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Explained: The National Guard, activated amid protests over George Floyd’s death

The National Guard can be mobilised by the President of the United States whenever more units are needed to maintain national security.

Explained: The National Guard, activated amid protests over George Floyd's death A protester stands in front of the National Guard line in Minneapolis, Minn., Friday, May 29, 2020. (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP)

Georgia’s Governor Tim Walz Saturday declared a state of emergency to activate the state’s National Guard to “provide security and restore safety” amid violence in Atlanta. Protests had erupted in several cities across the US following the death of George Floyd, a 45-year-old African American man, while being restrained by a white Minneapolis police officer.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump had tweeted, “The National Guard has arrived on the scene. They are in Minneapolis and fully prepared. George Floyd will not have died in vain. Respect his memory!!!.”

What is the National Guard?

Comprising the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, it is a reserve component of the US Army and provides trained units to states, territories and the District of Columbia to protect life and property. The force supports combat missions, domestic emergencies, humanitarian efforts and homeland security operations among others.

The organisation of the National Guard dates back to 1636, when on December 13 the first militia regiments in North America were organised in Massachusetts. Largely, members of the forces are soldiers with civilian jobs who live at home, have a drill commitment one weekend per month and are required to attend one two-week training each year, The Guardian reported.

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Videos: Minneapolis burns as protests against George Floyd’s death grows across US

To join the force without prior service, one must be a US citizen or permanent resident between the ages of 17 and 35 and have a high school diploma, among other requirements.

Explained: Why George Floyd’s death has sparked violent protests in the US A protester carries a US flag upside, a sign of distress, next to a burning building Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo: Julio Cortez)

When can the National Guard be activated?

The forces can be mobilised by the President whenever more units are needed to maintain national security. However, no change can be made in the branch, unit or allotment of a unit located within a state without the approval of its governor.


Earlier in March, governors of a number of states activated their respective forces to aid the coronavirus response. The New York Times reported that at least 7,300 members of the National Guard were aiding the response in all 50 states, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, where they helped in taking temperatures, escorting cruise ship passengers and swabbing people’s noses.

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In 2014, Missouri’s then-governor Jay Nixon deployed the state’s National Guard to restore peace and security amid violence and rioting in the town of Ferguson following the killing of black teenager Michael Brown who was shot by a white police officer.

First published on: 30-05-2020 at 05:10:59 pm
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