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Senators Express Strong Opposition to Use of Military to Impede the First Amendment Rights of Americans

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and 16 of their colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley voicing grave concerns over President Donald Trump’s recent threat to invoke the Insurrection Act in response to nationwide protests calling for justice for George Floyd and an end to systemic racism. 

“President Trump’s behavior over the last three years has repeatedly politicized our Armed Forces and portrayed their mission not as one to protect and defend the Constitution, but rather to protect and defend his political interests,” wrote the Senators. “The military should never be weaponized by the President to limit these expressions for liberty and justice. We believe it is antithetical to what those in uniform have sworn to protect and defend, and a serious threat to our democratic system.”

The Senators continued, “This is a critical moment for our Nation. How our institutions respond will determine whether the coming weeks and months lead to healing and unity, or continued derision, discord and injustice. We urge you to refrain from using the United States military to diminish or suppress the peaceful, free expression of Americans who are exercising their civil liberties in a call to hold government institutions to a higher standard in the fight for racial justice.”

The letter requests that the Department of Defense provide information by Friday, June 5 on whether the Department would deploy federal troops outside of the use of the Insurrection Act, whether the President would federalize National Guardsmen against the wishes of governors, if deployments would ever include combat designated troops, how troops would be trained and prepared, what the mission, scope and rules would entail for the use of force as well if they would be authorized to perform arrests.

In addition to Senators Casey, Brown, Blumenthal, Baldwin and Bennet, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI).

Read the letter here.