Freedom, Security, and Insurrection

The aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riots runs into the First Amendment,

A series of interrelated articles about security measures in the wake of the 6 January riots and ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration leave me with mixed thoughts.

First, a WaPo report by Robert O’Harrow Jr. (“Rallies ahead of Capitol riot were planned by established Washington insiders“):

The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show.

The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies.

The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.

There’s quite a bit more to the reporting and some caveats are issued. Still, it’s problematic and simply unhelpful to conflate the rallies and the rioting.

I have no truck for the “stolen election” rhetoric that inflamed passions and gave cover to our worst elements and think those who did so should be punished politically, even while realizing that most of them won’t be. Further, as noted many times previously, I think Trump was rightly impeached and ought be convicted in the Senate (although I strongly suspect he won’t be) for his role in inciting the riots.

But it’s a mistake to downplay the role of “white nationalists and other extremists,” who were almost certainly the main instigators of the violence that occurred that day. Indeed, I’m rather confident that most of the folks who showed up in neo-Nazi regalia were using the protests as cover. That is, the “6 Million Wasn’t Enough” crowd may well have been Trump supporters but they were almost certainly not motivated chiefly by a sense of electoral injustice.

Indeed, O’Barrow’s colleagues Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu (“FBI moves on alleged members of extremist groups Oath Keepers, Three Percenters“) point to this:

A heavy-metal guitarist, the alleged leader of a Colorado paramilitary training group and two self-styled militia members from Ohio have been charged with taking part in the riot at the Capitol last week, as the FBI ratchets up its investigation into the role extremist groups played in storming the building.

Jon Schaffer, an Indiana musician, turned himself in to the FBI on Sunday afternoon, officials said. On Jan. 6, Schaffer was photographed inside the Capitol, wearing a hat that said “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.” Schaffer founded Iced Earth, a heavy-metal band, and music fans quickly recognized him as the FBI circulated wanted posters with his face on them.

Schaffer was charged with six counts, including engaging in an act of physical violence. Authorities said Schaffer was among the rioters who targeted U.S. Capitol Police with bear spray.

Also charged in a court filing made public Sunday was Robert Gieswein, 24, of Cripple Creek, Colo. Court papers say that Gieswein is affiliated with an Oath Keepers-related extremist group called the Three Percenters, and that he assaulted federal officers outside the Capitol with bear spray and a baseball bat; “encouraged other rioters as they broke a window of the Capitol building; entered … and then charged through the Capitol building.”

Gieswein runs a private paramilitary training group called the Woodland Wild Dogs, and a patch for that group was visible on a tactical vest he wore during the attack on Congress, an FBI affidavit said.

Gieswein gave a media interview in which he echoed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the affidavit said, and said his message to Congress was “that they need to get the corrupt politicians out of office. Pelosi, the Clintons … every single one of them, Biden, Kamala.”

Also arrested Sunday were Donovan Crowl, 50, a former U.S. Marine, and Army veteran Jessica Watkins, 38. A bartender, Watkins recently told the Ohio Capital Journal that she formed the “Ohio State Regular Militia” in 2019 — a unit of the Oath Keepers, the FBI said — and that the group has appeared at a dozen protests to “protect people.”

The FBI said Watkins posted to Parler a photograph of herself in uniform on Jan. 6, writing, “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”

Watkins and Crowl were among about 10 individuals recorded at the U.S. Capitol wearing combat helmets, ballistic goggles, tactical vests and Oath Keepers patches who “move[d] in an organized and practiced fashion and force[d] their way to the front of the crowd” to lead the siege and break-in, FBI affidavits said.

Lawyers for the four defendants could not immediately be identified.

The Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist group with ties to white nationalism, have drawn particular attention from FBI agents investigating the attack on Congress, as they work to determine whether those groups organized or directed the violence to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Officials have said the Proud Boys in particular are an important focus of the FBI investigation.

Still, a report by AP‘s Lolita Baldor (“FBI vetting Guard troops in DC amid fears of insider attack“) points to the complexity of identifying the players.

U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event.

The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. And it underscores fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next several days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs in attendance.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday that officials are conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches. So far, however, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of any threats, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues that they were aware of.

“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview after he and other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security drill in preparation for Wednesday’s inauguration. He said Guard members are also getting training on how to identify potential insider threats.

About 25,000 members of the National Guard are streaming into Washington from across the country — at least two and a half times the number for previous inaugurals. And while the military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections, the FBI screening is in addition to any previous monitoring.

