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Congressmen Krishnamoorthi And Lieu Ask General Milley To Commit To Not Deploy Troops Armed With Bayonets Against Protesters

June 24, 2020
Press Release

WASHINTON, DC – Earlier this week, in response to multiple reports earlier this month of US Army units being armed with bayonets in preparation for their potential deployment to protests in Washington, DC, Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) and Ted Lieu (CA-33) wrote to General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to express their concerns, request additional information on the policies surrounding such deployments, and request General Milley commit to barring US servicemembers from being deployed with bayonets in response to domestic protests.

Citing reports of members of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment being armed with bayonets for potential deployment against protesters, the congressmen cited disturbing previous incidents of such deployments and the potentially dangerous escalatory effects of such weapons, regardless of the best intentions of those servicemembers involved:

On June 2nd, the Associated Press reported that members of the 82nd Airborne Division who were ready to be mobilized against protests in Washington, DC were armed with riot gear “as well as bayonets.”  Following this first report of troops being armed with bayonets, your June 10th letter with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to the House Armed Services Committee also disclosed that bayonets were supplied to members of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”)

Despite our recognition of the deep commitment of our servicemembers to defend the Constitution and protect the American people, the prospect of troops deployed with bayonets in response to demonstrations, regardless of anyone’s intentions, raises the alarming specter of past demonstrations that have escalated and left unarmed protesters wounded following confrontations with American troops armed with bayonets.

While the tragic events in 1970 at Kent State University are most remembered for four students killed by National Guardsmen, the escalation and violence leading up to and following those killings included those same troops meeting peaceful demonstrators with bayonets and leaving several wounded. Less than a week later at University of New Mexico, demonstrations in response to Kent State escalated after protesters were met with Guardsmen who no longer carried live ammunition but instead wounded 11 people with bayonets, including a bystander and a local news photographer.

To address their concerns about the potential deployment of troops armed with bayonets in response to peaceful protests, the congressmen requested the following information:

  1. At what level was the decision made to provide bayonets to soldiers in The Old Guard and the 82nd Airborne Division?
  2. Were any civilian officials involved in or consulted in the decision to distribute bayonets?
  3. Were servicemembers in any other units provided with bayonets for their potential deployment in response to protests?
  4. What policies currently exist around the domestic deployment of American troops with bayonets in response to demonstrations?
  5.  Will you commit to barring US servicemembers from being deployed with bayonets in response to domestic protests?

The lawmakers requested answers by June 25th, 2020 and a copy of their letter is available here.