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Troops on Washington streets to begin carrying arms

The Pentagon is mobilising up to 15,000 National Guard for Joe Biden's inauguration [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 January, 2021

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Social media chatter among extremists and Trump supporters about holding armed marches and threatening violence in the US capital has reportedly surged.

National Guard troops deployed on the streets of Washington began carrying weapons late Tuesday in a major change of posture ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration as US president, according to an AFP photographer.

The Guard soldiers were originally mobilised to provide mostly logistical support to Washington police, and on Monday General Daniel Hokanson, Pentagon National Guard Bureau chief, said they had not been authorised yet to carry weapons.

Authorising Guard members to deploy in a law enforcement role, armed and empowered to make arrests, would be a "last resort" if the security situation got out of hand, Hokanson said.

It was not clear what changed late Tuesday, and the city's National Guard had no comment.

Security experts have said chatter among extremists and supporters of President Donald Trump on social media about holding armed marches and threatening violence in the US capital and other cities had surged in recent days.

The Pentagon is mobilising up to 15,000 National Guard for the January 20 inauguration, as Trump and supporters still refuse to accept Biden's election victory two months ago.

Five people died on January 6 when Trump supporters attacked and shut down the US Congress in an attempt to halt the certification of Biden's election win.

Read also: Trump shores up Pence ties as Democrats move to impeach

At the time Guard troops were nearby, but were unarmed and called in too late to back up the Capitol Police to protect the legislature.

The New York Times reported that weapons had been authorised Tuesday for the troops guarding the Capitol complex.  

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