Multiple officials said the process began as the first Guard troops began deploying to D.C. more than a week ago. And they said it is slated to be complete by Wednesday. Several officials discussed military planning on condition of anonymity.

“The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” said McCarthy. “We need to be conscious of it and we need to put all of the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this.”

This is both extremely troubling and completely unsurprising to those who follow military affairs closely. The active force is much more tightly scrutinized than National Guard and Reserve forces, simply by the nature of full-time supervision. But even active forces have a problem with white nationalism. While there is considerable effort made to screen out bad actors and very little tolerance for open racism, the all-volunteer force draws disproportionately from the South and rural America. The Guard is drawn from local communities and disproportionately from police officers, prison guards, and the like.

It’s not much of a problem if we’re calling these folks up for service for overseas wars or for natural disasters. But, obviously, it’s a whole different ball of wax when they’re supporting domestic police forces in an incredibly politically fraught environment.

Finally, twin reports from our two leading papers on the same subject have me a bit queasy.

Thomas Fuller for NYT (“After Capitols Become Fortresses, Far-Right Protesters Are Mostly a No-Show“):

And this is how the last weekend of the Trump presidency wound down, with state capitols across the nation ringed by barricades, military vehicles guarding closed-off streets and Washington, D.C., all but shut down. In the end, it was for a handful of protesters, most from the right, a few from the left, many looking more like ragtag stragglers than the furious mob of Trump supporters that ransacked the U.S. Capitol more than a week ago.

In Concord, N.H., five masked men dressed in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles gathered on the sidewalk in front of the statehouse lawn to express concerns about “government overreach.” In Lansing, Mich., National Guard soldiers watched as a dozen members of the far-right Boogaloo Bois group showed up with military-style weapons.

Across the country, legislative chambers — the people’s houses — became citadels. At least 17 states called up their National Guard.

In Washington, 15,000 troops, more than the nation has stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, established a Green Zone, adding to the impression of an occupied city. The National Guard said the troops came from all 50 states and three territories, a force that could grow to 25,000 by Wednesday.

The large presence of troops and police officers across the country came after warnings from the F.B.I. that armed protests were planned in all 50 capitals and following online chatter promising demonstrations or worse in the days leading up to Wednesday’s inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president.

The nation’s militarized streets on Sunday were a remarkable spectacle as police and National Guard officers faced off with promised right-wing protests that, at least on Sunday, were reduced to a whimper. Protesters in some states could be counted on one hand.

At the Massachusetts State House, where hundreds of police officers deployed around the perimeter, a pedestrian shouted, “What’s going on?”

“Maybe a demonstration, maybe not,” an officer responded.

But officials say they will remain on alert through Wednesday’s inauguration.

In Denver, where public offices were boarded up and police officers perched on rooftops, the smattering of Trump supporters who showed up to the State Capitol wondered whether they had come on the wrong day. “I was expecting more than me,” said Larry Woodall, 59, who wore a Trump 2020 face mask. “I feel like I’m the lone wolf.”

A reporter in Lincoln, Neb., counted two protesters marching around the State Capitol, one armed and the other carrying a homemade sign.

Outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol there were so few protesters that reporters lined up on the sidewalk to interview a man who gave his name only as Alex and wore a sweatshirt that said “Fraud 2020.” Reporters then turned to a man named Eddie who was selling “Biden is not my president” T-shirts but who left soon after for lack of customers.

There were those who made light of the moment. In Lansing, a man arrived with a large Nerf gun and wore a T-shirt declaring himself part of the Michigan Nerf Militia.

But there was no denying the anxiety of a nation wounded from a divisive transition of power and suffering from a pandemic and anxious exhaustion, particularly after the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol in Washington.

Tim Craig, Griff Witte, Abigail Hauslohner, Peter Whoriskey, and Holly Bailey for WaPo (“State capitol protests mostly small, but under heavy guard from troops and law enforcement“):

Authorities in cities from coast to coast mobilized a military-style defense of state capitol complexes on Sunday, rolling out Humvees, concertina wire and thousands of National Guard troops clad in battlefield helmets to defend against a possible onslaught of rioters whipped up by the baseless claims of the American president.

The assault never came. Despite warnings from the FBI and boasts from armed, far-right extremist groups, security forces in every instance outnumbered scattered groups of demonstrators, and there were no reports of violence.

Yet the show of force — and the reasons behind it — marked an unsettling start to a week that will include the most contentious transfer of presidential power in modern U.S. history. And although Sunday passed peacefully, there was no reason to think that the threat had disappeared, raising questions of whether the escalated response reflected a new American normal.

