The day after President Donald Trump threatened to mobilize the military to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down protests, Gov. Ron DeSantis says demonstrations have remained peaceful the past 24 hours.
Outcry over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, erupted across the country last week and into the weekend. Protests in Miami, Tampa and elsewhere across Florida and the country turned to looting and vandalism.
But after mobilizing 700 members of the Florida National Guard over the weekend and 1,300 Florida Highway Patrol troopers to support local law enforcement, DeSantis reported a peaceful day.
“Over the past 24 hours, demonstrations have remained largely peaceful thanks to these collaborative efforts,” he said. “We will remain vigilant and stand ready in the event something changes.”
In Tampa, 100 guardsmen were deployed Sunday afternoon after Mayor Jane Castor requested assistance enforcing the curfew there. An additional 350 guardsmen in the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke and 140 in Miramar were prepared to respond across the state if necessary.
“I appreciate all the hard work being done by our local officials, the Florida National Guard, the Florida Highway Patrol and our law enforcement to help ensure the safety of residents and visitors, as well as those who are engaging in peaceful First Amendment activity,” DeSantis said.
Five COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites usually supported by guardsmen were forced to close Monday because of the reassignment, but were open again Tuesday.
The guardsmen called to keep the peace in Florida’s cities were specially trained units to support law enforcement in crowd control and public safety.
Speaking from the Rose Garden amid peaceful protests near the White House, Trump threatened to deploy the United States military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests.
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said. “If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. But under the Insurrection Act, exceptions can be made, such as in 1992 when it was invoked to quell riots after the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
DeSantis’ statement suggested calling the military into Florida would be unnecessary.
“Florida will not tolerate rioting, looting or violence,” he said. “We encourage all residents and visitors to continue abiding by local curfews and directives and thank everyone for their cooperation.”