In New York City, “martial law” was declared by the NYPD according to some reports based upon the way the travel ban was implemented. Although the New York Police Department did not use the exact words “martial law,” Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a NYC travel ban where all New York City residents would be arrested if they were spotted driving. This decision was related to the state of emergency declared in response to winter storm Jonas, which made traveling very dangerous based upon the ice and snow conditions.
NYPD cops, always there to help. We need all to stay off the roads – that’s how you can help everyone stay safe. pic.twitter.com/sx2jJYwoWO
— Commissioner Bratton (@CommissBratton) January 23, 2016
On Saturday, the New York Police Department told the population that “after 2:30 p.m. and you’re on the road, we will arrest you.” On Twitter, this statement was declared multiple times in varying forms, but in short they said, “Stay off the road. We don’t want to have to arrest you.” Other tweets explained some of the rationale for the travel ban.
- “For your safety & ours, roads are closed in NYC except for emergency vehicles.”
- “We are asking people to make good common sense decisions. Use your head.”
- “Last year no one got arrested. People made the right decisions. We are looking for that again today.”
Eventually, the New York City travel ban was lifted on Sunday morning.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) January 24, 2016
Although these conditions were temporary, WND claimed they showcased what would “happen if martial law was declared” within New York City or the United States in general. On social media, some claimed the NYC travel ban was a “fascist” act and challenged the NYPD to arrest them while declaring “martial law over a snowstorm. I pity us when there’s an actual emergency.”
But is a NYC travel ban really comparable to having martial law in New York? Based upon Law.com, martial law is defined as “a system of complete control by a country’s military over all activities, including civilian, in a theoretical or actual war zone, or during a period of emergency caused by a disaster such as an earthquake or flood, with the military commander having dictatorial powers. In the United States martial law must be ordered by the President as Commander-in-Chief and must be limited to the duration of the warfare or emergency.” In addition, the Posse Comitatus Act specifically prohibits the U.S. military from enforcing state laws.
As such, the recent situation in New York City would technically not be considered martial law. In the past, Abraham Lincoln implemented martial law during the Civil War, but the best comparison to today’s events would be the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. During this state of emergency, martial law was in fact declared, but the state of emergency required for winter storm Jonas is almost in a different category since the event in California left the public exposed to great danger.
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Still, there is more to the story. Although New York’s “martial law” declaration may be the product of an attention-grabbing headline, it is possible for President Obama to declare martial law in the United States. Some have also been alarmed by relatively recent changes to the U.S. military. In 2014, the Washington Times reported that an unnamed Pentagon official was concerned how President Obama might use military forces inside the United States after a Department of Defense (DoD) Directive was updated by the administration.
“This appears to be the latest step in the administration’s decision to use force within the United States against its citizens,” the Defense official said.
The DoD Directive update states that U.S. commanders “are provided emergency authority under this directive” and provides the ability to “to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”
“Federal military forces shall not be used to quell civil disturbances unless specifically authorized by the president in accordance with applicable law or permitted under emergency authority,” the directive explains. “Federal action, including the use of federal military forces, is authorized when necessary to protect the federal property or functions.”
Do you think New York City’s travel ban went too far?
[Image via NYPD/Twitter]