On the one hand, this was almost certainly necessary. Not only was there a serious assault on our democracy less than two weeks ago—one that could have been far worse if some planners had their way—there were credible threats of more violence in the days leading up to the inauguration. On the other, this can’t be permanent or even continue much beyond this week if we’re to be a free society.

People who oppose Joe Biden’s policies have every right to protest and should not be intimidated by throngs of military-garbed security forces. But citizens have a right to enjoy the nation’s capitol without being intimidated by white supremacists and others who are outfitted for war.

I’m not sure how one goes about balancing these conflicting rights. Political protest is among our most fundamental freedoms and trumps just about all others. But the understanding has always been that the right to is to “peaceable” assembly. Showing up with AR-15s and Glocks on display is, almost by definition, not peaceable.

More uncomfortably, though, groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and 3 Percenters have a right to exist; they just don’t have a right to commit or conspire to commit criminal acts. It’s a fine line between the FBI monitoring and even infiltrating them in response to credible threats of violence and suppression of First Amendment freedoms. As loathsome as we find these groups, we’ve seen the FBI deployed against Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and against civil rights groups during the J. Edgar Hoover era. We need to be incredibly careful in the use of state power against unpopular beliefs.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Might want to look at last sentence. I don’t think the government deployed Proud Boys against Muslims. I was happy to see the two Ohio names weren’t anyone I knew, we had some Oath Keepers where I worked.

    I’m afraid I skimmed your post and mildly shared your concerns until I re-read and realized the Republican AG Assoc and the others were named as organizers, but there was no legal action mentioned. So no, I don’t share your concern. The groups named as organizers in the first quote are well able to look out for themselves, especially the Republican AG’s Assoc., unless they’re all Giuliani clones. Otherwise, if the FBI hasn’t infiltrated the Proud Bois and the Oath Keepers years ago, they are derelict of duty. They’ve done it to all sorts of minority and lefty groups. This may not be the best time to become punctilious.

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  2. Kathy says:

    I’m not sure how one goes about balancing these conflicting rights.

    I think there’s more than enough justification, given the events of the January 6th Putsch, to designate all the participating groups, mostly white supremacists, as domestic terrorist organizations.

    Terrorist organizations don’t have a right to protest, nor do their members have a right to serve in the US armed forces or in any police forces nationwide.

    That would do for a start.

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  3. Mister Bluster says:

    I have seen at least one video of terrorist goons chanting “suspend the Constitution…”.
    Apparently they are unaware that

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    will then no longer exist and that their firearms can be removed from them at any time by any means necessary.

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  4. Joe says:

    @gVOR08:

    The groups named as organizers in the first quote are well able to look out for themselves, especially the Republican AG’s Assoc.

    I think there’s a theme here, where white dominated political groups, including the Republican AG’s Assoc., the Capitol Police and the Republican Party writ large cannot seem to recognize they danger being stoked with white fringe groups and the natural response to incendiary messages from Republican “leadership” just as they overcompensate in their response to BLM and similar non-white groups.

    I share James’ concern about not trammeling 1st Amendment rights, but we need the FBI and other law enforcement to make a more clear-eyed, less race-based assessment of which groups are real threats and how we need to address them. (It would also be nice if Republican leadership stopped pandering to them, often with complete naivete about what they are stoking with people who are “white like me.”

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    Might want to look at last sentence.

    The antecedent for “them” was unclear, so I’ve changed it to read “the FBI.”

    They’ve done it to all sorts of minority and lefty groups. This may not be the best time to become punctilious.

    But that’s really my concern: we should be very leery in all circumstances. The Mafia or a drug cartel or another purely criminal organization is a very different thing than a group with extreme political beliefs.

    @Kathy:

    I think there’s more than enough justification, given the events of the January 6th Putsch, to designate all the participating groups, mostly white supremacists, as domestic terrorist organizations.

    Would you have been okay if the Trump administration had done that with Black Lives Matter or Antifa?

    Terrorist organizations don’t have a right to protest

    Actually, they do. The Ku Klux Klan is clearly a terrorist organization, if also other things. They have every right to peaceably assemble.

    nor do their members have a right to serve in the US armed forces or in any police forces nationwide.

    I think that’s reasonable on all manner of grounds but, again, it’s certainly subject to abuse.

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    All the more reason for a 9/11 style commission to review the events of the 6th and the period leading up to it. Daylight on the organizers will help clean things up. All testimony to this commission should be done under oath.

