Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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)

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)

AFL-CIO's Veteran Council Demands Resignation of Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs Chair Over Violent Clearing of Lafayette Square

"President Trump has set a violent and misguided tone in the wake of George Floyd's tragic murder. It is time for our leaders at every level to challenge and repudiate this dangerous rhetoric—and for those at the top of our military, who failed in this responsibility, to step down."

Jon Queally

The AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council has publicly called for the resignation of both U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley for their participation in Monday night's violent clearing of peaceful protesters outside the White House in Lafayette Park so that President Donald Trump could later stroll to nearby St. John's Church for a photo-op.

Will Attig, executive director of the UVC, an affiliate organization which seeks to represent working-class veterans within the labor movement, said in a statement Wednesday that the actions of Esper and Milley "have jeopardized the American public trust, confidence, and respect for the brave men and women who volunteer" in the nation's military.

"Simply put," Attig continued, "our military is not a prop for photo-ops and political statements. This spectacle to deploy our troops created an unsafe environment and became an abuse of power."

As congressional lawmakers have demanded a detailed investigation into who gave the order to clear the peaceful protest, and under what authority, condemnation for the administration's use of force against nonviolent demonstrators expressing constitutionally-protected free speech has come from across the political spectrum.

In a rebuke that made headlines overnight, Trump's former Defense Secretary Jim 'Mad Dog' Mattis—chastized by progressives as nothing less than a "war criminal" himself for his military exploits overseas—said that what transpired under Trump's authority in Lafayette Park was an "abuse of executive authority" which made a "mockery of" the U.S. Constitution.

While Esper on Wednesday said he did not support Trump's threat to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy U.S. soldiers in cities nationwide and claimed he was unaware beforehand of plans to stage the photo-op in which he participated alongside the president, Attig said such attempted apologies were simply too little and too late. "Every service member has the duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 90 to not follow unlawful orders and the obligation not to be complacent," he said. "We are calling on them to resign not as a point of shame, but as an example of leadership."

The UVC called on the Pentagon to publicly release new clarity on the rules of engagement for active duty U.S. military personnel deployed in the nation's capitol city—where Trump has some authority to do so—even as the group made clear its opposition to deploying any soldiers in the first place.

"President Trump has set a violent and misguided tone in the wake of George Floyd's tragic murder," Attig said. "It is time for our leaders at every level to challenge and repudiate this dangerous rhetoric—and for those at the top of our military, who failed in this responsibility, to step down."


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.

100+ Ultra-Rich People Warn Fellow Elites: 'It's Taxes or Pitchforks'

"History paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like," reads an open letter signed by millionaires and billionaires calling for higher taxes on people like themselves.

Jake Johnson ·


South Dakota Voters Sue Over Right-Wing Attack on Ballot Measures

The GOP effort in the state, said one opponent, "is the latest example of the orchestrated and ongoing attack from bad actors across the country on our democratic institutions."

Kenny Stancil ·


Eric Trump Invoked 5th Amendment 500 Times During 6-Hour Deposition

Longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg refused a similar number of questions, citing his right to not self-incriminate.

Jake Johnson ·


Vaccine Apartheid Means Pandemic 'Nowhere Near Over': WHO Chief

"With the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," warned WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Jake Johnson ·


Senate Dems Propose Talking Filibuster for Voting Rights

"If Senate Democrats can find the political courage this moment requires, they have the tools right now to pass voting rights legislation and save our democracy."

Jessica Corbett ·

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