CRIMINAL EXPOSURE: INSURRECTION AT THE U.S. CAPITOL

Insurrection at US Capital

Undisputed Legal 

On 26 June 2020, in the wake of Black Lives Matter anti-racism and police brutality protests, the Trump Government Enacted the Executive Order “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues,” pushing for anyone who “participates in efforts to incite violence or other illegal activity in connection with riots and acts of vandalism” to be punished to the fullest degree possible. Pres. Trump stressed the importance of the order, stating that the citizens had a  right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument to individuals or organizations, but condemned individuals or groups from exercising this right to damage, deface or remove any monument by use of force. However, the order was signed with an intent clearly expressed to protect monuments and statues from “anarchists and left-wing extremists.”

However, in light a mob of violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, destroying, vandalizing, and desecrating federal property in the process, including several sculptures in Statuary Hall. Trump’s adherents had compromised the U.S. Capitol, causing the house to be shut down. Videos and photographs show demonstrators in confrontation with the police. 

The order itself calls on the Justice Department to make a priority of those cases and instructs U.S. agencies to possibly withhold money from cities and states that did not protect memorials from “destruction of vandalism.” Thus, a major issue is a bias toward social justice protesters and unequal applications of the law. 

[1.0] ISSUE AT THE CAPITOL

Assailants smashed through the bollards of the Capitol—considered a monument in and of itself—breaking doors and locks, bursting into the offices of elected officials, and stealing and destroying furniture. According to the New York Times, an individual took away the lectern used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and another, ripped a scroll with Chinese characters from a room’s wall. The mob also marched down the halls brandishing Confederate flags and decking statues in white supremacist and pro-Trump regalia. 

The violation and desecration of federal property are significant. In fact, busts and statues of Presidents were vandalized to follow through with the rioters’ ideology. However, the response of the President has been immensely different. Even though the President eventually called for the mob to vacate the premises, the reaction was delayed in its timing and tone. The President appeared more favorable to the mob than his earlier response to the BLM protests. , 

Notwithstanding any potential disciplinary measures taken towards individuals who lately vandalized the Capitol, Trump’s nonchalance against the movement is in sharp contrast with last year’s extreme censorship of BLM demonstrators, as seen in his invocation of the term “when the looting begins, the shooting begins.”

[2.0] EFFECT OF THE ORDER

The June 26th Order called for law enforcement to “prosecute to the fullest extent” anyone who “participates in efforts to incite violence or other illegal activity in connection with the riots and acts of vandalism.” For “willful injury” of federal property, an individual could now get up to a decade in prison. The order directly references the protesters taking down monuments and statues of Confederate officials and other controversial historical figures. President chides state and local governments for not being able to distinguish between free speech and vandalism.

The actions of the Capitol breach could, therefore, have far-reaching consequences. Authorities have begun to bring charges against the mob members, especially since it forced Congress to halt its proceeding to formally certify Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election. Vice President Mike Pence vowed that “those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” and Biden called the episode an “insurrection.” According to the acting US Attorney in Washington, law enforcement’s initial response seemed slow; more than forty individuals have since been charged under the siege. 

Although most charges were for unlawful entry, individuals have been charged for assault as well. No individual is allowed to occupy the roads in the United States Capitol Grounds in a manner that obstructs or hinders their proper use or use of the roads in the Grounds area. This also applies to the conveyance of goods or merchandise unless the conveyor is a part of the United States Capitol on Federal Government service

[2.1] INTENT BEHIND THE ORDER

The order cites a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property, and revered American monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and singles out ideologies like “Marxism” in the actions of supposed “rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists.” Mr. Trump’s order also calls for withholding federal funds from local jurisdictions and police departments that fail to stop such “mob rule.” The order called for action against those individuals who led the riots. 

A major part of the order is the withholding of federal support tied to public spaces from State and local governments that have “failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism.” The President cited the supposed abandonment of law enforcement responsibilities concerning public monuments, memorials, and statues to be a sufficient cloud on their ability to maintain the peace in their jurisdictions, preventing them from being qualified for the limited Federal funds that support public spaces. 

Federal backing has also been withdrawn from law enforcement agencies that have supposedly failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism. This is owing to the unwillingness of state and local laws in the face of attack. The executive order denounced state support because of “sympathy for the extremists behind this violence or some other improper reason” and prevented them from being qualified for Federal patronage. Ironically, the major theme in the order itself refers to the management of these law enforcement agencies, especially after the Capitol’s police response led to a major outcry of whether justice would be served. 

Even though there were thousands of people on the Capitol grounds, there were no mass arrests. While there were huge numbers of people on Capitol grounds, there were no mass arrests with the protesters. Furthermore, the breach of the heavily guarded Capitol’s security, especially with a lockdown issued, seemed especially concerning. In the light of the mass incarceration and use of force by Black Lives Matter by police during peaceful demonstrations, the order directly correlates to the current situation. 

