Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Protesters raise their hands in front of military police during a demonstration on June 1, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

'We Need to Put Guardrails in Place': Senator Unveils Plan to Bar Use of US Military Force Against Protesters

"I thought that would seem obvious to everyone. But as we take up the NDAA next week, I'm going to be pushing to ensure the president can't treat the U.S. military as his personal palace guard."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Tim Kaine on Tuesday announced plans to introduce an amendment barring the American military from using force against U.S. protesters, a proposal that the Virginia Democrat said he "never thought" Congress would need to pass until he watched National Guard soldiers violently assault peaceful demonstrators in the nation's capital earlier this week.

"I never thought we would have to use the National Defense Authorization Act to make clear that the U.S. military shouldn't be used as an agent of force against American citizens," Kaine said in a statement. "I thought that would seem obvious to everyone."

"I'm going to be pushing to ensure the president can't treat the U.S. military as his personal palace guard to try to ward off peaceful protests," Kaine added.

The Virginia Democrat said the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to take up the NDAA—which sets the Pentagon's budget—some time next week.

In a video posted to his website Tuesday, Kaine said his amendment would ensure that no federal funding is used by the Defense Department to "marshal force against protesters" as they demonstrate nationwide against the police killing of George Floyd.

"We essentially can defund activities like that, and if you do they don't happen," said Kaine.

Kaine's proposal came a day after Trump said in a speech at the White House Monday that he is "dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to Washington, D.C. to confront protesters.

Trump also warned that he is prepared to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy U.S. troops to any state that refuses to activate the National Guard.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it had shifted 1,600 U.S. soldiers closer to the Washington, D.C. area.

"Active duty elements are postured on military bases in the National Capitol Region but are not in Washington, D.C.," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement.

In a letter (pdf) Wednesday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley, 20 Democratic senators and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed "grave concern" over Trump's threat to use the centuries-old law to crush nationwide protests.

"The military should never be weaponized by the president to limit these expressions for liberty and justice," the senators wrote. "We believe it is antithetical to what those in uniform have sworn to protect and defend, and a serious threat to our democratic system."

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

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·

40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster Shots for People 65+ and Especially Vulnerable

The scientific advisory committee voted down a recommendation for other adults.

Common Dreams staff ·

'What Betrayal Looks Like': UN Report Says World on Track for 2.7°C of Warming by 2100

"Whatever our so-called 'leaders' are doing," said Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, "they are doing it wrong."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo