Despite urgent plea from police, Defense Department delayed sending National Guard to Capitol riot


Defense Department leaders placed unusual restrictions on the National Guard for the day of the Capitol riot and delayed sending help for hours despite an urgent plea from police for reinforcement, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a “voice cracking with emotion” in a 1:49 p.m. call as rioters began pushing toward the Capitol. Walker said he immediately relayed the request to the Army but did not learn until 5:08 p.m. that the Defense Department had approved it. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol, arriving in 18 minutes, Walker said.

The hourslong delay cost the National Guard precious minutes in the early hours of the rioting. Walker said he could have sent personnel within 20 minutes of getting approval. It also stood in contrast to the immediate authorization for National Guard support that Walker said was granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled America last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests.

Mindful of criticism that the response to those demonstrations was heavy-handed, military officials expressed concern about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, as well as concerned that such visuals could inflame the rioters, Walker said. Another military official who testified said that then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller wanted to make the decisions of how the National Guard was used following criticism last spring.

“The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said.

Source: Associated Press – ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK

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