of them on horseback, beat demonstrators with batons and hurled tear gas canisters into crowds Monday evening to clear the path for President Donald Trump's theatrical walk from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, where the president held a photo-op with a Bible in hand.

Milley joined Trump's walk to the church, as did Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr.

Critics denounced Milley's participation in Trump's stunt and his subsequent solo appearance in the streets of D.C. as an alarming symbol of the U.S. military's intervention in America's cities in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Late Monday night, as Common Dreams reported, military helicopters flew low over crowds of protesters in the U.S. capital in an apparent "show of force" against the demonstrations.

"The military and civilian leaders who acquiesced in the deployment of uniformed personnel in an American city and who strode the streets of Washington as if it were the scene of a battle, and not a place where fellow citizens were peacefully exercising their legal right to assemble, bear a heavy responsibility," the Palm Center, an independent research institute, said in a statement.

"The U.S. military is not a crowd control instrument," the Palm Center added. "Nor is it a tool for settling political differences, or an extension of a campaign... We urge uniformed and civilian leaders to show wisdom and refrain from deploying the active-duty force in American cities. Anything else risks a place of shame in the history books."

Asked by reporters about his presence in the streets of the nation's capital, Milley said he was merely assessing the National Guard's performance.

"This isn't a healthy democracy," tweeted Politico reporter Eric Geller.

Trump said during a conference call with U.S. governors Monday that he has placed Milley "in charge" of the federal government's response to protests over Floyd's killing, which have spread across the U.S. and around the world.

During a speech at the Rose Garden Monday evening, Trump said he is "dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to confront protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C. and other U.S. cities, a plan that Democratic lawmakers condemned as a "declaration of war" against the U.S. public.

Milley has not publicly commented on Trump's plan to deploy the military against protesters.

In a one-sentence letter to Milley on Monday, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) posed a simple question to the general: "Do you intend to obey illegal orders from the president?"

"Trump says Chairman Milley is in charge," Gallego tweeted. "We need to know whether he intends to uphold his oath."

It is not clear whether Milley has responded to the letter.

Common Defense, an advocacy organization of 150,000 veterans, tweeted Tuesday that Trump's threat to use the U.S. military against demonstrators "is nothing less than fascism."

"We call on troops and Guard to exercise their rights," the group said, "and for veterans to speak out with a loud, overwhelming, united voice."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·

Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·

Millions More Kids Going Hungry Since GOP, Manchin Killed Expanded Child Tax Credit

"Even brief disruptions in access to food can have lasting consequences," wrote the authors of a new analysis of worsening hunger among U.S. families.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo