Pentagon chief says military force not yet needed to control protests

Don Jacobson
Protesters rally at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to oppose police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Protesters rally at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to oppose police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 3 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in his first public remarks since protests began nationwide, said Wednesday the situation has not yet reached a point that requires military intervention -- despite promises by President Donald Trump to send troops if violence and looting continue.

Trump has said multiple times this week, and reiterated his intention Wednesday, that he would send the military into cities if they can't "solve" the violent protests opposing the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota a week ago.


Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper said it isn't yet necessary to invoke the Insurrection Act -- a federal law that allows active U.S. armed forces to control protests in local jurisdictions.

"The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations," he said. "We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."

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The Insurrection Act of 1807 was last used in the Los Angeles area in 1992 to counter violent protests that grew from the police beating of Rodney King.


Some governors have questioned the legality of Trump invoking the law to send in military troops and others have rejected it outright.

In his remarks, Esper also denounced the circumstances of Floyd's death, which occurred as multiple Minneapolis officers attempted to arrest him.

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Earlier, Trump urged police nationwide to "get tough" and said the "National Guard is ready" to help quell rioting in New York City, one of the nation's most active sites rallying in opposition to the police killing of Floyd.

"NYC is totally out of control," he tweeted while calling for "law and order."

"New York's finest are not being allowed to perform their MAGIC but regardless ... they will need additional help."

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"I've done more for Black Americans ... than any president in U.S. history," he added. "With the possible exception of another Republican president, the late, great, Abraham Lincoln ... and it's not even close."

Hundreds more protesters were arrested nationwide overnight -- adding to the thousands that have been detained in rallies over the past week -- many in New York City, Washington, D.C., and other major cities.

Police said more than 200 were arrested in Houston, mainly "individuals engaged in criminal conduct, including throwing rocks and bottles at officers."


Floyd's funeral is scheduled for June 9 in Houston, his hometown.

Tuesday, Floyd's 6-year-old daughter Gianna and her mother emotionally remembered him as "a good man" and a "super fun dad."

"This is what those officers took from me," her mother, Roxy Washington, told reporters. "At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families. Gianna does not have a father.

"He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle. If she has a problem and needs her dad, she does not have that anymore."

In St. Louis, authorities said a retired police captain was killed when he responded to widespread looting this week. Officials said the retired captain, 77-year-old David Dorn, was shot dead providing security for a pawn shop.

Pope Francis on Wednesday called for "national reconciliation and peace" in the wake of Floyd's death and the resulting unrest.

"I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in [the U.S.] in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd," he said. "We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.


"At the same time, we have to recognize that 'the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost."

Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd

Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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