Some of the service members who were mobilized to Washington, DC, last month in response to civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd were issued bayonets. Defense documents obtained by the AP show some were not trained in riot response. Members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, which is based in DC and typically guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, were mobilized last month to respond to massive protests over the treatment of Black Americans and systemic issues of police brutality. But the troops were never actually sent to the protests after they arrived. The soldiers were issued bayonets for their June 2 deployment—but told they were to remain in their scabbards and not attached to their service rifles, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley wrote to two US representatives in a letter that was obtained by the AP.
The soldiers were also told no weapons were to enter the capital without clear orders and only after nonlethal options were first reviewed, he said. Milley said the order to mobilize the troops came from Army Maj. Gen. Omar Jones, who serves as commander of the military district of Washington. Milley's letter, dated June 26, was sent to Democratic Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who demanded an explanation after the AP first reported on the use of bayonets on June 2. Roughly 700 members of the 82nd Airborne Division were sent on that day to two military bases near the District Capitol Area. The AP previously reported soldiers were armed with live rounds, bayonets, and riot gear. Bloomberg reported on June 11 that the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “The Old Guard," was also issued bayonets. Upon arrival, neither the 82nd nor The Old Guard were ever called off base and into the city to respond to protests. Division paratroopers were sent back to Fort Bragg on June 4. But the reports led to sharp condemnation and outrage on social media platforms. (Much more here, including on the lack of training for dealing with civil unrest.)