More than six decades after the 101st Airborne Division was dispatched to Little Rock's Central High School, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is suggesting it should be mobilized again, this time to quell unrest arising since the death of George Floyd.
The black man's death, as a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck, has mobilized protesters in cities across the country. Additional violence has also been unleashed.
Monday on Twitter, Cotton said military intervention may be appropriate.
"Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight. If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division," the U.S. Army veteran from Dardanelle tweeted, adding, "We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction."
"And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry -- whatever it takes to restore order," Cotton wrote in a subsequent tweet, concluding, "No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."
President Donald Trump expressed support for Cotton's view Monday afternoon, retweeting the initial message and adding: "100% Correct. Thank you Tom!"
Monday evening, Trump indicated he was considering invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807.
The law gives Trump authority to intervene, if necessary, Cotton said in a phone interview.
"The Insurrection Act is a 200-year-old law, dating back to the founding of our country, that allows the president to use the military or the National Guard or the militias, as they were once called, precisely to put down the kind of insurrectionist activity we've seen in the streets by anarchists, rioters and looters," Cotton said. "It's been used many times, most recently in 1992 during the L.A. riots or in 1968 in Washington, D.C., in Baltimore and in Chicago."
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declined to comment on the advisability of using the law in other locales.
"I'll leave that to [Trump] and Sen. Cotton as to how the Insurrection Act might apply. I have to worry about Arkansas," he said.
In his state, the work can be done by civilian law enforcement, with assistance from the Arkansas National Guard, Hutchinson said.
"We're intent on making sure that that destruction and violence does not occur here. And we believe that we can handle that with the resources that we have and with the intent of our protesters to be peaceful, which is 90% of those that are out there," he said.
As a result, "I don't see that as having application to Arkansas. I don't see that it'd be necessary for Arkansas. It's not something that we need," Hutchinson added.
In an interview, Cotton said there are areas of the country where local law enforcement might need extra help.
"I believe that it would be a display of strength that would put an end to the kind of wanton violence you see in Washington, D.C., and some of the other cities," he said.
On Twitter on Monday, conservative attorney and Iraqi war veteran David French criticized Cotton for advocating "no quarter" for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.
Under the laws of war, those given "no quarter" are killed instead of taken prisoner, French said.
"A no quarter order is a war crime," wrote French.
Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray made a similar point.
"No quarter means, 'Shoot 'em,' if I'm correct," Gray said. "I can tell you that no property is worth a human life. Period."
In an interview, Cotton, a Harvard Law School graduate, denied using "no quarter" as a legal term, pointing instead to a dictionary definition.
"No mercy. No slack. No leniency for insurrectionists and anarchists," he said. "I'm using it in the colloquial [sense]."
Asked what percentage of the crowds are anarchists, insurrectionists, rioters and looters and what percentage are peaceful protesters, Cotton said: "I can't hazard an exact percentage, but it's obvious, especially during hours of darkness, there's a very large number of rioters, looters and anarchists out on the streets of our cities.
"It appears that during the daylight hours, it is predominantly peaceful protesters. I respect the rights of peaceful protests, but we should have absolutely zero tolerance for the kind of wanton carnage and violence that we've seen on our streets over the last few months."
Asked how the military would distinguish between the groups, Cotton said, "It's not too hard to see who's setting fire to cars or looting shops or otherwise attacking innocent civilians," he said.
Dan Whitfield, an independent seeking to unseat Cotton in November, said greater firepower will aggravate the problem, not solve it.
"We have systematic racism sown throughout our society, and until we take care of that systematic racism, we're going to be facing issues like these protests that are going on now," he said.
Gray, who spent part of Monday dealing with vandalism at party headquarters in Little Rock, said Cotton's priorities are misplaced.
"Windows can be replaced. Lives can't," the Democratic official said.
"Should we punish people who are vandalizing and destroying property? Absolutely. But that is not the movement as a whole. And if Sen. Cotton is more outraged by the property damage than he is by the violence that they are protesting about, then his priorities are messed up," Gray added.
Speaking with Fox News on Monday, Cotton addressed the death itself.
"The video of George Floyd's death is deeply disturbing. I welcome the quick action by local authorities and the Department of Justice to investigate, to get the facts and to do justice for George Floyd in accordance with law," he said. "And we always respect the rights of peaceful protesters, but anarchy, rioting and looting we have zero tolerance for and it needs to end tonight."
A Section on 06/02/2020