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Insurrection Act meaning: What is Insurrection Act? How Trump to end George Floyd protests

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Protests have been taking place throughout the US for the past week after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by police in a widely shared video. The 46-year-old was arrested after a grocery shop employee reported Mr Floyd for allegedly using a fake $20 note to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Harrowing footage showed the man pleading for his life as a white officer lent on his neck with his knee for more than eight minutes, while three other officers looked on.

A private autopsy has now found that Mr Floyd died from asphyxiation.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder.

The other three officers present have still not been detained or charged, which protesters are calling for, although all four officers have been fired.

George Floyd’s death follows the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement.

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For many, the outrage also reflects years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and discrimination.

The tragedy has united much of the western world in anti-racist sentiment – although there’s one key person who doesn’t agree.

Donald Trump has now threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to stop the protestors as anger grows.

He said: “I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans.

“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.

“I’m dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”

The move has been seen as incendiary as it could cause more armed clashes and result in civilian casualties.

What is the Insurrection Act?

The Insurrection Act authorises the President to employ the armed forces during a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Invoking the act will allow the President to deploy the military to stop riots, despite the police and the national guard already clashing with protestors.

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According to the Congressional Research Service, it 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 a black man, Rodney King.

Other notable examples of the act being used include President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoking the Insurrection Act to protect the Little Rock Nine in 1957, and President Lyndon B. Johnson using the law during the 1968 Civil Rights riots.

But there may be curbs on what Trump can do. One section of the law suggests that a state must first request help, but other parts of the Insurrection Act do not require a governor or state legislature’s permission, such as when the President determines the situation in a state makes it impossible to enforce US laws, or when citizens’ constitutional rights are abridged.

The move has been met with widespread criticism, particularly in light of one of Mr Trump’s tweets where he said “once the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a statement many have interpreted as licensing murder of American citizens.

Dozens of US cities have imposed curfews as, despite the President’s warning, protests and riots have not been quelled.

More than 75 cities have seen protests over what happened to George Floyd.

Streets that only days ago were deserted because of the coronavirus pandemic have filled again with demonstrators marching shoulder to shoulder.

George Floyd’s brother Terrence lead a nine-minute kneeling prayer circle in Minneapolis yesterday, to represent the amount of time on the floor with a police officer’s knee on his neck.

Speaking after the emotional vigil, he said: “If I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are y’all doing?

“That’s not gonna bring my brother back at all. Let’s do this another way.”

He also appeared on Good Morning America on Monday to pay tribute to his older brother, saying George was a “motivator” who “always saw the brighter side of things”.

But Terrence added his brother “was about peace” and warned the violence happening during some demonstrations is “overshadowing” Floyd’s memory.

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