Three days after Gov. Charlie Baker called 1,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard into active duty, he has ended his activation order and acknowledged the move was made in response to potential protests.
Baker's order, which was announced Friday, did not give a detailed reason for the activation. His administration said at the time the order was given "in the event that municipal leaders require their assistance." But the call-up coincided with a weekend that saw violence crop up at and around demonstrations over policing and racial justice in other parts of the country.
"Following coordination with municipal leaders through the weekend regarding potential large scale demonstrations, Governor Baker today authorized the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard to end the Governor's Aug. 28 activation order," a spokesperson from the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security said in a statement Monday. "That activation, which made Guard personnel available in the event that municipal leaders required their assistance, will end at midnight tonight."
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The governor's order said the Guard was being called upon "to provide necessary assistance to State and local civilian authorities and/or special duty and emergency assistance for the preservation of life and property, preservation of order, and to afford protection to persons."
The administration's announcement of the call-up suggested that the National Guard was being tapped to function in a law enforcement capacity. The administration noted that National Guard military police units go through federally-accredited police training and are trained to Massachusetts standards and that members of the National Guard assisted local law enforcement agencies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was not immediately clear whether or where the Guard was actually deployed. On Sunday, one Boston-area reporter shared video that appeared to show about two dozen Guard personnel and rows of Guard vehicles in Boston. Another reporter posted a photo from a demonstration in Roxbury where attendees held signs critical of Baker's decision to call upon the National Guard.
Karyn Regal, a reporter for WBZ Newsradio, reported late Monday morning that Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said there was no specific threat to Massachusetts but that the National Guard was called up as part of "an abundance of caution" to "staff up and we prepare for all those contingencies."
"I think the call-up of the National Guard was a nod to ensuring that we would have the capacity to continue to be able to facilitate those First Amendment gatherings and make sure people can be heard and make sure people can execute their right, or utilize their right, of public gathering, and they can deliver the message," Mason said at an unrelated press conference, according to Regal. "We certainly have heard the message. And so we want to make sure we continue that people can peacefully gather, that they can voice their concerns, and that they can provide an opportunity for us to hear them."
Baker last held a public event on Thursday, in Springfield.