The Utah National Guard in Washington, D.C.

As protests have taken place across the country over the past several weeks, some areas have experienced violence and destruction. At the epicenter of this unrest is Washington, D.C., where numerous protests have devolved into events posing safety risks to both protesters and residents of the area alike. Additionally, Washington is home to numerous national treasures and sites of historic significance worthy of protection. 

Due to these developments, the President and Chief of the National Guard Bureau began making requests to state National Guards for assistance. One such request was made of the Utah National Guard for a unit of 200 soldiers who were already prepared for a mission overseas. This request was processed through the Utah National Guard, who then sought Governor Herbert’s approval for deployment to the area. Seeing the opportunity to help provide a safe environment for protests and residents, Governor Herbert approved this request and allowed for immediate reassignment.

Many have denounced this action as an effort to shut down peaceful protests and demonstrators in the city. However, this is an inaccurate assessment of the Utah National Guard’s mission in our nation’s capital. The Utah National Guard unit, along with other state units in the region, are charged with preserving life, protecting property, and restoring peace. As part of their induction into the Guard, soldiers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, including the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. 

This means that Guardsmen are not actively looking to disband and police groups of protestors or stop peaceful demonstrations from occurring. For this reason, Utah National Guard members are not carrying firearms while deployed to Washington. Additionally, Guardsmen are trained to empathize with their fellow citizens and exercise extreme patience, so all are allowed to express their frustrations and ideas safely. Instead of acting as an additional police presence, the Utah National Guard is in the area to play a support role for local law enforcement, helping with cleanup duties and protecting various national treasures. 

Utah Guardsmen Work to Clean Graffiti

Given the unique nature of their mission in Washington, the Utah National Guard has not played a role in policing actions. They played no role in the clearing of Lafayette Square in front of the White House on Monday, June 1st. In fact, the Utah National Guard had yet to arrive when this event occurred, as they did not formally land in Washington until the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

As described in reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah National Guard personnel have assisted in painting over graffiti, cleaning debris, and protecting federal properties. 

We understand many of the concerns held by Utahns and D.C. residents about the presence of the Utah National Guard in the region. However, the deployment of the Utah National Guard serves only to help foster a safe environment for peaceful protests to take place. Their purpose is not to make arrests, collect evidence, participate in interrogations, or other traditional law enforcement activities. Nor are they present to use force against non-violent protesters, or end peaceful demonstrations. 

To stay informed, all Utahns are encouraged to look for updates and accurate information on the Utah National Guard’s activation on Twitter at @UTNationalGuard, as well as at ut.ng.mil.

During periods of unrest and volatility, cries for change can act as powerful catalysts for good. Governor Herbert knows now is a time for action on the underlying causes of these protests, and is fully supportive of peaceful advocacy. The governor is grateful for the passion Utahns and Americans have shown, and is hopeful these events can spur lasting positive change.