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Document Friday: “Garden Plot:” The Army’s Emergency Plan to Restore “Law and Order” to America

August 12, 2011

The National Guard at Kent State, 1972.

Reposted in response to the London unrest. 

Here’s one that might make you dust off your tinfoil hat.  It’s the US Army’s 1968 “Civil Disturbance Plan,” codenamed Garden Plot.  The plan –first posted by governmentattic.org– explains how the Army planned to “employ Federal forces to assist local authorities in the restoration and maintenance of law and order in the 50 states [and all other districts and territories].”

Of course, for the “restoration of law and order” to be legal, the president must decree it.  Planning ahead, the Army drafted Annex Five (pg. 59): a five-section executive order that authorized the Secretary of Defense to “take all appropriate steps” to quell the restive population… All the president needed to do to allow the military to operate domestically was sign the dotted line.

The Garden Plot plan –drafted after the Watts, Newark, and Detroit riots– captures the acrimonious times when the document was drawn up.  The section outlining the Army’s perception of the “situation” in America certainly insinuates an establishment that was afraid the disenfranchised.  The Plot warns against “racial unrest,” as well as “anti-draft” and “anti-Vietnam” elements.  It deserves a read in full (pgs. 36-37):

What the Army considered “indicators of potential violence (pg. 37)” are also telling (if jarring):

Garden Plot is a much larger and more broadly orchestrated operation than a governor “merely” calling in the Federal Guard (which happened 92 times from 1 July 1969-30 June 1970).  And because historic Garden Plot activity was classified and current activity likely remains so, it is difficult to discern exactly how many times Garden Plot was evoked.

The Los Angeles Times reported that until 1971, there were  two brigades (4,800 troops) on permanent standby to quell unrest.  The Times also reported that Governor Ronald Reagan once addressed 500 soldiers drilling for Garden Plot; he joked that if his political enemies saw him they would accuse him of “planning a military takeover.”

Globalsecurity.org reports that Garden Plot deployments “were commonplace” in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Among other instances, deployments occurred after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, in response to the US invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1972.  There is speculation that Garden Plot was evoked after the 1992 Rodney King Riots and the 1999 Seattle WTO riots.  The 1968 plan lists 25 “high priority” cities (pg. 177).

Establishing a contingency plan for civil unrest may have been a prudent and constitutional action by the US military.  But by cloaking Garden Plot in unnecessarily secrecy, the executive branch contributed to the erosion of the US public’s trust of its government.  (Egads!  Black Helicopters!)

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 10:23 am

    This was a great read. I am from Newark, NJ and have read about the 1968 riots. The Garden Plot is very interesting. I’m sure it was used many times without us having any idea.
    Just from what I’ve read on your blog it might as well have been called operation don’t let the minorities get out of hand.

    I’m pretty sure that my city is high on that list of the 25. I also wonder of those 25 if some of the cities are still a concern or have the same high crime and unemployment rates.

  2. July 8, 2011 9:45 am

    I would imagine the list has changed since it was first written. With its industry gone, I doubt Detroit is a high priority for the federal government.

  3. Taylor permalink
    February 14, 2012 10:45 pm

    if the government wanted to keep you in the dark… they would keep the lights pointed elsewhere (anyform2012?)

  4. May 15, 2013 5:51 pm

    This was an interesting article. I was a member of a “Garden Plot” team at Ft Hood in the late 60’s. We were led to believe that the team would be activated in case of an emergency situation involving President Johnson whenever he was in Texas. The mission was to protect the President. We trained and had mock exercises where we loaded vehicles and assembled at an airfield. We went on alert every time the President was in Texas and had to notify our headquarters any time we were not going to be at home during non-duty hours, leave a contact telephone number where we could be reached, and could not go anywhere that would require more than 1 hour to report for duty. I thought this was a team set-up only in Texas since President Johnson’s home was in Texas. ….only a small cog in a wheel that was much larger than I knew.

  5. bob jones permalink
    June 23, 2014 4:28 pm

    Having had access to it there is no doubt it is still in effect. Just watch how they are handling the massive flow of immigrants. They are opening military bases already. Maybe we will be next. Dissent is not wanted. Wake up people, your country is being taken away while you play your stupid video games, watch sports and smoke you dope. I believe that it was said “the tree of liberty needs to be watered by the blood of tyrants from time to time”. The time is approaching. Be ready to defend yourself from an out of control government.

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