The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has criticized President Donald Trump's response to protests that have been taking place in cities across the U.S. for several days. The statement also comes just one day after former Secretary of Defense James Mattis also condemned the president's actions.
Army General Mark Milley sent a letter to each military branch leaders indicating that the armed forces will continue to protect Americans' right to "freedom of speech and peaceful assembly," according to The Daily Mail. In addition to the formal typed statement, Milley also added a hand-written passage at the bottom. "We all committed our lives to the idea that is America," he wrote. "We will stay true to that and the American people."
Following the backlash and letter, the decision was made to remove the 82nd Airborne from Washington, D.C. on Thursday night, and send them back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In a nationwide address on Monday, Trump announced he was "mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson." The address came hours after a reportedly heated exchange with state governors, many of which he called "weak" in their response to the riots, which grew out of some otherwise-peaceful protests.
In a statement made to The Atlantic on Wednesday, Mattis wrote that he was "angry and appalled" over Trump's actions. "The words 'Equal Justice Under Law' are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court," he continued. "This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation." Echoing Milley's sentiment, Mattis added that "we must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."
The protests, calling for widespread police reform, began on May 28, just three days after the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. After allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill, now-former officer Derek Chauvin had pressed his knee against the back of Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, killing him in the process. Chauvin and the other three police present were fired the following day. He was later arrested on Friday, with the other three officers taken into custody on Wednesday.