PHOENIX - The Arizona National Guard has called up about 900 soldiers to help the state deal with protests after Gov. Doug Ducey declared a statewide 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday, Guard spokesman Maj. Aaron Thacker said.
The guard's mobilization is part of Governor Doug Ducey's emergency declaration that also instituted a statewide curfew that will last until June 8.
The troops include military police that can assist in crowd control, as well as infantry and logistics specialists, Thacker said Tuesday. Some of the military police have been sent to the state Capitol in Phoenix to help protect against civil unrest. The Capitol complex, including the House and Senate buildings and the executive tower, have been surrounded by temporary fencing.
”Part of what we’re trying to do is enable people who feel the need to go out and exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully to have that ability," said Major Aaron Thacke with the Arizona National Guard. “We didn’t have any real situation come up for our folks. We were in a support role. We were out there to be available for law enforcement to help fill roles that allowed them to put more law enforcement agents out to deal with any of the lawlessness that happened."
Other troops are available for deployment in other areas of metro Phoenix and could be sent to towns and cities anywhere in the state, Thacker said. They will be used to free up local police, who have the authority to arrest people.
Protests have erupted in U.S. cities and Europe in the days after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last week after an officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson have seen protests that led to property damage.
The Guard also is reviewing a request from President Donald Trump to send troops to other areas of the nation to help control crowds, Thacker said.
“Our response is that we are assessing the local situation before we can commit to exporting any forces to other states and territories,” Thacker said.
The Arizona Guard has about 7,600 members and many are already deployed to help boost border control, assist in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and provide helicopter support to wildfire operations, he said. In addition, about 200 soldiers are preparing to deploy overseas.
Guard officials say they know they have been stretched pretty thin, from work related to COVID-19 at the Navajo Nation to the Southern Border. They will continue to add support, as authorities try to enforce the statewide curfew.
“We have a lots of plates spinning right now,” Thacker said.
Besides confirming the Capitol operations, Thacker declined to say where Guard members called up to assist with protests are planning to operate, citing security concerns.
"These are people from your community. These are people who have invested interest in seeing this happen. They are coming from other states, they aren’t from other locations. They are of this community," said Major Thacke.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.