Tags: George Floyd Protests | Presidential History | nixon | reagan | may | patco

Police, Protest, and the Military: The Insurrection Act

the national guard united states

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By Friday, 10 July 2020 03:48 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The following article is the fifth of six parts.

Since its passage in 1807, presidents of the United States have invoked the Insurrection Act 20 times, half of those ocurred during the 19th century; the other half during the 20th.

American history is full of protest movements, and indeed active-duty troops are assigned only on rare occasions.

But this is not "martial law," or some relic of the past.

As governors have great discretion with regards to in-state natural disasters and disturbances, they have the power to call in the National Guard. Ideally, they also have been the ones to ask the president to invoke the Insurrection Act and send in active-duty troops. However, in six of the 20 invocations, that was not the case.

Both Eisenhower and Kennedy used it to enforce desegregation when Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi refused to integrate, a refusal stubbornly supported by the governors.

The George Floyd/Rayshard Brooks protests involved at times looting, vandalism, arson, lawyers with a Molotov Cocktail, and police cars torched, plus rocks and other objects hurled at officers. This led to curfews being imposed in 200 U.S. cities.

While the protests were largely peaceful, they were certainly widespread enough and featured sufficient levels of violence for the consideration of bringing in active-duty troops.

Given President Trump’s tangling with governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York  and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, it sounded like he wanted to send active-duty troops over governors’ objections, but it never happened.

That being said, as we saw with the behavior of the LAPD during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sometimes local police fall down on the job. Everyone noticed when the Buffalo and Atlanta cops walked off the job, displeased that prosecutors failed to protect their Thin Blue Line.

I can imagine a situation in which active-duty troops may be needed if the local police stand-down during large-scale unrest.

One thing differentiating the local police from National Guardsmen and active-duty troops, is the police union. These vastly powerful organizations nearly always take the side of offending police officer, no matter how egregious his offense; even if it's murder.

If Ronald Reagan could shut down PATCO (Aug. 5, 1981) because it and its air-traffic controller membership endangered national security, the government would be right to consider the same remedy for police unions, given their pernicious effect on adjudicating police misconduct.

Local police obviously know their cities where they enforce the law; but there are good cops and bad cops. The National Guard live and work in communities and assist after natural disasters, so they have some sense of community, but that did not prevent Kent State on May 4, and Jackson State on May 15 (both in 1970). Active-duty troops may come in from distant locations, but they certainly have discipline baked into their training.

I don’t think there is a strong argument that any of these three armed authority bodies is any better at handling protest, civil disobedience, or urban chaos. Though one thing is certain: Neither the National Guard nor active-duty troops has the sad history of killing Blacks that the local police do.

Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. Read Henry Seggerman's Reports — More Here.

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Neither the National Guard nor active-duty troops has the sad history of killing Blacks that the local police do.
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2020-48-10
Friday, 10 July 2020 03:48 PM
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