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News >  Military

Top military leaders remind troops of limits of free speech

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 12, 2021

By Robert Burns Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Amid worry about renewed violence on Inauguration Day, the military’s top leaders issued a written reminder to all service members Tuesday that the deadly insurrection at the Capitol last week was an anti-democratic, criminal act, and that the right to free speech gives no one the right to commit violence.

A memo signed by all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also reminded military members that Joe Biden was duly elected as the next president and will be sworn in to office on Jan. 20.

The memo was unusual in that the military leadership, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, felt compelled to remind service members that it is wrong to disrupt the constitutional process. It comes as law enforcement agencies attempt to determine the full extent of criminal activity at the Capitol and to discover the extent of participation by current or past military members.

“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law,” the memo said. “The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.

“As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law.”

Ahead of next week’s inauguration and President Donald Trump’s departure from office, the National Guard is gearing up to provide support to law enforcement agencies. There is no plan to use active-duty forces in security operations.

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