Soldiers and airmen from the District of Columbia National Guard will be on the city's streets this week as Washington braces for protests when Congress meets to officially confirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested the Guard to have personnel on the streets Jan. 5-7 to help control traffic and perform other duties during expected protests.
"At the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser, District of Columbia National Guard is in a support role to the Metropolitan Police Department, which will enable them to provide a safe environment for our fellow citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to demonstrate," Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. Guard, said in a statement Monday.
Several pro-Trump groups, such as the Proud Boys, have pledged to protest in D.C. on Jan. 6 -- the day Congress is set to conduct a formal count of Electoral College votes and officially name Biden as the next president of the United States.
About 340 Guard members will be in D.C. at traffic control points and Metro stations identified by Metro police, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper told Military.com, adding that personnel will be in uniform but will not carry weapons or protective equipment.
"They will not be armed ... and they will not be wearing body armor," Clapper said.
Bowser asked people to stay away from downtown and avoid confrontations, but also cautioned protesters that they must remain civil during demonstrations.
"We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city," she said Monday at a press conference, according to The Associated Press.
The D.C. Guard has already begun planning its presence at the upcoming presidential inauguration, scheduled for Jan. 20. Approximately 30 states have pledged to send roughly 4,000 Guard personnel in what has become a tradition Guardsmen participate in every four years.
About 7,800 Guard personnel supported President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2016, but the restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic mean that Biden's inauguration will be a smaller-scale event, Guard officials said in a Dec. 21 Army release.
This summer, more than 5,200 Guard members converged on D.C. to support police as tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody. Many demonstrators became violent, but Guard members mainly focused on manning roadblocks, preventing crowds from trespassing on White House grounds, and protecting key monuments in the city.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.