Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | A riot is a riot — on the left or right

Written by on January 8, 2021

Wednesday, as the U.S. Congress deliberated objections to the Electoral College votes for Arizona, the Capitol fell under siege for the first time since 1814. But in 2021, it was American citizens — not British soldiers — who broke through barricades, climbed Capitol walls and stormed a timeless symbol of republican government.

Whether you call them protesters, rioters, thugs or insurrectionists — I’ve heard them all — there is no excuse for what happened this week. None.

Debates in both chambers were halted in their tracks. Senators, representatives and staffers were told to shelter in place. Security officers and Capitol Police drew guns and pointed them at barricaded doorways, fearful of what might happen and uncertain if the assailants would directly engage in violence, attack representatives or simply shout slogans like “stop the steal!”

Some in the mob took over the House and Senate chambers and snapped photos of documents. Others assumed control of congressional leaders’ offices; one man was photographed sitting in the office chair of the Speaker of the House. Property was stolen with smiles at the camera, including a podium belonging to Pelosi later put up for sale on eBay (and subsequently taken down).

Windows were destroyed. Police officers were pushed and assaulted; more than 50 were injured. A female protester was shot dead inside the Capitol and three others died afterwards from other medical issues purportedly related to the attack. At least two improvised explosive devices were recovered near the capitol. Police made 52 arrests, including 26 in the building.

Most Americans were shocked and appalled. How could the nation’s capital be attacked so brazenly and subdued so quickly, while Congress was in session? Many still don’t get why there was debate over Electors in the first place, thinking the election was over and Joe Biden won. But what is perhaps even more stunning are the excuses made to defend the mob.

Some argue most of the intruders were merely disruptive but technically not “violent” — akin to “mostly peaceful protestors” during Black Lives Matter riots. Perhaps it’s true, but that wouldn’t make storming the nation’s capital any more acceptable or excusable. Even a massive swarm that stops the people’s business in its tracks is enough to condemn; Congress could not continue with the risks. Fifty-two arrests prove the scope of chaos, and the so-called “peaceful protesters” effectively provided cover for the violent intruders.

Others even try to justify the mob’s actions, invoking the Boston Tea Party and Lexington and Concord. Such comparisons are absurd: America’s Founders did not attack their own Congress, their grievances against King George were plenty, and they were absolutely denied rights and representation. (“No taxation without representation,” remember?)

On the contrary, here was the U.S. Congress — embodying Americans’ representation — literally debating objections and arguing their points. Congress heard two challenges. At least 92 Senators, including 45 Republicans, opposed each one. This followed more than 60 losses or dismissals in court. While frustrations are understandable, any comparisons to the Revolutionary War are genuinely ignorant.

Moreover, no one in the Capitol mob can now say they “Back the Blue,” support property rights or complain about desecrated statues. Bursting through police barricades, assaulting officers (again, 14 injured) and getting in people’s faces are intimidating and violations of individual rights.

Stealing things and busting windows is theft and destruction of property — the people’s property.

Finally, some insist that antifa extremists were really behind it all. While it’s possible a few antifa infiltrated, the wider claim is demonstrably false. Many of the supposed “Antifa members” present were identified by independent journalists as being previously associated with pro-Trump or other right-wing groups, demonstrated in photographs. They lack any usual antifa markers, even when they are disguised. The woman who was tragically shot and killed was a protestor; the witnesses were protesters. A member of the West Virginia legislature livestreamed his participation. antifa is largely or partially responsible for many recent riots. This was not antifa.

For months, I condemned violent riots on the Left as antithetical to the rule of law and our core American values. I insisted such violence would not happen on the Right.

Sadly, it did.

Anyone who denounces riots must be consistent and oppose them whether they be your “side” or not. antifa lowered the bar on the acceptability of violence and attempted mob rule, but you cannot legitimately excuse a riot merely because “but they did it” or you agree with the cause. That is anarchy and moral relativism: Who is to objectively judge what is a good basis for a riot and what isn’t?

From elected officials here in Colorado — where election protests were peaceful — to President Trump and members of Congress, regardless of party, Americans desperately need leadership and cooler heads. And we deserve it. Anything less is as condemnable as the riots themselves.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s January 8 column at Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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