Donald Trump has threatened to use the military to stop violent protests that have broken out across the United States.
The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd after a police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes during his arrest for allegedly using a fake $20 note.
The majority of demonstrations have been peaceful, but some have become violent, leading the president to say he would send in the military unless states deployed the National Guard.
The president’s threat is controversial because the US military is generally not allowed to undertake action on US soil.
Here is how the system works in the United States.
Who is in charge of the US armed forces?
The president is the USA’s commander in chief and has the power to deploy the US military as he wishes abroad.
He can make military decisions without Congress, although he needs their approval or a declaration of war for any military action lasting longer than 60 days.
However the US military is generally banned from performing law enforcement functions on US soil.
So can Donald Trump deploy the US army domestically?
The Insurrection Act of 1807 provides a way in which Donald Trump could still deploy troops.
The act allows the president to use the military to respond to “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” inside the United States
However, depending on the circumstances, action can only be taken at the request of a state governor or legislature.
This means if President Trump did deploy the army in a state without its governor’s approval, it could be illegal.
Has this been done before?
The last time the Insurrection Act was used was in 1992 by George H. W. Bush.
On that occasion it was used to allow the military to respond to riots in Los Angeles after a jury found four police officers not guilty of the beating of Rodney King.
How is the National Guard different?
The National Guard is a reserve military force that, unlike the permenant armed forces, is often called on to act in domestic emergencies in the United States.
It is made up of reserve members from both the United States Army and the United States Air Force.
Each of the 50 states has its own National Guard unit, as do the four territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
The majority of National Guard members hold a civilian job as well as serving as reservists, in the same way members of the Territorial Army do in the UK.
Who controls the National Guard?
The National Guard is controlled by both the state governors and the US president.
State governors often deploy their National Guard unit to help during domestic emergencies and natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes and floods.
The US president also has the authority to mobilise the National Guard without going through state governors and to deploy them abroad.
Has the National Guard been used this time?
National Guard units have so far been deployed in 23 states across the United States as well as in Washington D.C. in response to the protests.
Around 17,000 members of the National Guard are currently supporting local law enforcement with the protests.
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