Governors across the U.S. continue to activate National Guard troops in response to the civil unrest that has rocked the country after an African-American man was killed while he was being arrested by police officers in Minneapolis.
In Minnesota alone, the State wherein the incident took place, more than 5000 Army and Air Force National Guard troops have been activated.
National Guards troops are being primarily used in a support role to the local law enforcement and emergency services departments. This entails securing police departments, fire stations, and state buildings and safeguarding paramedics and ambulances as they treat and evacuate people from the affected areas. Moreover, National Guard troops are providing intelligence and surveillance support. However, since each National Guard unit reports to its state’s governor, their role might vary according to the situation in their state.
Air Force General Joseph Lengyel, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a press statement that “We plan, train and prepare for emergency response missions with our local, state, and federal partners. We’re part of the communities we serve. We know the police, fire departments and hospital workers. We know their capabilities because we live with their capabilities.”
Last Friday, President Trump had adumbrated the deployment of the National Guard in case the protests continue to turn into riots. “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” he said in a series of Tweets. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twenty-four states have activated their National Guard units. Some of the more prominent are: Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington state, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
The activation of the National Guard is a pretty common occurrence. Most frequently it happens in response to a natural catastrophe (for example, hurricanes, floods, or bush fires). Most recently, some states activated some of their National Guard troops in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Whenever a National Guard unit is activated, it’s under a State Active Duty (SAD) status, meaning that they aren’t restricted by the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal troops from operating within the U.S. (Posse Comitatus can be circumvented by a Presidential order).
As far as the deployment of Active Duty troops, the president can greenlight them in case the state and local authorities are incapable of maintaining public order.
In legal terms, National Guard troops fall under Title 32 of the Constitution, whereas Active Duty troops operate under Title 10.
Coupled with the COVID-19 activation, the latest mobilization of the National Guard means that more than 60,000 National Guardsmen are currently supporting state and local authorities.