June 7 (UPI) — Federal and local leaders on Sunday began to ease restrictions and deployment of military forces in response to nationwide protests sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd that continued over the weekend.
President Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted that he had ordered the National Guard to withdraw from Washington, D.C., but warned that they can “quickly return” if demonstrations once again escalate.
The National Guard on Saturday said that more than 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 11 states and Washington, D.C., were manning traffic control points and aid stations in the nation’s capital.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser shared a letter to Trump dated Thursday calling for the president to withdraw all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from the city in addition to similar letters to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, calling on them to remove their National Guard forces from the area.
Earlier in the week, Trump called for all U.S. governors to deploy the National Guard in response to the protests.
Trump also faced criticism from Bowser as well as prominent Democrats and military officials after he threatened to deploy the military against protesters and federal law enforcement forcefully cleared protesters near the White House to allow him to pose for photos at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Pentagon adviser James Miller also moved to resign in protest over Defense Secretary Mike Esper’s involvement in the decision.
Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, on Sunday told CNN’s State of the Union he believes that Trump has “drifted away” from the Constitution, praising military officials for their criticism of Trump’s policies.
“We have a Constitution and we have to follow that Constitution,” said Powell.
Powell also declared he plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, saying he is very close to him “on a social matter and on a political matter,” adding he believes Trump has not been an effective president and accusing him of lying “all the time”
Trump responded to Powell’s comments on Twitter describing him as a “real stiff” and criticizing his involvement in the United States entering the war against Iraq during the Bush administration.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that the city was lifting its curfew, which had previously been planned to be implemented from 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. Monday, and introduced a series of police reforms, including shifting funding from the NYPD to social services for communities of color.
The decision to lift the curfew followed a legal threat against extending the curfew from the New York American Civil Liberties Union and New York Police Department Commissioner Dermont Shea saying curfews were not effective during an appearance on NBC’s Today show.
“The problem is, people need to listen to a curfew and that’s not going to happen first and foremost. If people think it will they don’t understand what’s going on,” Shea said.
During a news conference Sunday, de Blasio also said two NYPD officers have been suspended without pay and will face further disciplinary actions for harming protesters during the demonstrations. One officer was accused of shoving a woman to the ground while the other allegedly pulled down a protester’s face covering and sprayed the person with pepper spray.
The mayor also announced reforms to the NYPD that will occur over the next 18 months “to rebuild a fairer city that profoundly addresses injustice and disparity.”
Though the amount of funds is not yet known, “significant savings” in the NYPD budget will be put toward youth development and social services for communities of color, his office said in a statement. The city will also shift enforcement for street vending out of NYPD to reduce interactions between uniform officers and New Yorkers and they will integrate community voices into senior levels of the police force through hiring community ambassadors, creating a venue to address complaints and concerns and ensure the NYPD leadership hears New Yorkers.
“This is directly related to the disparities that are so painfully evident in this city and the disparities that were made so clear by the coronavirus,” de Blasio said during a press conference.
Curfews were also lifted Sunday in Chicago and Philadelphia. They ended Saturday in Atlanta and Dallas, and in the Twin Cities in Minnesota on Friday night. Los Angeles County revoked its curfew Thursday night.