California Gov. Gavin Newsom mentioned this week the possibility of invoking martial law during the COVID-19 crisis.
“If you want to establish a framework of martial law, which is ultimate authority and enforcement, we have the capacity to do that, but we are not feeling at this moment that is a necessity,” Newsom said Tuesday during a press briefing, noting that he had put the National Guard on alert.
“I don’t want to get to the point of being alarmist, but we are scaling all of our considerations,” he continued.
A spokesperson for the governor walked back the statement a bit on Wednesday, suggesting that if Newsom enacted martial law it wouldn’t be a military-style deployment.
“We don’t want this to be scary for people,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “This is a humanitarian mission to support health and safety.”
Martial law is only supposed to be used during “battlefield conditions” or when the U.S. is being invaded, Vermont Law School Professor Stephen Dycus told the Merced Sun-Star.
However, governors do have great latitude in how they utilize their state militias, according to Dycus who co-authored the book, “Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military.”
“Governors have a lot of flexibility as commander in chief of their state militias, what we now call National Guard, to use those Guard forces to do a variety of things, including law enforcement,” Dycus explained. “Our experience with martial law is limited, and the law about what martial law is or the circumstances that would justify it are unclear.”
Under a martial law scenario, one’s civil rights are suspended and the military is in charge. Due process rights and other basic protections under the Constitution may be thrown out the window.
We’re in the midst of a pandemic, unemployment is skyrocketing, the stock market is crashing, law enforcement is changing protocol to reduce the number of arrests, jails are letting out inmates to reduce prison populations, bars and shops and restaurants and malls are being forced to close, people are panic buying food and supplies… it’s unlikely that things will get outta hand in the near future and that the government will push the martial-law panic button, right?
Well, you tell me?