WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two hundred members of the Utah National Guard are in Washington D.C, helping out with the Black Lives Matter protests.
Maj. Brent Mangum has been with the Utah National Guard for 17 years.
Mangum has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but said he has never been on a deployment like his current assignment.
“The protesters we’ve seen and have been dealing with are loud,” Mangum said. “Some of them are very angry, and that’s understandable.”
Moving throughout D.C., Mangum and his 199 other guardsmen are cleaning up graffiti painted by protesters, restoring order and trying to keep the peace.
“As citizen soldiers, we want to uphold the constitution,” Mangum said. “We see the protesters, our fellow citizens, as Americans. I hope that we can see peace restored and start a very constructive dialogue.”
Their schedule has been constantly changing, he said.
On Thursday, they had to move hotels after Mayor Muriel Bowser in D.C. sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting military and Federal Law Enforcement be withdrawn.
“The protesters have been peaceful,” Mayor Bowser wrote.
Sen. Mike Lee wrote a statement claiming this was “shameful and petty” to remove Utah guardsmen after a late-night shift protecting the people of D.C.
Mangum calls this politics.
“I’ll just say that, we’re soldiers,” he said. “We’re used to being flexible and making due with what we have.”
The focus of their deployment, Mangum said, has been to show compassion while protecting life and property.
“There’s nothing more that I’d like to see than see those things happen and be able to get back home to my family,” he said.
The Utah National Guard does not know their timeline and schedule for when they’ll be back in Utah, but Mangum said he’s grateful to serve this nation and all of its people.