As President Donald Trump faces growing criticism from veterans and some ex-military leaders—including his former Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis—for deploying U.S. troops against peaceful protesters, busloads of soldiers arrived in the nation's capital on Wednesday in what critics warned is part of the White House's effort to intimidate and squash nationwide demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd.
More than 10 tour buses filled with troops pulled up in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon after Pentagon chief Mark Esper—who just hours earlier balked at Trump's threat to use active-duty forces to confront protesters—reversed his order sending soldiers home from the capital region following a meeting at the White House.
"It is unclear if Esper met with President Donald Trump," the Associated Press reported.
The buses arrived as demonstrations in the nation's capital and across the country continued to grow even in the face of brutality from police and members of the National Guard.
"The numbers of U.S. military security forces in D.C. right now is just ridiculous. This is pure intimidation," Tim Shorrock, correspondent for The Nation, tweeted in response to a video of troops lining up in the capital. "Trump is very afraid. The longer we stay in the streets, the more frightened he gets."
"This is what authoritarianism looks like," added journalist Ben Norton. "After decades of waging war across the planet, the U.S. empire is waging war directly on its own people."
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) June 3, 2020
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— Natalie Delgadillo (@ndelgadillo07) June 4, 2020
The busloads of U.S. troops reached D.C. after Mattis—who has been largely silent about Trump's abuses of power since resigning from his Pentagon post in December of 2018—released a statement condemning the president's use of soldiers to "violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens" in order to "provide a bizarre photo-op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside."
"We must reject any thinking of our cities as a 'battlespace' that our uniformed military is called upon to 'dominate,'" Mattis wrote, quoting the words of Esper and Trump, respectively. "We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."
As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, more than 300 veterans have signed onto an open letter urging troops to "do the right thing" and refuse orders to deploy against protesters.
"Today you have to decide whether you are loyal to the values you swore to uphold or to the commanders who would order you to turn on your neighbors for demanding justice," the letter reads. "You cannot be loyal to both."