The Attorney General is responsible for the investigation by the order. It is instructed to fast-track within the Department of Justice the investigation and prosecution of matters about said defacement of monuments.  The Attorney General is then empowered to take all appropriate enforcement action against individuals and organizations found to have supposedly violated Federal law through these investigations. This would mean that they are required to work with State and local law enforcement authorities and Federal agencies to ensure the smooth flow of information and assistance between the Federal Government and State and local law enforcement authorities in connection with their investigations or prosecutions for the desecration of monuments, memorials, and statues. This assistance is valid regardless of whether the monuments are located on Federal property. 

[2.2] SO, WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE?

The Capitol’s mob was guilty of a wide variety of criminal offenses, even if they were not detained. A wide variety of crimes occurred, and prosecutors could charge individuals even if they walked away from the incident without being detained. Even without trespass charges, firearms offenses and ‘wilful injury of the federal property could be brought about. Since the aim was disrupting the congress’s work, restrictions on the Capitol’s grounds’ unlawful activities should apply. Furthermore, any individual who is not a Congress member is explicitly barred from appearing on the House or Senate floor.   

Allegations of sedition or insurrection will indeed necessitate proof of intent to disrupt or even overthrow the government. (sedition conviction has an upper limit prison term of twenty years.) During the Black Lives Matter protests in June, Trump issued an executive order asserting that his regime would prosecute anyone who harmed federal property with a prison sentence of up to ten years. Prosecutions may also occur under the Anti-Riot Act, making it illegal to traverse national lines to incite a riot—or even empower another person to riot. The State might also have to pursue prison sentences of up to five years for those prosecuted with “civil disorder” by hindering or seeking to hinder law enforcement officers’ actions performing their professional capacity.

It must be noted that calls to hold the President accountable for the crowd’s actions have been issued, citing its insurrection. Evaluating past social media incendiary comments alongside consistent rhetoric for the election’s non-concession has rendered the President liable for a second impeachment.  

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Sources

1. Section 1.  Purpose.  The government’s first duty is to ensure domestic tranquility and defend its citizens’ life, property, and rights.  Over the last 5 weeks, there has been a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property, and revered American monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial.  Many of the rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies — such as Marxism — that call for the destruction of the United States system of government.

Anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and has sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation.  They have led riots in the streets, burned police vehicles, killed and assaulted government officers and business owners defending their property, and even seized an area within one city where law and order gave way to anarchy.  During the unrest, innocent citizens also have been harmed and killed.

These criminal acts are frequently planned and supported by agitators who have traveled across state lines to promote their own violent agenda.  These radicals shamelessly attack the legitimacy of our institutions and the very rule of law itself…

2. A bust of 12th US President Zachary Taylor was smeared in red liquid, presumably blood, by one of the agitators. Another climbed on top of 38th President Gerald R. Ford’s statue and outfitted the figure with a Make America Great Again cap and a Trump flag. An “America First” placard was rested on a statue of former US Senator Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and a stuffed eagle placed on his shoulder.

3. He also described them as “very special” in a video that has since been taken down from Twitter for its inclusion of falsehoods regarding the 2020 election.

4. “And earlier this month, in Boston, a memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War was defaced with graffiti,” the order specifically states

5. “In the midst of these attacks, many state and local governments appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between the lawful exercise of rights to free speech and assembly and unvarnished vandalism. They have surrendered to mob rule

6. US vice president vows to prosecute Capitol rioters Anadolu Ajansı, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-vice-president-vows-to-prosecute-capitol-rioters/2100999 (last visited Jan 12, 2021) 

7. Thirteen Charged in Federal Court Following Riot at the United States Capitol, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/thirteen-charged-federal-court-following-riot-united-states-capitol (last visited Jan 12, 2021) 

8. Michael Sherwin. 

9. According to the Associated Press report, more than 10,000 protesters were detained as of early June after nationwide demonstrations against the police.

10. 40 USC 5104: Unlawful activities

11. 40 USC 5104: Unlawful activities: d) Injuries to Property.-A person may not step or climb on, remove, or in any way injure any statue, seat, wall, fountain, or other erection or architectural feature, or any tree, shrub, plant, or turf, in the Grounds.

(e) Capitol Grounds and Buildings Security.-

(1) Firearms, dangerous weapons, explosives, or incendiary devices.-An individual or group of individuals-

(A) except as authorized by regulations prescribed by the Capitol Police Board-

(i) may not carry on or have readily accessible to any individual on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm, a dangerous weapon, explosives, or an incendiary device;

(ii) may not discharge a firearm or explosives, use a dangerous weapon, or ignite an incendiary device, on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings; or

(iii) may not transport on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings explosives or an incendiary device; or

(B) may not knowingly, with force and violence, enter or remain on the floor of either House of Congress

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