Donald Trump Has Not Declared Martial Law, Despite Online Misinformation

On Monday evening, President Donald Trump addressed the nation following widespread protests around the country that were sparked by George Floyd's murder. In his address, the president announced a federal response to the riots that have occurred in the country. He then said that he would deploy the United States military if states are not able to take control of the looting and rioting that has taken place amidst peaceful protests (these protests are not only in honor of Floyd, but they are also trying to bring attention to two major problems in the country — racial injustice and police brutality). While some individuals may think Trump's remarks served as a declaration of martial law, that is not actually the case.

Many Twitter users responded to Trump's address to share that the president was basically declaring martial law in the country. However, he did not do so on Monday. Even though he did not officially declare martial law, the president did threaten to invoke the Insurrection Act. During his remarks, Trump said that he is encouraging governors to bring in the National Guard to break up these demonstrations. He then said that if states do not take action in this regard that he would then send in the military.

Trump said specifically, "I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers, that we dominate the streets, mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them."

What exactly is the Insurrection Act? The Insurrection Act was originally passed all the way back in 1807 and has since been amended several times. According to NPR, the Insurrection Act, if enacted, would allow the president to utilize the United States military in order to quell insurrections on American soil. This act was last invoked in 1992 to quell the Los Angeles riots, which were sparked after the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, an African American man.

Before Trump would be able to officially invoke the Insurrection Act, the president "must first issue a proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse within a limited time, 10 U.S.C. § 334.4. If the situation does not resolve itself, the President may issue an executive order to send in troops," per a 2006 report from the Congressional Research Service. In 2006, the act was reportedly amended and authorized "the President to employ the armed forces during a natural disaster or terrorist attack." As for whether states will specifically have to request military assistance from the president, that is "not necessarily" the case.