January 6, 2021, was supposed to be the day that Joe Biden became the congressionally certified winner of the 2020 presidential election. Instead, January 6 will be remembered as the day a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. As the mob easily overcame inadequate security, members of Congress and staff feared for their lives.
By any measure, January 6 was a day like no other in American history. The assault on the Capitol attempted to obstruct and thwart one of the fundamentals of our democracy – the peaceful transition of leadership from one elected President to the next. There can be no more direct and significant threat to our national security.
The unprecedented assault on our democracy and the rule of law prompted JNSLP to reach out to our distinguished editorial board. We asked that some of them prepare succinct reactions to January 6 and its significance for our nation. The response from the board was gratifying.
The 10 essays that follow represent a diverse range of opinions and analysis, highly appropriate for an interdisciplinary board of scholars and practitioners. What the essays share, however, is a uniform repulsion at the events of January 6 and the direct threat to our governance that the mob represented.
William C. Banks
January 25, 2021
By Emily Berman
There are many indisputable facts about violent and deadly incursion into the Capitol building on January 6th. It is beyond debate that the fiasco included multiple criminal acts. Nor is there any question that it represents a colossal security failure on the part of those whose mission is to safeguard the premises and the people inside.
Finally, as many observers have noted, the differential treatment afforded to the largely White crowd of President Donald Trump’s supporters compared to the Black Lives Matter protestors who took to the streets this summer to protest acts of police violence against Black individuals was, to say the least, stark. Each of these facts—the criminal acts, the security failure, and the differential treatment afforded to those protesting—demand thorough investigation and a vigorous response. But that response need not—indeed must not—include measures that ultimately repress peaceful protest and restrict the right to assembly for Americans of all political stripes …
By David E. Graham
As the world watched, in real time, a mob descended upon the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and, spurred on by the words of the then President of the Unites States, engaged in destructive and deadly acts of violence. Pundits, politicians, present and former government officials, and, yes, any number of attorneys, have since referred to the actions involved, alternatively, as a “riot”, “mob violence”, “domestic terrorism”, “sedition”, “a coup”, “rebellion” and “insurrection”. The headline in The Washington Post on the morning of January 7 declared that the President had incited his supporters to commit “acts of insurrection [and] violence”. And, on January 11, the House of Representatives, in apparent confirmation of the Post’s conclusion, impeached President Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection”.
Here’s the question, however. While the President, individually, has been charged with inciting “insurrection”, did the collective acts engaged in by those who stormed the Capitol actually rise to the level of what can objectively be viewed as such? With this in mind, it would perhaps be prudent for the National Security Law community to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and undertake an analysis as to what the actions of those who descended upon the Capitol should most accurately and realistically be termed-bearing in mind that, as the saying goes, words actually do matter. The brief thoughts that follow are intended to engender this assessment …