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Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Spending Bill Over Confederate Base Names

By VOA News July 01, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will veto an annual bill appropriating money for the Defense Department if the measure includes a requirement for renaming U.S. military installations that honor the Confederate States of America.

His latest rejection of the move came in a late Tuesday tweet in which he repeated his frequent slur against Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

"I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth "Pocahontas" Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!"

In line with Trump's tweet, acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf said Wednesday he is establishing the Protecting American Communities Task Force to coordinate the agency's assets to protect the U.S.'s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities.

Wolf said his agency "is answering the president's call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks. We won't stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities."

Just ahead of the U.S.'s annual July 4th celebration of its 1776 independence, Wolf said he is pre-positioning law enforcement teams "across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property."

He said that while Homeland Security "respects every American's right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated."

Bipartisan approval

The Senate Armed Services Committee gave bipartisan approval in a 25-2 vote on Warren's amendment last month. It calls for the Pentagon to act within three years to identify and rename any base, street, aircraft, weapon or other "asset" commemorating the Confederacy, a group of states that wanted to preserve slavery and seceded from the country before losing the 1860s Civil War.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy have all signaled they are open to renaming the military bases. Some advocates of the changes have suggested that each U.S. military base be renamed after a Medal of Honor winner for wartime heroism.

Among the installations named after Confederate military figures are Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood and Fort Pickett.

Confederate monuments removed

The issue re-emerged amid nationwide protests following the May 25 death in police custody of African American George Floyd, who was held face down on a city street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he protested that he could not breathe.

Protests in many cities have targeted monuments to Confederate figures and led to some being removed, including one of Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, in Richmond, Virginia, and one honoring top general Robert E. Lee in Montgomery, Alabama.

The popular NASCAR racing series also banned the display of the Confederate flag at its events.

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