Leaders in 23 states and the District of Columbia have activated 17,000 National Guard soldiers to help local and state law enforcement face mass protests in dozens of cities nationwide.
“As of Monday morning, a historic 66,700 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated for domestic operations across the United States in support of their governors,” the branch of the Defense Department announced Monday afternoon. “This surpassed numbers of guardsmen activated during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina response, when more than 51,000 were activated.”
Roughly 17,000 guardsmen will help police amid the civil unrest in cities across the country that began last week following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
“We are here to protect life and property and preserve peace, order, and public safety,” Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the guard, said in a statement.
The guard has 45,000 members serving nationwide as part of the coronavirus response.
The role of the guard is not to enforce laws or make arrests, but to maintain control and order. In March, guard personnel across the country were activated on a state-by-state basis to help local law enforcement maintain social distancing and stay-at-home orders among the public, with the guard serving primarily as a visual force multiplier.
The guard has roughly 450,000 members nationwide. Governors must approve activating the guard after receiving a request by a local or state agency for support.