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What happens if Trump declares martial law

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

President Donald Trump hasn’t declared martial law, but today he foreshadowed it could be coming

President Donald Trump hasn't declared martial law, but today he foreshadowed it could be coming.

America has been burning since black man George Floyd was killed by police, with protests erupting across the country.

During all of this Mr Trump has largely been on the backfoot, but on Monday night (local time) he threatened to deploy the military to crush the protests.

A US National Guard soldier watches over Hollywood Boulevard.

In a backhander to many state governors, Mr Trump said if the states couldn't bring about law and order then he would: with the military.

Those comments, in Mr Trump's six-minute address, were interpreted by some as the president declaring martial law.

But that's not in fact the case.

So let's look at what martial law is and what America would look like if Mr Trump declared it.

Why do people think martial law is coming?

Speaking from the Rose Garden today, Mr Trump said that if governors did not act to his liking, he would call up the military.

"If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said.

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property."

If escalated, Mr Trump's threat would see him invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807.

Minnesota National Guard deploy around the area of daily protests and looting as fires continue to burn following protests over the death of George Floyd

What is the Insurrection Act of 1807?

The act gives the president the power to send military members to the streets of cities during protests.

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It was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson.

The Insurrection Act contains several sections, but the first two are the most relevant.

The first involves federal "aid" for state governments. It states at the request of a governor (or a state legislature if the governor is unavailable), the president can send "land or naval forces of the U.S." ... "to suppress [an] insurrection" or rebellion.

The next section states the president may deploy a militia comprised mainly of the national guard (but also other military soldiers) in the events of "unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States."

Remember Mr Trump talking about "thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers" being deployed right now?

Image made from video shot by George Holliday shows police officers beating a man, later identified as Rodney King. King, the black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers was the touchstone for one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history, died in 2012.

Has the Insurrection Act ever been used?

It hasn't been invoked since 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King.

Now-Attorney General William Barr was actually attorney general back then, too, under former President George H.W. Bush.

Congress amended the law after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 to give more clarity about its use during natural disasters, but dropped some of those changes a year later after objections by state governors who did not want to cede their authority.

There are examples of presidents using troops over the objections of governors, such as Dwight Eisenhower - and later John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson - during the Civil Rights era.

Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act when he federalised the Arkansas National Guard and then sent the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to integrate the schools.

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The Georgia Army National Guard mans an armoured security vehicle following troops down Centennial Olympic Park Drive/Honorary Dominique Wilkins Lane to push back and disperse protesters after curfew

What would happen under martial law? 

Under martial law, there would typically be curfews and the suspension of civil law and civil rights.

Civilians defying martial law could be subjected to military tribunal, also known as a court-martial.

Parts of the suspension of the Constitution can be removed, probably starting with the first and second amendment (The first guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and right to petition. The second is the right to bear arms).

There would likely be heavy travel restrictions, including road closures and quarantine zones.

Search and seizures could also be carried out without a warrant.

With CNN

Source: 9News

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