Homeland Security official says force was needed to reduce trouble at protests

Aubree Eliza Weaver

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Sunday that increased military and police presence at ongoing protests across the country has reduced vandalism and looting.

"We've seen that violent protest, and that violent looting and rioting, diminish," Wolf told Fox News' Chris Wallace. "It's not by happenstance, and it's not by chance. It's because we took early action. We worked with state governors, local mayors to make sure that they had the law enforcement necessary. Can you imagine if we had not done anything? If we had not increased our police presence in the D.C. area and in cities across the country?"

"You would see a vast majority of more violent protesting occurring today, more churches being burned. So I think we took the right action," he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Critics of the administration have said the heavy police and military presence has heightened tensions in some places, rather than reduced them, citing confrontations with nonviolent protesters and journalists as examples. They also have said the administration’s emphasis on discussing violence by demonstrators has been unfair to the many people who have protested peacefully.

When asked about President Donald Trump's push to call in active-duty military to help manage the protests, Wolf said it is crucial to keep "all our tools in the toolbox ready and available."

"Again, I would emphasize where we were five, six, seven days ago, when that protesting, the violent protesting, and the looting and rioting was out of control," he said. "We were making measurable progress, and I think what we've seen is that a number of states, a number of cities were able to control this with law enforcement resources — whether it's the National Guard, federal resources, DHS resources. We've seen that, we've seen it under control, and I support that. But this idea of 'Let's start taking options off the table,' I don't think is the right play."