The Pentagon’s views on political violence following the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Capitol riots are not biased despite rank and file concerns, a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman said.
Service members have expressed concerns regarding DoD’s different responses to the political turmoil in the summer of 2020 and the Capitol riot, believing that the Pentagon should take a balanced view on violence in both cases, according to McClatchy. A DoD spokesman said judgements are not based on the causes of political violence when providing military assistance to states and the federal government.
“If a request for assistance is received from state or federal authorities, the Department of Defense reviews it, and considers what support it can provide that would meet the requirements of the request,” Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Chris Mitchell at DoD, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “In doing so, the Department does not make distinctions or judgements about the events that led to the request.”
The Capitol riot left five people dead, including police officer Brian Sicknick and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt. At least nineteen people were killed after 14 days of BLM protests, Forbes reported. (Related: Pentagon Brass Is Worried Troops Hold Mainstream Views On BLM And Capitol Hill Rioting)
“It’s important to understand the context of the situation, and the process that leads to DoD providing support,” Mitchell said. “It’s up to state and federal authorities to assess any given situation and determine whether they need assistance.”
Ramón Colón-Lopez, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told McClatchy that expressing grievances through protest is protected under the First Amendment.
“We cannot confuse a First Amendment grievance because of a social injustice organization and some of the criminals that latched on to go ahead and loot, destroy and commit other crimes. There’s two clear, distinct groups right there,” Colón-Lopez told McClatchy.
In order to differentiate in the military’s response to the racial riots, the Department of Defense needs “to make sure that military members understand the difference between Seattle and Washington D.C.,” Lopez said, according to McClatchy.
Military members accounted for 14% of the first 150 people arrested for participating in the Capitol riot, leading to an increased concern of extremism within the military, CNN reported. After the Capitol riot, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered service members to have day long training sessions to address extremist views, McClatchy reported.
In a Feb. 5 memo Austin called for a “stand-down” to address extremism among DoD personnel. He directed commanders and supervisors to hold a one-day session for DoD rank and file within 60 days to discuss the issue.
A Harvard/Harris poll consisting of 1,778 respondents said that 55% of Americans were more concerned by the 2020 BLM riots over the storming of the Capitol. The survey was conducted between Feb. 23 and 25.
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