More National Guard Troops Activated in Preparation for Election Day Unrest

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Pennsylvania National Guard and Philadelphia police officers stand ready on eve of election
Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and Philadelphia police officers stand outside the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building on the eve of the 2020 General Election in the United States on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

On the eve of election day in the U.S., more National Guard troops were notified to be at the ready in case of civil unrest as results roll in.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday authorized up to 1,000 Guard personnel to be activated to support local law enforcement in case large-scale demonstrations follow the election results. But in Washington, D.C., the site of violent rioting in June after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Guard members were still nowhere to be seen as police erected barriers to block off access to the White House.

Read Next: Troops Are Voting Absentee in Record Numbers. But How Many of Their Votes Will Count?

"We are not on any standby status; however, we continue to stand ready should a request [be] approved," D.C. Guard spokeswoman Capt. Tinashe Machona told Military.com Tuesday.

D.C. Guard officials said they will remain in contact with U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies to assess the situation throughout Election Day.

"We have Army and Air Force personnel ready and equipment available should the need arise," Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper said Tuesday. "We typically can be on scene within hours as needed -- just depends on the request and who it came from."

Most states are providing low-key support to state elections officials, such as cyber-protection support and providing Guard members in civilian clothes to serve as poll workers.

But in some states, uniformed National Guard members will be visible this Election Day. Baker's order will make up to 1,000 Massachusetts National Guard members available in the event their assistance is requested by local officials to "maintain public safety or protect opportunities to exercise First Amendment rights," according to a Nov. 2 news release from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Officials attempted to downplay the seriousness of Baker's Guard activation, saying in the release that so far there has been no sign of "any public safety risk in Massachusetts."

"At this time, we are aware of no specific or credible threats to election sites in Massachusetts," State Police Col. Christopher Mason said in the release. "We continue to monitor all available intelligence and will maintain an enhanced operational posture for Election Day and beyond, and will be prepared to assist in any situations that arise in order to protect public safety and the rights of all our citizens."

There have been conflicting reports of Guard call-ups, such as one claiming that the Texas National Guard had deployed 1,000 troops across the state for election support.

But Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris put out a statement last week, saying that those Guard members are part of an activation that occurred over the summer to support local authorities.

"The Texas Military Department was activated to provide additional support to the Department of Public Safety in the summer of 2020," Norris said in the statement. "Texas service members continue to support DPS in this capacity, guarding historical landmarks such as the Alamo and the State Capitol. To be clear, there has been no request nor any plan to provide any type of support at any polling location in Texas."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf mobilized just over 1,000 National Guard members on Oct. 27 to support law enforcement "in protecting life, property and the right to peacefully assemble and protest," according to a news release.

But Pennsylvania Guard officials told Military.com on Monday that the activation was in response to the riots that broke out in Philadelphia after police shot and killed Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man who was allegedly approaching officers with a knife on Oct. 26.

"It's not related to the election," Pennsylvania Guard spokesman Brad Rhen said, adding that the Guard members are in uniform and carrying weapons for their personal protection.

There is currently no end date for the activation, so Guard members will be on the streets through Election Day, Rhen said.

The National Guard deployed thousands of troops across the country in early June to support law enforcement responding to widespread civil unrest after the death of Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

In the aftermath of those deployments, the Guard created Regional Response Units capable of responding anywhere in the United States within 24 hours.

These "fully trained and qualified teams" will cover the East and West regions of the country from their bases in Alabama and Arizona, Guard officials said.

"When people see the National Guard, they know we're here to help," Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, National Guard Bureau chief, said in a statement. "Our goal is to protect the people and property in the communities where we live and serve. This unit will allow us to support a request for assistance with more speed and efficiency."

As of Tuesday, the Regional Response Units have received no requests for support, National Guard Bureau spokesman Wayne Hall told Military.com.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Here's What National Guard Units Across the Country Will Be Doing on Election Day

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