Officials Deny Persistent Martial Law Rumors

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Rumors of a military-enforced national lockdown have been debunked repeatedly by state and federal authorities who say their recurrence shows just how persistent false claims can be during an emergency, reports the Associated Press. “I hear unfounded rumors about National Guard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.”

More than 4,000 National Guard reservists have been deployed in at least 31 states to help with the response to the virus. National Guard members are under the dual control of their states’ governor and the president. As government officials began activating the National Guard, text messages and posts suggesting that the guardsmen would enforce martial law have been widely shared. But even if military personnel enforce local laws it wouldn’t be martial law, because they’d be enforcing civil laws passed by elected lawmakers, says Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas. “Seeing the military in our neighborhoods and our communities is not martial law,” he said. Martial law is the imposition of military control over civilians, usually during wartime. Civilian courts are shut down, and military justice prevails.

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