If the mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey refuses to keep order in his city, someone is going to have to.
Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to put several units of military police on alert, ready to go to Minneapolis or anywhere else if the violence continues to spiral out of control.
As unrest spread across dozens of American cities on Friday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis, where the police killing of George Floyd sparked the widespread protests.
Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders. Soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours. The people did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.
The options for deployment were discussed at an Oval Office meeting with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien. The question is can Minnesota Governor Tim Walz act if Mayor Frey refuses to? The National Guard is deployed but is keeping a very low profile. This is wise. It’s always better to allow local law enforcement to try and gain control of the unrest.
But in this case, local law enforcement is stymied by a mayor who is either frozen like a deer in headlights or deliberately encouraging the burning of his city. Jacob Frey is deliberately avoiding a police-rioter confrontation when it’s the cops’ job to quell the violence. But Walz, like Frey a Democrat, appears reluctant to embarrass his colleague by taking control of the situation.
That’s where the MP’s can become a last resort.
“If this is where the president is headed response-wise, it would represent a significant escalation and a determination that the various state and local authorities are not up to the task of responding to the growing unrest,” said Brad Moss, a Washington D.C.-based attorney, who specializes in national security.
Members of the police units were on a 30-minute recall alert early Saturday, meaning they would have to return to their bases inside that time limit in preparation for deployment to Minneapolis inside of four hours. Units at Fort Drum are slated to head to Minneapolis first, according to the three people, including two Defense Department officials. Roughly 800 U.S. soldiers would deploy to the city if called.
I would guess most residents of Minneapolis don’t care who restores order. They just want to feel safe. This order to go on alert is precautionary in nature and probably — hopefully — won’t be activated. But with everything else that’s happening, it won’t take much to set off an explosion of violence.