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National Guard on Reno streets

By Trevor Bexon
Published: Last Updated on

It’s not every day that Humvees and camouflage clad soldiers are seen standing on Reno roadways.

Expect to see that this weekend as Governor Sisolak has activated local National Guard units to help support a peaceful environment for the Black Lives Matter protests occurring throughout the state.

From the Governor’s press release on Tuesday, “The Nevada National Guard units will not be on the front lines, making arrests or doing crowd control. Their mission is to act as support personnel and they will focus on protecting critical facilities, preserving public safety, and allowing individuals to exercise their rights to peacefully demonstrate.”

On Sunday, This Is Reno paid a visit to the soldiers on post at the Reno Police Department on Second Street. 

2nd Lt. Phillip Roen
2nd Lt. Phillip Roen of the 609th Combat Engineer Co. out of Fallon. Image: Trevor Bexon

Second Lt. Phillip Roen of the 609th Combat Engineer Co. out of Fallon spoke to us about their mission this weekend. 

“People have the right to come out here and exercise their rights and we want them to do so in a peaceful manner, without agitators or bad actors corrupting that,” Roen said.

As is the case throughout the country, protests in Reno have been largely peaceful, but there have been instances of riots occurring as these “agitators or bad actors” take over.

This was the case last Saturday, with the police station being the first property to be damaged following the otherwise peaceful protests that had wrapped up earlier in the afternoon.

Rioters vandalized the Reno Police Department May 30, 2020 after a peaceful protest earlier in the day. Image: Trevor Bexon
Rioters vandalized the Reno Police Department May 30, 2020 after a peaceful protest earlier in the day. Image: Trevor Bexon

“We want to prevent that from happening, so people can assemble peacefully,” Roen said. “I’ve been in the Nevada Guard for 12 years and have done fire response, search and rescue, but this is the first time I’ve been involved with civil unrest.”

As of Sunday morning, the guard was observed on Kuenzli Street and Second Street, blocking the roads surrounding the police station. When asked if there would be other posts as the weekend goes on in preparation for Sunday’s Silent Sit-In and Peace Vigil at the City Plaza, Roen said, “We will coordinate with RPD, and wherever they feel is most appropriate we will move.” 

Nevada is not the only state to have activated the guard. More than 43,000 guard members have been activated in 34 states and the District of Columbia in response to the nationwide civil unrest. 

Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry of the Nevada National Guard released a statement on Facebook that has since been widely shared in response to the death of George Floyd.

Berry serves as the Adjutant General for the State of Nevada. As Adjutant General, he is the senior uniformed Nevada National Guard officer responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, programs and plans affecting more than 3,500 Nevada Army and Air National Guard personnel.

In his Facebook post on Friday, Berry wrote:

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