“If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let’s see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they’re facing off with the 101st Airborne Division. We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction,” Cotton wrote on Twitter.
Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran, said Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which governs the authority of federal troops during a state of emergency within the U.S. The act was last used by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King beating.
“If necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,” Cotton wrote.
Pentagon officials told The Associated Press over the weekend there was no intent to deploy any federal forces to Minnesota unless its governor, Tim Walz, asked for help.
Over 5,000 National Guard troops have been deployed in 15 states and in Washington, D.C., in response to the demonstrations, some of which turned violent and resulted in the looting of many businesses. The troops responded under the direction of state governors. In most states, National Guard troops carry only defensive weapons like batons, but in others the soldiers are armed.
Sending active-duty military troops to U.S. cities in response to the protests would mark an escalation in the use of force by the government. Law enforcement in several cities used batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and other devices to disperse protesters. One journalist was blinded in one eye after being shot by a rubber bullet; others were arrested.
On Sunday, Amnesty International issued a statement against the use of “excessive force” against U.S. demonstrators protesting police brutality.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he planned to introduce a measure to stop the transfer of military equipment to police departments. Upon taking office in 2017, Trump reversed restrictions his predecessor imposed on what surplus military equipment Pentagon can provide to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
“I will be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments,” Schatz tweeted on Sunday.
Former President Barack Obama also spoke out Monday in response to the protests, urging protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
“The small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause,” Obama wrote on Medium.