National Guard begins to pull back after historic response to unrest over George Floyd's death

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The National Guard is beginning to pull back its presence in states across the country after its historic response to unrest over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody last month.

Governors and mayors in more than two dozen states activated the National Guard last month to respond to protests that in some cases escalated into violent riots.


A Pentagon official told Fox News on Tuesday that the National Guard saw its high-water mark several days ago, and that there will be a “very steady decline” in the coming days as states "out-process" those National Guard forces on duty.

As of Tuesday, according to the official, 38,498 National Guard soldiers were still active — a decline from the 43,300 active on Saturday.

The official told Fox News that National Guard soldiers from Tennessee and South Carolina are pulling out of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and soldiers from Idaho National Guard are departing the nation’s capital Wednesday. The official said Idaho was the last out-of-state support to D.C.

At the height of operations, more than 5,000 National Guard men and women from 11 states and D.C. supported the civil unrest mission in D.C., which saw some of the most intense protests.

The National Guard’s presence in D.C. and in cities across the country came as President Trump apparently sought more than 10,000 active-duty military troops to be deployed to the streets amid the unrest.

But he met resistance inside the administration. According to a senior administration official with knowledge of the events, several Cabinet members and top advisers, including Attorney General Bill Barr, did not want to invoke the Insurrection Act and use active-duty troops.

The official told Fox News that Defense Secretary Mark Esper worked with governors to get as many National Guard forces as possible into cities across the country so that active-duty troops would not be necessary.

That internal debate came as scenes of looting and rioting emerged from cities across the country, and Trump complained that state leaders were not being tough enough.

“As President Trump has made clear, the American people –­ including peaceful protesters –­ deserve law and order, not chaos and fear,” Barr told Fox News this week. “At the president’s direction, federal law enforcement agencies have worked closely with local police and the National Guard here in Washington, D.C., to restore the rule of law.”


He added, in reference to how peaceful protests have returned: “The difference between last Monday and this Monday is night and day.”

Barr noted that the administration would “continue working to keep the nation’s capital safe," and "will continue to actively pursue the forces of disorder trying to hijack this moment to sow anarchy and violence elsewhere in the country.”

“American society depends on the rule of law, and the rule of law will prevail,” Barr said.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told Fox News that the department “was able to support law enforcement efforts by governors and mayors in dozens of states around the country activating needed National Guard units under state command.”

“These citizen soldiers gave state and local law enforcement the ability to successfully focus on protecting life, property and the right to peacefully protest,” Hoffman told Fox News.

Prior to the full mobilization of National Guard soldiers in cities including D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, an administration official noted there was “rampant property destruction, arson and violence,” which left numerous U.S. Secret Service agents injured.

The official told Fox News that approximately 700 federal, state and local law enforcement officers sustained injuries from violence related to the protests and civil unrest from May 26 through Tuesday.

And according to the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Services, at least 150 federal buildings were damaged nationwide.

“The streets of America didn’t spontaneously become peaceful last week,” White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farrah told Fox News. “It was a direct result of President Trump calling on governors and mayors to surge the National Guard in their states and restore law and order on America’s streets so that peaceful protesters could demonstrate safely.”

She added: “Juxtapose Washington, D.C. two weekends ago, when there was widespread vandalism, property damage, and arson with this past weekend — it was night and day. That is precisely because President Trump took decisive action to secure the streets of our nation’s capital and restore law and order.”


Meanwhile, the president on Sunday announced that the National Guard would withdraw from Washington, D.C., saying that "everything is under perfect control."

“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control," Trump tweeted Sunday. "They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”

Protests continued in cities across the nation over the weekend, with thousands pouring into the streets of Washington. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, after the prior weekend’s riots.

A Metropolitan Police Department source told Fox News that an estimated 200,000 people went to protest in D.C. throughout the course of the day Saturday.

On the day of Floyd's death, an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police and accused Floyd of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd, who is black, was then arrested and handcuffed by officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, and pushed to the ground. Video shows Chauvin with his knee pressed to the back of Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air. Floyd, 46, later died.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired in connection with Floyd's death.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and the three other officers on the scene have been arrested.

Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.