A US Army general has said that some service members mobilised to Washington DC during demonstrations last month had been issued with bayonets.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, was forced to confirm the allegations following an Associated Press (AP) report.
Defence department documents obtained by the AP also suggested that some service members sent to Washington DC amid protests last month were not trained in riot response. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, confirmed the report on Thursday.
Members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as the “Old Guard”, were mobilised when protests against systemic racism and police violence shook the US capital after an unarmed black man, George Floyd, was killed in Minneapolis police custody on 25 May.
In a letter dated 2 June, Gen. Milley told two US representatives that soldiers were issued with bayonets, but told they were to remain in their scabbards and not attached to their service rifles.
The soldiers, who never responded to protests after their arrival in Washington DC, were also told no weapons were to enter the capital without clear orders and only after nonlethal options were first reviewed, wrote Gen. Milley.
He added that another US Army general, Omar Jones, had instructed him to mobilise the troops to Washington DC.
Gen. Milley’s letter, dated June 26, was sent to Democratic representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Republican Ted Lieu of California, who demanded an explanation after the AP first reported on the use of bayonets on June 2.
Another unclassified military document obtained by the AP also showed how US military commanders planned to train soldiers in riot control within 96 hours of their arrival in Washington DC.
Most US service members do not traditionally get trained in crowd control and domestic civil unrest.
Mr Krishnamoorthi and Mr Lieu warned Gen. Milley in June that “The escalation and violence leading up to and following those killings included those same troops meeting peaceful demonstrators with bayonets”
In a statement to the AP on Thursday, the US representatives wrote: “While we are grateful for General Milley’s responses to our questions concerning the arming of troops with bayonets for potential deployment against protesters, we were disappointed he was not willing to commit to banning the practice.”
Additional reporting by The Associated Press