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    Black Lives Matter Protests Sweep Across Globe Following Death of George Floyd (136)
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    Donald Trump’s annual commencement address to graduating cadets at West Point Academy comes as a growing number of military figures in the US have condemned the president for politicising the armed forces amid the George Floyd protests, and his threat to use federal troops to quell the violence.

    US President Donald Trump is set to address the new graduating class of the Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, ABC News reports.

    After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 1,110 cadets to follow in the footsteps of other educational institutions and switch to online studies in March, the graduating class is now to be brought back to the upstate New York campus.

    US Army cadets make their way through campus at the United States Military Academy in West Point. (File)
    © AFP 2020 / DON EMMERT
    US Army cadets make their way through campus at the United States Military Academy in West Point. (File)

    In April Donald Trump announced that he would address the graduates in person.

    After a succession of COVID-19 quarantine weeks and testing, the graduates were recalled, with the pentagon officials cited as saying some 1.5 percent have tested positive for the respiratory virus.

    There has not been any information regarding the contents of Trump’s planned speech.

    “Saturday’s graduation is about these incredible cadets and their amazing accomplishments, and as the commander-in-chief, President Trump wants to celebrate that and thank them for their service to our country,” White House spokesman Judd Deere was cited as saying.

    Open Letter

    Earlier, in an open letter published this week on Medium, more than 500 West Point graduates from some six decades signed an open letter to the Class of 2020.

    The West Point alumni issued a warning to the newly-minted graduates to steer clear of partisan politics.

    "Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests… Politicisation of the Armed Forces puts at risk the bond of trust between the American military and American society," reads the letter.

    ‘Fracture’ in Civil-Military Relations

    Tensions have spiked between the White House and the military amid the ongoing protests against police brutality and racism that have swept the US.

    As violence spilled into the streets of many American cities in the wake of the death in police custody of George Floyd, Donald Trump threatened to call out active duty troops to deal with the protests.

    On 1 June, Trump said he would mobilise “all federal resources, civilian and military”, to quell the demonstrations, urging state governors to deploy the National Guard in great numbers to “dominate the streets”, according to Pentagon officials cited by The Washington Post and CBS News.

    It was subsequently claimed that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley strongly advised Trump against the move.

    The US President had also said he was mulling invoking the Insurrection Act to quell the nationwide protests.

    However, on 3 June Mark Esper announced he did not support using the legislation, saying "we are not in one of those situations now."

    Mark Esper's predecessor, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, also attacked Trump last week, referring to him as "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try" in a statement titled, "In union there is strength".

    President Donald Trump left, waves to the crowd as he is introduced by Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford for it's commissioning at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., Saturday, July 22, 2017
    © AP Photo / Steve Helber
    President Donald Trump left, waves to the crowd as he is introduced by Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford for it's commissioning at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., Saturday, July 22, 2017

    In another run-in between Trump and the army top brass, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, apologised for his appearance alongside the President in the now infamous photo op in front of St. John's Church on 1 June.

    Milley had accompanied President Donald Trump to the site after the area was forcefully cleared of reportedly non-violent protesters.

    "I should not have been there… My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. ... It was a mistake that I have learned from,” said Milley in a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University released on 11 June.
    Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, right, during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2020. (
    © AP Photo / Susan Walsh
    Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, right, during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2020. (

    When asked about Esper and Milley in a Fox News interview aired on 12 June, Donald Trump was quoted as saying:

    "If that's the way they feel, I think that's fine… I have good relationships with the military… Now we have the greatest military we've ever had."
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    Black Lives Matter Protests Sweep Across Globe Following Death of George Floyd (136)

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    James Mattis, Mark Milley, Mark Esper, Military Academy at West Point, West Point, George Floyd killing, George Floyd, US Pentagon, Pentagon, Pentagon, Donald Trump
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