NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A member of the Tennessee National Guard set to deploy to Washington D.C. on orders of Governor Bill Lee said he disagrees with having to leave the state in order to help control protestors in Washington, D.C.
The soldier, who spoke on the record with News4 Investigates, asked that we protect his identity.
An estimated 1,000 members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Knoxville, TN, were authorized by the governor to provide support to the Washington D.C. National Guard.
“When the nation’s capitol asks for volunteers to help protect – we do that as well,” Lee said at a news conference Tuesday.
It comes after a crowd, described by witnesses to be peaceful protestors, were hit with smoke from canisters and pepper balls from park police as they were demonstrating in a public space in front of the White House.
Afterwards, President Donald Trump declared he would mobilize the U.S. military to end “riots and lawlessness.”
“l think like any American your stomach kind of turns,” the soldier told News4 Investigates.
The soldier said he doesn’t believe it’s the mission of the guard to silence peaceful protestors.
“It’s not unthinkable that you would be asked to disperse a peaceful crowd, like we saw with the disperse of a peaceful crowd so the president can take a photo,” the soldier said.
“Do you feel like the Tennessee National Guard is being used for a political agenda?” asked News4 Investigates.
“I don’t know if that is what is happening, I just hope that it is not what takes place,” said the soldier.
The soldier said he saw great hope this week at Tennessee’s capitol when soldiers laid down their shields at the request of protestors.
He said he hoped he would not be ordered to remove peaceful protestors.
“How difficult will that be for you to follow that order?” asked News4 Investigates.
“ We’re trained to follow legal orders. And as long as that order is legal that is what we’re going to do. Your hope as a soldier is that your leadership has the morale integrity to reject illegal orders,” the soldier said.
The soldier said he has faith in his leadership in the Tennessee National Guard. He questions, though, who is truly giving the orders.
News4 Investigates repeatedly reached out to the Tennessee National Guard by phone and by email for response to the soldier’s comments, but they did not respond by our deadline.