Thursday, January 7, 2021

January 6, 2021: Insurrection, Terrorism or Riot?

A day of national shame and embarrassment. 

I spent much of January 6th 2021 watching agape at the violence at the Capitol building, as Trump coalition extremists attacked our democracy and the seat of its government. 

The vast majority of the enormous crowds that assembled came to Washington peacefully and left Washington peacefully.  And like last summer's protests for racial justice the acts of the extremists and the violent must never be equated with the peaceful majority.  Perhaps today some who wrongly accused the BLM marches as riots will understand that more clearly.  Hopefully those who were wrongly accused last summer will see a parallel call in their reactions to yesterday's terrible events. But, just like last summer, those who crossed the line to illegality must be prosecuted.  But for what, specifically?

All of sound mind and patriotic beliefs join in condemnation of the attack, with the mind-boggling exception of President Trump himself who released a horrific statement assuring them of his love and understanding and reiterating that the election had in fact been stolen.  Despite his weak call for "peace,"  he justified the whole thing soon after in a tweet saying "this is what happens" when [falsely] an election is "viciously" stolen from patriots.  Twitter then suspended his account for incitement to violence.

In the days ahead the abysmal failure of the Capitol Police department, the presidents' refusal to approve the mayor of DC's request for National Guard support, and the obvious disparity between how these protesters were treated compared to the BLM protesters of last summer, will all be investigated and pursued.  Those are not today's topic, even as they must be immediately addressed to secure the inauguration ceremony on the same precise location 13 days from now.

Today's topic is, "What the hell just happened?"

All who perpetrated the breach on Congress must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  But what law?  There are 4 prevailing crimes that need to be considered.

Here are 4 important definitions to objectively consider.

Insurrection is organized, usually violent, opposition to a recognized government or authority to thwart their legitimate function.  

Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation, often against civilians and non-combatants, in pursuit of political aims.

Riot is a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd for any purpose.

Incitement is the action of provoking any unlawful behavior OR urging someone to to behave unlawfully.

There are two main sources of incitement in yesterday's attack on the Congress.  The first are the President and those who spoke at the Save America rally from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at the White House Ellipse, ending with the President's explicit call to march to the Capitol.  I spent over 2 hours watching those speeches, and the urge to go to the Capitol was specific, but not explicitly violent.  The fact of the attack was not explicitly named, but that was the actual result.  The second are those extremist voices online who organized their people to come prepared for this action.  The first group may have "provoked" the violence, which would be sufficient cause for prosecution.  The second is "urging" and planning, and the online organizers of the extremist groups are indicated here.

As far as Riot, this seems to be the lowest bar and is obvious to all.  At the very least, this is what happened, and those who unlawfully tore down barricades, and those who entered the building are all clearly rioters.  This is a very large number of people.

Many are shocked that there is talk of terrorism.  Yet this is clearly the case.  Those individuals who used violence against the Capitol Police did so as an "unlawful use of violence or intimidation... in pursuit of political aims."  It is clearly an act of domestic terrorism, and if you are shocked by that it is time to stop and seriously rethink your world view.  An act of terrorism does not need to include prior planning or intent, nor does it require connection to other known terrorists.  The fact of the act of violence or intimidation for political aims sufficient for prosecution as a terrorist.

Finally, President Elect Joe Biden named this as an insurrection.  This is a technical term, with serious implications.  We can expect his incoming Attorney General to pursue this charge against all who entered the Capitol building, at the very least.  In this case, it will most likely be aimed at extremist leadership and extremist groups who overtly planned and implemented the attack on the Capitol.  Their purpose was to overthrow or disrupt the function of the Congress as it performed its legitimate duties. The individual who sat in the speaker's chair in the Senate and formally proclaimed Donald Trump president is the clearest case.  Insurrection is the correct term.  This is not to be confused with rebellion which is "armed" attempts to overthrow the government, rather than organized attempts to oppose the authority.  Given the absence of weapons, there is no likely charge of rebellion.


Extremist elements of the Trump base organized and planned for their organizations to foment an insurrection by attacking the Capitol on January 6, 2021 for weeks prior to the event.  Their method was to co-opt the energy of the Save America rally for their purposes.  The incitement of the crowd by Donald Trump, Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and President Trump fed into that plan and inspired a deeper portion of the crowd to participate in the incursion onto the Capitol steps and platforms.  A riot ensued and was declared by the police. Violent acts of domestic terrorism occurred as the insurrection became more successful than even the planners could possibly have hoped.

Today those who led the criminal insurrection are certainly proud of themselves and consider yesterday's events to have been remarkably successful.  Tomorrow the justice system must weigh in firmly and persistently to prove them wrong.  "Throw the book at them."  All 4 crimes are indicated, along with many many other related offenses from destruction of property, to federal parks and monument laws, to attacks on and attempted murder of police officers while in the performance of their duties.  

This is beyond serious, and if our democracy is to be asserted unequivocally it must be prosecuted fully, without mercy or leniency.

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