People gather at the U.S. Capitol during a peaceful protest against police brutality
Getty Images / Sarah Silbiger

Amid the nationwide protests that have followed the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump has mobilized troops and threatened to use military force against protesters. This has led to a debate about the oft-overlooked Third Amendment, and whether citizens will be forced to house enforcement in their homes.

What is the Third Amendment?

The Third Amendment to the US Constitution states: “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

This means that the government can’t force civilians to house troops without their permission. The amendment is a colonial remnant and was inspired by the Revolutionary Wars when colonies were required to accommodate British troops. The Third Amendment was intended to prevent this from occurring in the newly established US.

Why now?

In a statement on Monday, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 law and take the unusual step of deploying active duty US soldiers to quell civil unrest. Trump’s order led the National Guard to be deployed across the country. As of Thursday, 4,500 troops have been deployed to Washington, DC alone. Now, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling for troops to be removed from the capital.

According to Business Insider, roughly 75,000 National Guard troops have been “activated.” Apparently 32,400 of these are directly tasked with assisting law authorities to “protect life, and preserve property, peace, and public safety.” As we have seen over the last weeks, that guideline is open to interpretation.

Since the Supreme Court has never cited the Third Amendment as the basis for a decision, social media was divided over how it could be invoked. In the case of DC, a discussion is brewing on social media in regards to whether constitutional issues could arise in response to the increased military presence.

For instance, some are saying it is not the mayor but the owners of the hotels who have the authority to decide on accommodating troops. However, it also remains legally obscure whether hotels qualify as homes.

Take a look at some of the points below.

Will it be used?

Bradley Moss, a DC-based national security lawyer, told BI: “The Third Amendment remains an archaic and largely obsolete remnant of another era, and is unlikely to be an issue even with the thousands of guardsmen currently present in the DC area.

Unless the local military facilities in the DC area, to say nothing of hotels desperate for cash, run out of available space, there should be no need to force DC residents to house any of these military personnel.”

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Words by Sarah Osei
Staff Writer