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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper doesn't support using active-duty military to break up riots

Posted at 7:54 AM, Jun 03, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper does not support invoking the Insurrection Act, a law that would allow President Donald Trump to use the military break up protests and riots within U.S. cities.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Esper said he believes the National Guard is better equipped to handle situations in the United States to help local law enforcement.

"I say this not only as Secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard, the option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations," Esper said. "We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."

On Monday, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 , which was signed during the Thomas Jefferson administration. He said if states refuse to use the National Guard, he will do it for them.

"If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of the residents, I will deploy the united states military, and quickly solve the problem for them," Trump said.

A different act, the Posse Comitatus Act, limits how the president can use the U.S. military for domestic purposes, and states would have to request the president to send in the U.S. military.

The act hasn't been used often in U.S. history. President John F. Kennedy invoked the act to enforce civil rights laws in the South, and President George H.W. Bush invoked the act in 1992 for the Los Angeles riots in response to the Rodney King beating at California's request.

During a press briefing at the White House, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump still has confidence in Esper, and said Trump was not aware of Esper's stance on the Insurrection Act prior to his announcement on Monday.

This story was originally published by Max White on WXYZ in Detroit.