Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, decried President Trump for his surprise photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church amid mounting protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In an op-ed published in The Atlantic on Tuesday, Mullen wrote that he was “sickened” to see federal police “forcibly and violently clear a path” through Lafayette Square to “accommodate” Trump’s church visit.
Mullen then wrote that although he’s been “reticent” to weigh in on issues regarding Trump’s leadership in the past, the country has hit an “inflection point” where events in recent weeks make “it impossible to remain silent.”
Mullen went on to rail against Trump for failing to respect the rights of protesters, who appeared to be a peaceful crowd in Washington D.C. Monday evening before federal police used tear gas and flash bangs to disperse them during the President’s remarks in the Rose Garden.
“Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces,” Mullen wrote. “There was little good in the stunt.”
After acknowledging that he’s a white man who “cannot claim perfect understanding of the fear and anger that African Americans feel,” Mullen urged the public to support the “solemn obligation” of peaceful assembly before tearing into Trump’s call for governors to “dominate” protesters by activating the National Guard.
“I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion,” Mullen wrote. “They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.”
Mullen added that he’s “deeply worried” about members of the military being “co-opted for political purposes.”
Mullen’s op-ed comes on the heels of Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, facing backlash after walking the streets of Washington, D.C., in battle fatigues after curfew on Monday night.
Read Mullen’s op-ed in The Atlantic here.