The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had transferred about 1,600 troops to the Washington, DC area in response to ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd.

“The Department of Defense moved multiple active duty Army units into the National Capitol Region as a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement.

He said the active duty elements in the region “are on heightened alert status” but “not participating in defense support to civil authority operations.”

With US President Trump saying he could send in the US military to quell the protests, Democrats and former military leaders have cried foul over the prospect of US soldiers facing off against demonstrators.

“We cannot allow any Commander in Chief to put our Armed Forces’ reputation as the last institution Americans can trust and respect at risk by using them unlawfully and putting them in a position of exacerbating the divisions driving our union apart,” said Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs while serving in Iraq.

The nation has seen protests since last week when a video went viral showing Floyd being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he was being arrested.

Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Shortly after, Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but Chauvin maintained his position on the victim.

He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.

His last words were “I can’t breathe,” which became the slogan of the nationwide protests.

Floyd was killed by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure,” an independent autopsy found Monday.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.