Washington, D.C., has the nation’s highest ratio of law enforcement officers to residents in the nation for cities over 250,000 people, and it isn’t even close. It has 547 officers per 100,000 residents, or approximately 3,900, and with every federal law enforcement agency from the Park Police, FBI, DHS, and U.S. Marshals all in Washington to secure the inauguration, it might seem sufficient.
Yet, last night, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Lamont Ruffin swore in 2,000 of the reported 25,000 National Guard troops present for the inauguration as special deputies:
Chief Lamont Ruffin from D.C. District Court swears in 2000 National Guard troops as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals prior to the upcoming presidential inauguration: https://t.co/vw5OC3maqV pic.twitter.com/oG6n1JgpiZ
— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) January 18, 2021
For an event the public will not be permitted to attend, outside of an established “green zone” around the Capitol, it is hard to imagine why this is being done. It has already been reported that Guard members will be permitted to carry lethal weapons:
“At approximately 6 p.m. January 12, 2021, National Guard members will be armed in support of the U.S. Capitol security,” according to a D.C. National Guard statement. “This was requested by federal authorities and authorized by the Secretary of the Army.”
The overwhelming presence, with Guardsmen carrying arms and now being deputized, flies in the face of a longstanding and genuine aversion to members of the military being deployed against Americans on American soil. When using National Guard troops was suggested to help quell the rioting and violence in major American cities this past summer, the opposition from Democrats and the media was overwhelming.
In fact, when Senator Tom Cotton wrote an op-ed for the New York Times advocating for the use of the Insurrection Act and the U.S. military against violent rioters trying to destroy the federal courthouse in Portland, the staff was so upset and vocal the editorial page editor had to resign. President Trump’s offers to send in the National Guard were nearly all rebuffed.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot went so far as to invoke the 1970 clash between National Guard troops and students at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students were killed, and nine injured, leaving an indelible mark on the national consciousness. The tragedy is often given as the reason National Guard troops are not armed with lethal weapons when deployed in the U.S. Lightfoot rejected the offer at the time.
Democrats and the media were also adamantly against the idea that National Guard troops could act in a law-enforcement capacity when President Trump wanted them to go to the southern border when large caravans were arriving. While some were deployed, they were mostly in supportive and administrative roles:
Trump’s use of the military continues to draw ire from critics, particularly after Congress refused to fund stepped-up border measures earlier this year, including building a wall. Many have criticized his declaration of a national emergency to move funds from within the Defense Department to use the military to build barriers.
The optics of this are not doing anything to lower the level of anxiety in the country. The sheer number of soldiers is bizarre with all the combined law-enforcement resources. It is more than the total number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. With bridges closed and manned, it is hard to understand why it is necessary to deputize Guardsmen in such a limited area. If the FBI has intelligence that indicates such a serious threat, the American people have a right to know more.
The risk that a member of the Guard should ever have to make a lethal force decision against a fellow American is not to be taken lightly. Their fellow Americans are the ones they took an oath to protect. Yet here we are facing that exact possibility.