BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker called 1,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard into active duty Friday, but almost 72 hours later the administration will not say what, if anything, the activated Guardsmen have done since then or whether the Guard remains active Monday.
Though the governor’s order did not give a detailed reason for the activation and his administration said the order was given “in the event that municipal leaders require their assistance,” 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.
“Governor Baker today signed an order activating up to 1,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard in the event that municipal leaders require their assistance. National Guard personnel are deployed only at the request of, and in coordination with, the communities seeking support,” a spokesman of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said in a statement Friday evening.
The governor’s order says 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 order is to remain in effect until further notice from Adjutant General Gary Keefe.
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 Mass. 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.”
A spokesman for EOPSS did not say Monday afternoon whether the Guard remained activated as of Monday, what the activated Guard members had done since being called up, or whether there had been any change in the limited details provided Friday.
Gov. Baker last held a public event on Thursday, in Springfield.