    Biden needs to appoint a special prosecutor to look at the post election Trump activities and I’d suggest that the charge that this prosecutor be given, should be an updated version of what Starr was given to investigate Clinton.

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  7. Joe says:

    Would you have been okay if the Trump administration had done that with Black Lives Matter or Antifa?

    I think that would have been wholly inappropriate, James Joyner, for BLM, but for actual for the small group that seems to make up actual ANTIFA, I might think that’s ok. But I acknowledge its a scale that different administrations will weigh differently.

    1
  8. Andy says:

    Putting on my analyst hat again:

    The security lapse at the capital was a monumental failure and like all monumental failures, the reaction inevitably involves some degree of panic and over-reaction. US Law enforcement is going to make sure that doesn’t happen again to the maximum extent possible. There is also the fear – which I saw constantly as an intel analysis – about “follow-on actions or planning.” This is a normal fearful assumption among intelligence and security types who “missed” something. But the reality is, for reasons which should be obvious, that the feared follow-on operation never materialize.

    The “vetting” of 25k National Guard troops is mostly theater. I’m especially skeptical of claims that NG troops are being “double” and “triple” checked. The FBI doesn’t have the manpower or resources to do that, much less 2 or 3 times. They are almost certainly doing nothing more than running names through law enforcement databases. And the whole idea that there is some kind of fifth column in the Guard and Reserve who are going to break ranks and be some kind of “threat” is absurd for a number of reasons. The Secret Service has always taken Presidential security to extreme levels, even with active-duty troops.

    At the same time, most of the factors that drove Capital protest and riot are gone. The President and his boot lickers are not egging them on for round two – rather they are acting like the dog that unexpectedly caught the car and are afraid of catching the car again. The riot also served as a catharsis on a number of levels which reduced the passions of Trump supporters. Plus the inauguration is a fait accompli – There’s nothing to “stop” anymore and even Trump at least accepts the reality of the situation.

    Those factors combined with aggressive law enforcement actions mean the likelihood of violence at the inauguration is really, really low. I don’t there will even be a lot of protestors. We’re already seeing this at the state Capital protests, if one can even call them that. The biggest threat from the National Guard troops will be the usual soldier asshattery that comes from boredom.

    I’ll also predict that the feds will find no grand conspiracy regarding the Capital attack. It seems pretty clear now that planning by the provocateurs at the riot who instigated and help drive the crowd to violence was, at best, amateur and likely nonexistent. The fact that they were only successful due to Capital security being completely incompetent really tells the story. If you’re actually planning to assault the Capital and plan to be successful, you wouldn’t make that assumption. And if the Capital security had been properly prepared and not incompetent, the riot would have been shut down easily and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    The Secret Service has always taken Presidential security to extreme levels, even with active-duty troops.

    The Biden administration had enough concern about the Secret Service agents themselves that only agents personally known to Biden were to be placed in his or Harris’ detail. There were wise to do it even if they were only considering the train wreck that the SS has been for the last decade (participating in drunken, prostitute filled parties while on assignment protecting the president in foreign countries, drunkenly crashing a car into a White House gate and then having their fellow officers cover it up, etc. But my suspicion is that history of unprofessionalism isn’t the only reason for separating Biden from un-vetted Secret Service agents. Given the number of white nationalists and extremists in the ranks of LEOs and military organizations, coupled with the Thin Blue Line mentality, I would not be surprised at all to learn there were credible threats.

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  10. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:

    Largely agree but will push back on the subject of the Capital police competence. Vastly out numbered they got several hundred VIPs out of the way and lost nary a one. I am irritated by this begging of that question generally so don’t take it personal. Ah…a little bit of competence and a raging mob can be shut down? Tres bein! By all means tell the pros because I assure you they haven’t been informed how easy it is!

    It’s almost as if everybody wants to blame someone, anyone, but the people that started it and conducted it. Lumping the people who put their lives on the line that day in THE SUCCESSFUL performance of their duty in the same blame-vat as those people..Somebody tell me wtf is up with that.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Joe:

    I think that would have been wholly inappropriate, James Joyner, for BLM

    On what basis are we assuming the FBI has not monitored and infiltrated BLM?

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    That’s my take as well. Perfectly understandable that LE would freak out after the fact. And every time they’re surprised it’s inevitably by some mastermind or brilliant, well-honed plan – no one wants to admit they were beaten by chaotic amateurs wearing pelts.

