Dozens of unmarked guards who have since been identified as Bureau of Prisons employees specializing in prison riots were seen patrolling the streets of Washington DC, dressed like they were preparing to deploy to a war zone…
As protests against police brutality continue across the United States, there are lingering questions about the lines of unmarked armored guards that were seen in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday.
The setting we saw outside of the White House on Thursday was very different than what we saw 24 hours before. Protesters have gathered here for another day, but this time they are much closer to the White House because the lines of armored personnel we saw yesterday have all but vanished.
But there are still a number of questions remaining about who those guards were. They were dressed like they are preparing to be deployed to a war zone, all wearing heavy military gear, the majority of them had no identification. And they have refused to identify themselves to protesters or journalists, simply claiming they work for the federal government or the Department of Justice. The new development has been met with harsh criticism from some lawmakers.
Taking to Twitter, Democratic Representative Don Beyer said it is “Unacceptable for uniformed federal officers policing constitutionally-protected assemblies to refuse to identify themselves to people who pay their salaries. Denying accountability to the public they serve ensures abuses.”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy also wrote on Twitter, “We cannot tolerate an American secret police. I will be introducing legislation to require uniformed federal officers performing any domestic security duties to clearly identify what military branch or agency they represent.”
The latest reports claim the armed guards here in DC are “part of a specialized emergency response force run by the Bureau of Prisons,” which is part of the Justice Department, “to help maintain security at correctional facilities.”
During a press conference Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr announced that more than 50 arrests were made in relation to the riots and the property destruction we saw last weekend. Federal officials also continued to downplay the use of tear gas we saw earlier this week against peaceful protesters, and they continued to highlight the violence that was seen over the weekend.
We have continued to see thousands of protesters here on the streets of DC, and the demonstrations have continued to be overwhelmingly peaceful. But the fact that we are also seeing an increase in armored guards on the streets, coupled with the news that they specialize in dealing with prison riots has raised questions about whether they should be the ones responding to civilian protesters.
Despite the fact that these protests have continued to be peaceful, they have received no recognition from the Trump Administration, and the threat of sending in active duty troops to police the crowds still hangs in the air. But these protesters say they plan to carry on in hopes that their message will be heard.