Originally martial law was imposed during wars or occupations to let the government control population more effectively in spite of heightened unrest. Nowadays it is most commonly used by authoritarian governments to enforce their rule, for example after coup d’état (Thailand 2006), when threatened by popular protests (PRC 1989), or to crack down on the opposition (Poland 1981). Most recents examples of martial law- Boston Marathon Bombing( 2013), in Thailand and the Phillipines (2014). Martial law can also be declared in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct like “state of emergency”.
In many countries martial law imposes particular rules, one of which is curfew. Often, under this system, the administration of justice is left to a military tribunal, called a court-martial. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is likely to occur.
The President can declare martial law when circumstances warrant it: When the civil authority cannot operate, then martial law is not only constitutional, but would be necessary: “If, in foreign invasion or civil war, the courts are actually closed, and it is impossible to administer criminal justice according to law, then, on the theatre of active military operations, where war really prevails, there is a necessity to furnish a substitute for the civil authority, thus overthrown, to preserve the safety of the army and society; and as no power is left but the military, it is allowed to govern by martial rule until the laws can have their free course. As necessity creates the rule, so it limits its duration; for, if this government is continued after the courts are reinstated, it is a gross usurpation of power. Martial rule can never exist where the courts are open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their jurisdiction. It is also confined to the locality of actual war.”
Examples of Martial Law
During the war of 1812, General Andrew Jackson imposed martial law within his encampment at New Orleans, which he had recently liberated. Martial law was also imposed in a four mile radius around the camp. When word came of the end of the war, Jackson maintained martial law, contending that he had not gotten official word of the peace. A judge demanded habeas corpus for a man arrested for sedition. Rather than comply with the writ, Jackson had the judge arrested. After the civil authority was restored, the judge fined Jackson $1000, which he paid, and for which the Congress later reimbursed Jackson.
In 1892, at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, rebellious mine workers blew up a mill and shot at strike-breaking workers. The explosion leveled a four-story building and killed one person. Mine owners asked the governor to declare martial law, which he did. At the same time, a request was made for federal troops to back guardsmen. Over 600 people were arrested. The list was whittled down to two dozen ring leaders who were tried in civil court. While in prison, the mine workers formed a new union, the Western Federation of Miners.
In 1914, imposition of martial law climaxed the so-called Coal Field Wars in Colorado. Dating back decades, the conflicts came to a head in Ludlow in 1913. The Colorado National Guard was called in to quell the strikers. For a time, the peace was kept, but it is reported that the make-up of the Guard stationed at the mines began to shift from impartial normal troops to companies of loyal mine guards. Clashes increased and the proclamation of martial law was made by the governor. President Wilson sent in federal troops, eventually ending the violence.
In 1934, California Governor Frank Merriam placed the docks of San Francisco under martial law, citing “riots and tumult” resulting from a dock workers strike. The Governor threatened to place the entire city under martial law. The National Guard was called in to open the docks, and a city-wide institution of martial law was averted when goods began to flow. The guardsmen were empowered to make arrests and to then try detainees or turn them over to the civil courts.
Martial law and San Francisco were no strangers – following the earthquake of 1906, the troops stationed in the Presidio were pressed into service. Guards were posted throughout the city, and all dynamite was confiscated. The dynamite was used to destroy buildings in the path of fires, to prevent the fires from spreading. Troops were ordered to shoot looters. Though there was never an official declaration of martial law, the event is often cited as such. However, at all times it appears the troops took their orders indirectly from the civil authority.
Though not a state at the time, Hawaii was placed under martial law in 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Many of the residents of Hawaii were, and are, of Asian descent, and the loyalty of these people was called into question. After the war, the federal judge for the islands condemned the conduct of martial law, saying, “Gov. Poindexter declared lawfully martial law but the Army went beyond the governor and set up that which was lawful only in conquered enemy territory namely, military government which is not bound by the Constitution. And they … threw the Constitution into the discard and set up a military dictatorship.”
On 8/26/2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was placed under martial law after widespread flooding rendered civil authority ineffective. The state of Louisiana does not have an actual legal construct called “martial law,” but instead something quite like it: a state of public health emergency. The state of emergency allowed the governor can suspend laws, order evacuations, and limit the sales of items such as alcohol and firearms. The governor’s order limited the state of emergency, to end on 9/25/2005, “unless terminated sooner.”
There have been many instances of the use of the military within the borders of the United States, such as during the Whiskey Rebellion and in the South during Reconstruction and then later with the civil rights crises, but these acts are not tantamount to a declaration of martial law. The distinction must be made as clear as that between martial law and military justice: deployment of troops does not necessarily mean that the civil courts cannot function, and that is one of the keys, as the Supreme Court noted, to martial law.
INTERESTING FACTS REGARDING MARTIAL LAW AND QUELLING CIVIL UNREST
“Martial law is defined as: military rule or authority imposed on a civilian population when the civil authorities cannot maintain law and order, as in a time of war or during an emergency.
“Hitler turned Germany into a Nazi dictatorship through executive orders.
US Presidential Orders already signed an in place:
“Executive Order 10995: All communications media are to be seized by the Federal Government. Radio, TV, newspapers, CB, Ham, telephones, and the internet will be under federal control. Hence, the First Amendment will be suspended indefinitely.
“Executive Order 10997: All electrical power, fuels, and all minerals well be seized by the federal government.
“Executive Order 10998: All food resources, farms and farm equipment will be seized by the government. You will not be allowed to hoard food since this is regulated.
“Executive Order 10999: All modes of transportation will go into government control. Any vehicle can be seized.
“Executive Order 11000: All civilians can be used for work under federal supervision.
“Executive Order 11490: Establishes presidential control over all US citizens, businesses, and churches in time of “emergency.”
“Executive Order 12919: Directs various Cabinet officials to be constantly ready to take over virtually all aspects of the US economy during a State of National Emergency at the direction of the president.
“Executive Order 13010: Directs FEMA to take control over all government agencies in time of emergency. FEMA is under control of executive branch of the government.
“Executive Order 12656: “ASSIGNMENT OF EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS RESPONSIBILITIES”, “A national emergency is any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States. Policy for national security emergency preparedness shall be established by the President.”
This order includes federal takeover of all local law enforcement agencies, wage and price controls, prohibits you from moving assets in or out of the United States, creates a draft, controls all travel in and out of the United States, and much more.
“Martial law can be declared due to natural disasters, foreign attack, Stock Market crash, no electricity, riots, biological/chemical/nuclear attack, …. anything leading to the breakdown of law and order.