June 8 (UPI) — Federal and local leaders on Sunday eased restrictions and deployment of military forces in response to nationwide protests sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd that continued over the weekend.
President Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted he had ordered the National Guard to withdraw from Washington, D.C., but warned they can “quickly return” if demonstrations once again escalate.
The National Guard on Saturday said that more than 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 11 states and Washington, D.C., were manning traffic control points and aid stations in the nation’s capital.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy confirmed to reporters during a press call later Sunday that all out-of-state National Guardsmen in Washington, D.C., would be withdrawn over the next 72 hours.
“Over the course of these last 48 hours, the National Guard, as well as our inter-agency partners working with [D.C.] Chief of Police Peter Newsham, looked at the trends, saw that it had become very peaceful in nature, and started to develop a plan for withdrawal of first out-of-state National Guardsmen supporting the D.C. Guard — and then how do we get on a glide path to turning off the D.C. Guard,” McCarthy said.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser shared a letter to Trump dated Thursday calling for the president to withdraw all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from the city, in addition to similar letters to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, calling on them to remove their National Guard forces from the area.
Earlier in the week, Trump called for all U.S. governors to deploy the National Guard in response to the protests.
Trump also faced criticism from Bowser as well as prominent Democrats and military officials after he threatened to deploy the military against protesters, and federal law enforcement forcefully cleared protesters near the White House to allow him to pose for photos at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Pentagon adviser James Miller also moved to resign in protest over Defense Secretary Mike Esper’s involvement in the decision.
Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, on Sunday told CNN’s State of the Union he believes that Trump has “drifted away” from the Constitution, praising military officials for their criticism of Trump’s policies.
“We have a Constitution and we have to follow that Constitution,” said Powell.
Powell also declared he plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, saying he is very close to him “on a social matter and on a political matter,” adding he believes Trump has not been an effective president and accusing him of lying “all the time”
Trump responded to Powell’s comments on Twitter describing him as a “real stiff” and criticizing his involvement in the United States entering the war against Iraq during the Bush administration.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also announced that the California National Guard departed the second-most populated U.S. city on Sunday night following several days of peaceful protests.
Garcetti, who had requested Gov. Gavin Newsom to deploy the National Guard on May 31 to aid local law enforcement with protests, said Sunday in a statement that “a small number of units” will remain stationed nearby until Wednesday to provide emergency support if needed.
“I’m proud that our city has been peaceful this week — and that our residents are leading a powerful movement to make Los Angeles more just, equitable and fair for black Angelenos, communities of color and all our workers, youth and families,” he said.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that the city was lifting its curfew, which had previously been planned to be implemented from 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. Monday, and introduced a series of police reforms, including shifting funding from the NYPD to social services for communities of color.
The decision to lift the curfew followed a legal threat against extending the curfew from the New York American Civil Liberties Union and New York Police Department Commissioner Dermont Shea saying during an appearance on NBC’s Today show that curfews were not effective.
“The problem is, people need to listen to a curfew and that’s not going to happen first and foremost. If people think it will, they don’t understand what’s going on,” Shea said.
During a news conference Sunday, de Blasio also said two NYPD officers have been suspended without pay and will face further disciplinary actions for harming protesters during the demonstrations. One officer was accused of shoving a woman to the ground while the other allegedly pulled down a protester’s face covering and sprayed the person with pepper spray.
The mayor also announced reforms to the NYPD that will occur over the next 18 months “to rebuild a fairer city that profoundly addresses injustice and disparity.”
Though the amount of funds is not yet known, “significant savings” in the NYPD budget will be put toward youth development and social services for communities of color, his office said in a statement. The city will also shift enforcement for street vending out of NYPD to reduce interactions between uniform officers and New Yorkers, and they will integrate community voices into senior levels of the police force through hiring community ambassadors, creating a venue to address complaints and concerns and ensure the NYPD leadership hears New Yorkers.
“This is directly related to the disparities that are so painfully evident in this city and the disparities that were made so clear by the coronavirus,” de Blasio said during a press conference.
Late last week, Garcetti also announced that up to $150 million would be defunded from the LAPD as part of re-allocating some $250 million from the city’s budget to fund programs for communities of color.
Curfews were also lifted Sunday in Chicago and Philadelphia. They ended Saturday in Atlanta and Dallas, and in the Twin Cities in Minnesota on Friday night. Los Angeles County revoked its curfew Thursday night.