    That said, I suspect there was collusion, or deliberate blindness amounting to collusion, in the Capitol Police. Still no public facing briefing from them. That’s not a good sign.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Andy: I forget who it was that tweeted ‘sedition that steps on a rake and shits itself is still sedition’. As any number of people have noted, Trump talks like a mob boss, he never quite says anything definite. That will be his defense, and it may well work. However, the number of rioters saying, ‘Trump told me to do it’ may undercut that defense.

    Did Trump have a definite plan involving the riot at the Capitol? Probably not. When has he ever had a real plan for anything? But an Underpants Gnome Plot:
    – Create riot during EC vote count.
    – ? ? ?
    – Reelected!!
    Is still a plot. But he’ll probably escape conviction on it. He’s too dumb to be a conspirator.

    4
  14. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Would you have been okay if the Trump administration had done that with Black Lives Matter or Antifa?

    Had BLM or Antifa stormed the capitol in an attempt to disrupt the Constitutional process, kidnap legislators and possibly murdering them, or otherwise attempted armed rebellion against the government, yes, I would.

    Since neither organization has done anything remotely like that, I would not.

    I think that’s reasonable on all manner of grounds but, again, it’s certainly subject to abuse.

    Everything is subject to abuse. I’m not being flippant, but rather stating the obvious. What powers didn’t Trump abuse? Naturally a future tin-pot trump could abuse this and screen out tons of loyal people out of the armed forces and police. Therefore safeguards are needed.

    But remember, too, President Sadat was assassinated by army officers who belonged to Islamist groups.

    If you’re going to have armed people guarding the president and vice president, as well as their families, not to mention cabinet officials, Congress, and assorted other people, at the inauguration and at future events, you want to make sure there are no Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, oath Keepers, Q Anon whatevers, or other assorted poisonous vermin in the mix.

    It’s one thing when such protection fails, as it did with JFK and Reagan. It’s terrible and can lead to major domestic and international crises. it’s much worse if the protectors attempt the assassination.

    4
  15. Jax says:

    Didn’t Trump ALREADY designate Antifa as a terrorist organization?

    2
  16. Kathy says:

    @Andy:
    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’ll cite what I call the Stephen Dubner Principle, summarized thus: Humans don’t correct problems, they over-correct problems.

    3
  17. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    The fact that they were only successful due to Capital security being completely incompetent really tells the story. If you’re actually planning to assault the Capital and plan to be successful, you wouldn’t make that assumption. And if the Capital security had been properly prepared and not incompetent, the riot would have been shut down easily and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Were they incompetent, or were they set up to fail? And they didn’t completely fail — they succeeded in protecting the congress, if not the capitol.

    I’ll also predict that the feds will find no grand conspiracy regarding the Capital attack.

    There are still a lot of questions as to why the requests for reinforcements before the protests were rejected, and why the requests for reinforcements during the riot were ignored for so long.

    If there is a conspiracy, that is almost certainly part of it. Or it was the luckiest conspiracy ever — implausibly lucky.

    There will be hearings in the new congress, and I’m hoping they settle that matter. I would not trust anything this administration has to say on this.

    It seems pretty clear now that planning by the provocateurs at the riot who instigated and help drive the crowd to violence was, at best, amateur and likely nonexistent.

    As far as the big angry mob goes, there was no grand plan between podium guy, zip-tie guy and QAnon Shaman — they were riled up for months with lies and then Trump lit the fuse. Whether the large angry mob had smaller, more organized groups in it remains to be seen. Some people clearly came to at least cos-play as revolutionaries.

    Again, I would look to why the capitol police were unsupported.

    5
  18. steve says:

    If I understand James broader point I think I agree. The right to protest is an important one and needs to be preserved. Unfotunately it also means that people will sometimes abuse that. The correct response is not to stop protests, most of the time, but work on making them safer. We need to arrest and jail those who are violent and/or destroy property. So in our current circumstances will 25k troops stop protestors from showing? It will certainly stop most of the ones intending harm. I would think people of good will would still show up, and I would actually support having designated areas where they could protest peacefully and safely.

    Steve

    2
  19. Andy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Largely agree but will push back on the subject of the Capital police competence.

    You’re right that the police did very well with the evacuation and they deserve a lot of credit for that.

    It’s almost as if everybody wants to blame someone, anyone, but the people that started it and conducted it.

    Well, the logic of that argument would seem to excuse any security failure. It suggests, for example, that we shouldn’t blame intelligence and national security failures for 9/11. I don’t agree.

