Florida will send 500 National Guard members to Washington to participate in President Trump’s militarization of protest control efforts there, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday. He also denounced the police brutality that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“At the request of the secretary of Defense, I have authorized 500 national guardsmen to deploy to the national capital region. Most of them will be arriving in the region today,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Orlando.
“The federal government has helped out Florida in a number of different ways since I’ve been governor and, obviously, before. So, when they have a request I thought it was important to step up and to help out with that,” he said.
A number of Democratic governors have refused to call up their guards.
President Trump has threatened to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which authorizes use of military force during domestic emergencies. He threatened Monday to send in the troops that unless the nation’s governors “establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly broke with the president on that point Wednesday, saying the law should be used “only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”
DeSantis waited until Monday to address the situation in Florida’s streets, which included scattered acts of violence, when he tweeted that the state would have “zero tolerance” for rioting.
On Wednesday, he expressed outrage at the police brutality that touched off the unrest.
“When I saw the video of that cop murdering George Floyd, I was just absolutely appalled by what I saw,” DeSantis said.
“State of Florida, you do not put knee on a neck like that. That is not good training. We’re going to see whether this cop, I think he had a lot of complaints. He’s maybe had a lot of problems, but why would you even go that route, and then, obviously, to do it for such a length of time? Totally, totally inappropriate,” he said.
He called for “swift accountability” for all four officers involved and said a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation is appropriate.
Minnesota authorities said, meanwhile, that the charge against Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, would be boosted to 2nd degree murder and that charges would be filed against the other three.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement prohibits the use of choking as a restraint, DeSantis said. Police agencies need to identify officers inclined to abuse their authority in this way and “get them out,” he said.
The FDLE has reported arrests across the state.
“Florida won’t tolerate rioting, looting, or violence,” DeSantis said.
He added: “I also want to thank the peaceful demonstrators who have engaged in lawful First-Amendment activity. Some of whom have helped to stymie attempts of some protesters seeking to engage in violent activity. We really appreciate their commitment to nonviolence.”
DeSantis has sent 700 National Guard members to help with crowd control in the state, plus 1,300 state troopers.