Stories of the 2020 Civil Unrest in Washington
Stories of the 2020 Civil Unrest in Washington DC
The use of our National Guard in response to protests and riots has been a controversial topic.
Some believe the National Guard is being sent to intimidate and suppress peaceful protestors. Others believe the National Guard was first necessary to quell the violence in DC, and then used as political pawns in a theatrical display for the inauguration and beyond.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser pushed back against the National Guard being sent in response to the violent June riots, even going so far as to expel them from the city. This past January, however, Mayor Bowser requested the National Guard’s presence before the January 6th planned rally of Trump supporters. She continues to support its presence today, weeks after the inauguration. Bowser’s contrast in her position is mirrored in the media and most of the Democrat party, as they condemned the National Guard’s presence in June and celebrated it in January.
Meantime, behind the politics and headlines, the men and women of the National Guard show up to carry out their orders.
Julia Maki Pyrah is a Navy veteran. She joined the DC Air National Guard when her kids were no longer little, and she couldn’t pretend she didn’t miss the military any more. Although she has significant experience in the military, nothing prepared Julia for being on the front lines of violent social unrest right here in America.
Julia’s first surprise in the National Guard was the realization that the National Guard now deploys. “I thought we would be mostly domestic,” she says with a soft smile. Natural disaster, first aid emergencies, and other duties were all expected – overseas deployments were not. Still, Julia dug herself into her duties. She was no stranger to deployments, so she adjusted quickly.
Then came a deployment Julia never anticipated, and had no training for.
As a member of the DC Air National Guard, Julia was called upon to report to Washington, DC, during the June 2020 BLM protests. By day the protests were peaceful. By night, however, the rioters appeared and violence erupted.
Julia found herself in the unsettling position of protecting Americans from fellow Americans – and defending herself from those same Americans.
Frozen water bottles and bottles of urine were thrown at them. Belligerent rioters yelled threats and insults at National Guardsmen. The media reported that National Guardsmen were rolling into town in a scary show of force to intimidate peaceful protestors and Julia was warned not to wear her uniform off duty- to change into it when she arrived and change back into civilian clothes to leave. Reports of pizzas with shards of glass in them, being delivered to National guard soldiers horrified her.
“I’m a cheerleader mom,” she says, not a villain. “We were going to support the protestors. That was our primary mission. We weren’t there to take them down.”
In her book, Guardians, Julia shares stories of sleeping on concrete benches as cockroaches scurried around, and of the dismay she felt as she realized the way her service and those of her fellow service members was being portrayed. Nick, who is not currently in the military, is freer to offer his thoughts than Julia, and fills in many of the gaps.
It’s not a pretty picture, especially when compared to the response to the National Guard presence in DC today.
In this episode, Julia and Nick offer vivid, gripping details of what really happened on both occasions in DC. They discuss the disparity of the two deployments and dispel some myths about popular media stories.
Here are some of the topics We talk about:
Here are some of the questions we aksed :
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