    The planning, preparation, and execution of Captial security that day was grossly incompetent. That’s simply undeniable and inexcusable in my view.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    That said, I suspect there was collusion, or deliberate blindness amounting to collusion, in the Capitol Police. Still no public facing briefing from them. That’s not a good sign.

    Yes, that should be thoroughly investigated. Some of the police actions I can understand (like opening barriers to prevent people from getting crushed or trample), others – not so much.

    2
  20. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    Since neither organization has done anything remotely like that, I would not.

    There have been hundreds of riots and quite a number of killings directly tied to BLM and Antifa protests. To the extent they’re incredibly loose in their organization, it’s hard to know how much if any direct responsibility they have. Regardless, what safeguards are there to stop the abuse of this authority?

    1
  21. James Joyner says:

    @Jax:

    Didn’t Trump ALREADY designate Antifa as a terrorist organization?

    Only by tweet. Nothing actually happened.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jax:
    @James Joyner:

    Given that there is no enabling legislation defining what a domestic terrorist organization is, how the determination that an organization is a terrorist group. Trumps tweet is wholly rhetorical.

  23. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:

    Well, the logic of that argument would seem to deem any flaw indisputable evidence of gross incompetence.

  24. flat earth luddite says:

    @gVOR08:

    He’s too dumb to be a conspirator.

    IMO it’s not that he’s too dumb (although he’s certainly not up to the mental weight of a paperclip), it’s more a factor that his ego won’t let him be part in anything that wasn’t HIS original-iest, best-iest, most stupendously stupendous idea/plan/plot ever!

    One of the best things about retirement is the fact that I don’t have to deal with nearly as many people with this mindset. As always, YMMV.

  25. DrDaveT says:

    But it’s a mistake to downplay the role of “white nationalists and other extremists,” who were almost certainly the main instigators of the violence that occurred that day.

    I don’t see anyone downplaying the role of these people. I do see a lot of people downplaying the role of those “well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism” who are responsible for those white nationalists and other extremists being where they were, when they were, riled up as they were.

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  26. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Did they set out to stage riots, or did these happen after several other contributing factors, from clashes with counter-protesters and police overreaction?

    The terrorists who stormed the capitol came with the intent of doing so, and equipped to do so as well.

    5
  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    People who oppose Joe Biden’s policies have every right to protest and should not be intimidated by throngs of military-garbed security forces. But citizens have a right to enjoy the nation’s capitol without being intimidated by white supremacists and others who are outfitted for war.

    OK James, I gotta ask: Which is more intimidating? Disciplined military-garbed security forces or a bunch of whacko armed to the teeth military-garbed yahoos screaming about “TYRANNY!!” and “2ND AMENDMENT SOLUTIONS!!!!”?

    Because I think when you answer that question, you come face to face with the real impediment to free speech in this country.

    4
  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: They have every right to peaceably assemble.

    Need to note: People don’t peaceably assemble in protest with firearms. The threat of violence is inherent in the presence of those firearms. That is the whole reason for bringing them.

    9
  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dazedandconfused: Largely agree but will push back on the subject of the Capital police competence. Vastly out numbered they got several hundred VIPs out of the way and lost nary a one.

    Just quoting this for added emphasis. A mob is animalistic in nature, a terrifying thing to behold, to be caught in*, to face. Especially when they outnumber you 100 to 1.

    *as I was once

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think if we were to count assaults by right-wing open-carry lunatic protesters vs assaults by “legitimate” police at protests over the past year, it would undermine your case.

    The police have killed fewer people at protests though, and we ultimately need police. No one needs right-wing open-carry lunatic protesters.

    We need to reign that in. If the courts rule that open-carry at a protest is free speech, then we have to add enhancements to basically every crime when committed “with a deadly weapon” and prosecute — “failure to disperse, with a deadly weapon” 30 days in jail mandatory sentencing, lowest class felony required to strip gun rights and voting rights.

    I’m not opposed to gun rights, I’m opposed to the lack of gun responsibilities.

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  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I’m not sure what it is you are saying. As I said in the immediate comment following:

    People don’t peaceably assemble in protest with firearms. The threat of violence is inherent in the presence of those firearms. That is the whole reason for bringing them.

    My point is that if we don’t have a bunch of whacko armed to the teeth military-garbed yahoos screaming about “TYRANNY!!” and “2ND AMENDMENT SOLUTIONS!!!!” the need for disciplined military-garbed security forces decreases exponentially.

  32. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Need to note: People don’t peaceably assemble in protest with firearms. The threat of violence is inherent in the presence of those firearms. That is the whole reason for bringing them.

    As noted in the OP.