June 03, 2020

Warren, Colleagues Urge Defense Department to Refrain from Using U.S. Military to Suppress Nationwide Protests

Senators Express Strong Opposition to Use of Military to Impede the First Amendment Rights of Americans

Text of Letter (PDF) 

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) with 15 of their colleagues to send a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley voicing grave concerns over President Donald Trump’s recent threat to invoke the Insurrection Act in response to nationwide protests calling for justice for George Floyd and an end to systemic racism.  

“President Trump’s behavior over the last three years has repeatedly politicized our Armed Forces and portrayed their mission not as one to protect and defend the Constitution, but rather to protect and defend his political interests,” wrote the senators. “The military should never be weaponized by the President to limit these expressions for liberty and justice. We believe it is antithetical to what those in uniform have sworn to protect and defend, and a serious threat to our democratic system.”

The senators continued, “This is a critical moment for our nation. How our institutions respond will determine whether the coming weeks and months lead to healing and unity, or continued derision, discord and injustice. We urge you to refrain from using the United States military to diminish or suppress the peaceful, free expression of Americans who are exercising their civil liberties in a call to hold government institutions to a higher standard in the fight for racial justice.”

The letter requests that the Department of Defense provide information by Friday, June 5 on whether the Department would deploy federal troops outside of the use of the Insurrection Act, if deployments would ever include combat designated troops, how troops would be trained and prepared, what the mission, scope, and rules would entail for the use of force as well if they would be authorized to perform arrests.

In addition to Warren, Bennet, Baldwin, Blumenthal, Casey, and Brown, the letter was also signed by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i).

Senator Warren has also called on the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) to conduct an immediate investigation of the role of DoD civilian and military officials in the attack on peaceful protesters at the White House and the response to the nationwide protests that began in May 2020. Senator Warren has also called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) IG to investigate the role of Attorney General William Barr and DOJ law enforcement personnel in the "sickening and appalling" attack on peaceful protesters at the White House.