Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday (June 8) announced the deactivation of 570 National Guard members called on to help respond to recent protests related to the murder of George Floyd. The governor also announced creation of a state task force on police practices and training.
George Floyd, a black man, was choked to death May 25 on camera in Minneapolis by white police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin and three assisting police officers have been arrested and charged with criminal offenses ranging from second-degree murder to aiding and abetting the murder.
Several mayors, governors and other elected officials have in recent days called for reviews of police policies and training, instituted changes targeted at de-escalation, banned certain types of restraint, or taken other actions in response to widespread protests to end systemic racial discrimination in policing.
During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Gov. Hutchinson said he would issue an executive order Tuesday creating the task force for the purpose of reviewing police practices. He offered no details as to who would be involved or the scope of the task force.
The governor also on Tuesday deactivated 570 National Guard members but said his June 2 emergency order remains in effect and the unified command structure through the Arkansas State Police remains in place. He also said fewer police officers remain deployed around the state to respond to protests.
Gov. Hutchinson on June 2 declared a state of emergency based on his belief that assemblies and protests across the state “have been overtaken by destructive and violent individuals, creating conditions of distress for the citizens and businesses of the state.”
The governor said Monday the protests have in recent days been civil now that “outliers” have been dealt with.
“The protestors have really done a nice job of articulating their message, but also making sure they are not a part of any violent or destructive activities. It’s some of the outliers that have come in and that we have to call the law enforcement to stop. But hopefully, that has been discouraged and deterred,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
According to a statement from LTC Brian Mason, state public affairs officer with the Arkansas National Guard, members activated “were specifically trained and equipped to assist state and local authorities with a variety of missions to include traffic control, crowd stabilization, and upholding the rule of law.”
Mason said the deactivated members will be tested for COVID-19 before they depart Camp Joseph Robinson in North Little Rock. Any member testing positive will remain activated until they are medically cleared for release.