The Insurrection Act: What is it and why is it trending?

Capitol Riots

DC National Guard CMSgt Allan Gilbreath stands guard outside the east side of the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — In the wake of last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol, the Insurrection Act of 1807 is trending on Twitter and Google search. But what is it and why are people searching for it?

The act allows the president to deploy federal troops or the federalized National Guard on U.S. soil in specific instances.

The Insurrection Act gained attention this summer when President Donald Trump threatened to use it against Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C. Though, the act was last invoked in 1992 to quell riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of white police officers involved in the severe beating of an African American motorist.

The act was amended in 2006 to expand the way it could be used by the president, allowing for the deployment of federal troops to respond to natural disasters “and other major domestic emergencies without a prior request from affected state or local governments,” according to a University of Maryland School of Law report. But the changes — which came as a response to the handling of Hurricane Katrina — faced strong opposition and were repealed in 2008, restoring the former Insurrection Act.

The original text of the Insurrection Act of 1807 says:

“An Act authorizing the employment of the land and naval forces of the United States, in cases of insurrections

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws, either of the United States, or of any individual state or territory, where it is lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia for the purpose of suppressing such insurrection, or of causing the laws to be duly executed, it shall be lawful for him to employ, for the same purposes, such part of the land or naval force of the United States, as shall be judged necessary, having first observed all the pre-requisites of the law in that respect.”

APPROVED, March 3, 1807.

With National Guard members arriving in D.C. following the Capitol breach, false claims have spread on social media saying that Trump invoked the act.

This is not the case. Rather, security forces are taking extra precautions after the riots, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Roughly 6,200 members of the National Guard from six states will help support the Capitol Police and other law enforcement in Washington for the next 30 days, which includes President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Google searches for ‘Insurrection Act’ from January 4-11. Data source: Google Trends (https://www.google.com/trends)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser has been pushing for increased security around Biden’s inauguration in the days after the riots.

“We believe strongly that the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20 will require a very different approach than previous inaugurations given the chaos, injury, and death experienced at the United States Capitol during the insurrection,” Bowser wrote in a letter to Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Bowser has asked Wolf and President Trump asked for a “pre-disaster declaration” to allow for federal assistance in the district.

Bowser cited “new threats from insurgent acts of domestic terrorists” and asked that the security period around the inauguration be extended from Monday through Jan. 24 and that the Capitol be included in the perimeter. She is urging that any applications for demonstrations be denied during that period.

Washington, D.C., does not have jurisdiction over the Capitol and other federal property within its borders.

In her letter to Wolf, Bowser asked for coordination with the Defense and Justice departments, Congress and the Supreme Court to develop a security plan for all federal properties. “Consistent with established protocols and practices, it is the primary responsibility of the federal government to secure federal property in these situations,” she wrote.

Doing so, she said, will enable the Metropolitan Police Department “to focus on its local mission.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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