National Guard Chief Says Those in Uniform Should Combat Racism As States Deploy Troops to Washington, D.C.

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau has called on troops, as well as anyone else who "wears the uniform of our country," to refuse to tolerate "racism, discrimination and casual violence."

Gen. Joseph Lengyel made the comments as states continued to deploy National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. in response to protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.

In a statement published on Twitter on Wednesday, Lengyel said he was "sickened by the death of George Floyd" and "horrified that his 6-year-old daughter will grow up without a father."

"And I am enraged that this story—of George Floyd, of Philando Castile, of Trayvon Martin and too many others—keeps happening in our country, where unarmed men and women of color are the victims of police brutality and extrajudicial violence," Lengyel said.

"Our country has seen peaceful protests descend into unspeakable brutality at lunch counters in Montgomery and on bridges in Selma," he said. "Right now, anger and outrage are spilling out into the streets all across America. We all bear the scars of history, of oppressors and the oppressed. We cannot erase this legacy, but we can listen, we can learn, and we can be better. We must be better."

Addressing troops, Lengyel said that "everyone who wears the uniform of our country takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and everything for which it stands."

"If we are to fulfill our obligation as service members, as Americans, and as decent human beings, we have to take our oath seriously. We cannot tolerate racism, discrimination or casual violence. We cannot abide divisiveness and hate. We cannot stand by and watch."

Closing out his letter, the National Guard Bureau chief said: "We ask for the intercession of what Abraham Lincoln called 'the better angels of our nature'. Join me."

We must do better.

— General Daniel Hokanson (@ChiefNGB) June 4, 2020

On Tuesday, images of National Guard troops gathered on the Lincoln Memorial sparked a wave of outcry on social media.

Troops from a number of states, including South Carolina, have been sent to D.C., with broadcaster WUSA9 spotting troops preparing to move out onto the streets of the District on Wednesday night.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is also expected to send 120 Maryland National Guard Troops to the District according to the Baltimore Sun.

Other states have refused to take part with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam saying he had no intention of sending National Guard troops "to Washington for a photo op."

Newsweek has contacted the National Guard for comment.

National Guard
Members of the D.C. National Guard stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as demonstrators participate in a peaceful protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Protests continue to be held in cities throughout the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Win McNamee/Getty