The Department of Defense, led by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, appears to have made the decision without consulting the White House, where President Trump has ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington D.C. since demonstrations in the city were punctured by an episode of looting on Sunday. Trump specifically had encouraged the National Guard to be armed.
Initially, a small group of the guardsmen deployed in the city had been carrying guns while standing outside monuments, but the bulk of the forces, such as those working with federal park police at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, didn’t carry firearms out of caution. Now, all of the roughly 5,000 guardsmen who have been deployed or are deploying to Washington, D.C., have been told not to use weaponry or ammunition, according to four officials familiar with the order.
“The whole purpose behind that was a purposeful show of de-escalation,” said one U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an order that hasn’t been made public yet. “We’re here, but we’re walking things down.”