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Tom Cotton Floats Invoking the Insurrection Act to Quell Riots

Senator Tom Cotton arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) on Monday proposed invoking the Insurrection Act to quell the riots overtaking cities across the country.

The 1807 law gives the president authority to order troops into the interior of the U.S. to put down rebellion. While use of the law is rare, then-president George H.W. Bush invoked the law in 1992 to send troops into Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots.

“What the president can do…[is say that] the rioting, the anarchy, and the looting ends tonight,” Cotton said on Fox News. “If local law enforcement is overwhelmed, if local politicians will not do their most basic job to protect our citizens, let’s see how these anarchists respond when the 101st Airborne is on the other side of the street.”

Cotton later added on Twitter, “and, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.”

Rioting and looting occurred in major U.S. cities over the weekend, including Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday suggested that the city might enforce a curfew if the riots continue. NYPD counterterrorism chief John Miller on Sunday told reporters that a group of “anarchists” had coordinated a looting spree on wealthy neighborhoods, after the upscale Soho district saw widespread break-ins.

The riots have grown out of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, who was killed during his arrest by white police officers in Minneapolis, Minn., last week. Former officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder after video emerged showing him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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