Capitol Insurrection

The Capitol Invasion and the Framing of Political Violence

By Shirin Sinnar

In the wake of the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the media, political leaders, and scholars sought the right term to capture the violence that had occurred: was this a protest, a riot, an insurrection, a seditious conspiracy, an autogolpe (“self-coup”), or domestic terrorism?

Some of the debate over language stemmed from the challenge of conceptualizing a problem that seemed to have few domestic analogues in recent memory; it is not often that U.S. presidents instigate protestors to march on the Capitol to disrupt the certification of an election with false claims of election fraud and rhetoric licensing violence. Moral outrage also drove the search for the most stigmatic label imaginable for those who stormed the Capitol, as if the blunt force of an epithet could bludgeon them into submission …

Lead Author

Shirin Sinnar
Shirin Sinnar is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.
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