The Insurrection Act and How it Can Be Used to Stop the Rioting

Insurrection Act

As the protests continue that heated up after the police death of George Floyd, President Donald J. Trump has made it clear that he has had enough.

The president has put together a Central Command Center lead by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley. Trump says this command center will allow him to “dominate the streets.”

In general, military troops are not allowed to be involved in domestic law enforcement, however, there are laws that would allow the federal government to use the military to intervene in a case of disorder. One of those laws is the Insurrection Act of 1807.

The Insurrection Act of 1807 authorizes the president to use military forces in the case of an insurrection of civil disturbance.

If governors object to having the military deployed to their states, it is not clear how much power the president has at that point. Some of Trump’s predecessors have implemented the Insurrection Act in areas where states were depriving their citizens of their civil rights.

In the past, it has been used with the state’s permission and without.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas national guard and sent in the 101st Airborne Division to protect nine black students who were enrolled in an all-white high school. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the school.

John F. Kennedy also employed the Act in 1962 to aid in the integration of the University of Mississippi. The night James Meredith was to become the first black student at the university, he was greeted by a crowd of 3,000 white people. They had assembled with the intention of violently protesting his arrival.

Meredith was guarded by hundreds of federal agents, however, a riot ensued anyway and the president had to deploy more military police.

In 1963, Meredith graduated Ole Miss with a degree in political science. He was guarded by hundreds of troops night and day from his registration to his graduation.

In Detroit, 1967, after an unlicensed bar was raided, Detroit saw some of the worst rioting and widespread police brutality the U.S. had seen in a century.

Michigan Governor George Romney sent a message to President Lyndon B. Johnson because local and state law enforcement had become overwhelmed. Johnson signed an order sending thousands of paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

At least 43 people were killed in the riots and over 7,000 people were arrested.

In 1992, riots broke out in California after the four police officers who brutally beat Rodney King were acquitted. At the request of Governor Pete Wilson, President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order that sent federal troops to back up the thousands of National Guard troops that had already been deployed.

By Jeanette Vietti


Independent: George Floyd protests: Which US presidents have used the Insurrection Act to stop riots?
CNN: Can Trump legally deploy US troops to US cities?
NBC: Trump says he will deeply military if state officials can’t contain protest violence

Image Courtesy of Goeff Livingston’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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