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What is the Insurrection Act?

January 11, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 71.4%. 2 min read.

Viral social media posts have falsely claimed that President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 law to deploy American soldiers to police US streets. That didn't happen.

Washington (CNN)Viral social media posts have falsely claimed that President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 law to deploy American soldiers to police US streets.

While the law provides ample legal footing for presidents to deploy the military if they so choose, in practice it's been used sparingly.

What is the Insurrection Act?

The main provision of the Insurrection Act states that troops can only be deployed to an American state by the President if the governor or state legislature requests it.

Another provision of the law, however, outlines that under certain limited circumstances involved in the defense of constitutional rights, the President can send troops unilaterally.

"Historically and practically, such a request is not necessarily a prerequisite to the President using regular federal troops for domestic law enforcement," Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor and CNN contributor, previously told CNN of the law.

How have presidents used the law?

The Insurrection Act 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, a black man, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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.

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

A separate law, the Posse Comitatus Act -- read a long description of it here -- does seek to prohibit the use of the military to enforce laws unless expressly authorized by Congress or the Constitution.

But there are exceptions in that law for insurrection of rebellion and, after the Patriot Act, for terrorism.

While he's never invoked the law, the President did threaten to use it last year.

Following the police killing of George Floyd in May, Trump touted the Insurrection Act as a way to break up anti-fascists, or Antifa, who he said were organizing violent riots that led to looting.

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