Prosecuting Every Participant in the Capitol Riot Is a Mistake

Daniel Alan Baker was arrested by the FBI on January 15 for “threats of violence”. Baker is a veteran of the US military and people’s protection forces in Rojava and a committed leftist. He took seriously both the idea that the January 6th storming of the Capitol was a near-miss coup and the one The FBI’s own warnings that similar inauguration day events could take place in state houses across the country. In online comments and a physical flyer, he urged armed volunteers to defend democracy in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.

I thought of Baker as I read a piece The nation I ask the Biden Justice Department to throw the book at about 800 people who “broke through the Capitol” that day. Like Baker, Elie Mystal believes what happened on January 6th was not just an ugly right-wing uprising, but an “attempted coup”.

“Either these people are all being prosecuted,” he writes, “or the government openly allows white violence.”

In the same vein, Matt Yglesias wrote On the day the Capitol was stormed, anyone identified by the “extensive photography” should be prosecuted. USA today Has pushed its readers help identify individual members of the crowd. Adam S. Wandt, a professor at John Jay College, has claimed that at one point a protester “walks in[ed] the Capitol ”, they were“ really insurgents ”and as such could be prosecuted.

Daniel Bessner and I have argued elsewhere that January 6th did not reach the level of a coup attempt. There was never a chance the rioters would overthrow the government, and it is not even clear that most of them took this as their goal.

Whatever we call it, January 6th was terrible. The flag of the slave-owner rebels was carried through the convention halls. Some attendees sang about hanging the vice president. Others fought with the Capitol Police. One officer later died of his injuries.

I don’t doubt for a moment that the chorus of commentators who have suggested that anyone who has been there be prosecuted are right to suggest that a predominantly non-white crowd storming the Capitol in a similar fashion would have been treated very differently . The double standard is insane. However, we should be wary of calls to address the discrepancy towards tougher raids.

Some of the protesters who entered the Capitol were literally violent. They shouldn’t be let off the hook. Even the legislature, who has taken an oath in defense of the constitution, should not shirk accountability for its actions. But what about the hundreds who just wandered around taking selfies or singing slogans?

The simplest argument to prosecute them is that entering locked areas of the Capitol is a crime in itself – albeit an extremely minor one. Another who was raised by, among others Congressman Ted LieuSince policeman Brian Sicknick died of his injuries after a demonstrator hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher, the other 800 or so members of the crowd could be charged under the extraordinarily draconian statue of “crime murder” that applies to anyone who does so tut played a role in a crime that resulted in someone being killed – even if the persecuted person had nothing to do with the murder and may not even know it was happening.

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