Ongoing Riots and Federal Authority: What You Need to Know

American flag and gavel depicting riots and federal authority

As riots drag on for the third month, and new riots break out across the nation, Americans are starting to wonder. What will finally put an end to the violence and anarchy in some of the streets in our nation’s cities?

There has been extensive rioting and looting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the shooting of Jacob Blake. A white police officer shot Blake after he resisted arrest and went to his car appearing to be trying to retrieve a weapon. Blake remains alive, but possibly paralyzed and in critical condition. 

After four nights of looting, burning, and rioting, there have been other killings in the city. At least two people have died. We have very little information about what caused these killings

Insurrection Act

Back in June of this year, after widespread rioting and looting broke out all over the country – all over the world – touched off by the death of George Floyd, President Trump spoke about using the Insurrection Act to quell the violence.

However, can the federal government send troops into states? If so, under what circumstances?

It might surprise you to learn that uprisings and mob violence have been part of our nation’s history from the very beginning. It started with Shay’s rebellion in 1786-87 – just ten years after the United States gained its freedom.

In 1794, we had the Whiskey Rebellion. Our country’s leaders created The Alien and Sedition Acts at the end of the 18th century. The Insurrection Act in 1807 in response to American citizens raising armies to attempt to overthrow the government or seize territory.

Most Notable Use of Insurrection Act Today

Is the Insurrection Act relevant today? It has been most notably used to deploy troops into cities where riots were occurring after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Additionally, it was used to force states to comply with the de-segregation of schools during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was used to send troops to Detroit in 1967 when the famous riots broke out.

It was used in 1992 in Los Angeles after Rodney King was filmed being beaten by police officers. 

Five Reasons the President Can Use the Insurrection Act

Burning and looting are being called peaceful protesting by most mainstream media. Any action on the part of the federal government at this point has enormous political ramifications.

It’s a tense time in our country. There are protestors on the streets who haven’t broken the law.

However, here are the situations under which the president could seize control using the National Guard. See if what’s happening in this country fits any of these:

  1. Actions being taken, or fear of actions being taken, to overthrow a state. 
  2. State’s governor requests help.
  3. The threat of federal laws being broken.
  4. Violence that threatens the rights of any “part or class of the people” and “constituted authorities of that state are unable, fail, or refuse to protect” those rights.
  5. Violence opposes or obstructs the execution of federal law.


No American wants to see violence used against citizens, whether by other citizens in a mob, acting alone, or by our military. We hope for an end to looting, burning, rioting, and violence.

We hope for peaceful conversation and change to happen. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

 “Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

Finally, it you are or a loved one is facing charges due to the ongoing riots, call my office today. You will need a seasoned criminal attorney fighting for your rights.

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