Martial Law Isn’t ‘Imminent’
(FactCheck.org | March 25, 2020) President Donald Trump mobilized the National Guard on March 22 in Washington, California and New York — three states that have been hit hard by COVID-19 — to assist with everything from distribution of food to set-up of medical tents.
The following day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper clarified: “To be clear, this is not a move toward martial law, as some have erroneously claimed.”
Esper was responding to persistent online rumors that martial law is either currently in place or very near.
Generally, martial law is military authority substituted for civil government during periods of unrest. It’s a murky concept that hasn’t been defined in American law — as we’ll explain later.
As for the rumors hyping the idea that military rule is looming, the Facebook page for “Alternative Media Television” recently warned its more than 145,000 followers: “STORM IS COMING TO AMERICA!!!! MARTIAL LAW NEXT 24 HOURS!!!!!!”
That post linked to Alternative Media Television’s online store, which sells “emergency survival” gear and “emergency preparedness” food supplies.
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind the website Infowars.com, also has been pumping out misinformation on the issue while selling his own survivalist supplies, including face masks.
“We are already under overlying fields, crisscrossing fields, of martial law,” Jones said in one recent video …
… Basically, martial law is the temporary replacement of civil government by the military during a period of unrest, explained David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School and former U.S. Navy officer.
It has rarely been used in the U.S., said William Banks, professor of law at Syracuse University. The last time was in Hawaii, when martial law was instituted following the attack on Pearl Harbor …