The missing chapter of "holding all January 6 rioters accountable"

The missing chapter of "holding all January 6 rioters accountable"
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

If you’ve been following cable news today or the websites of most of the major newspapers, you know that there’s only one topic dominating the screens and at least for once, it’s not the pandemic. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the January 6th Capitol Hill riot and it’s just about all that liberal journalists want to talk about. It’s not that I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. Any chance to try to blame Donald Trump for something… anything… can’t be overlooked because he’s ratings gold. We get it. But the breathless exhortations against such a horrendous attack on our democracy have been somewhat over the top, to say the least.

At the Washington Post, an opinion piece showed up today with the rather awkward headline of, “The government we defended last Jan. 6 has a duty to hold all of the perpetrators accountable.” I won’t bore you with an excerpt from the article, but you’re free to click through to it if you wish. I’m also not going to argue overly much about the author’s basic premise, but rather focus on the other half of the story that is woefully missing.

First of all, holding people who break that law accountable should be a given, no matter how you may feel about the motivations of the perpetrators who broke the law. And to be clear, plenty of people engaged in illegal behavior that day, but we should be careful in identifying which people that blanket description covers. Those who remained out in the streets protesting and chanting were engaged in a demonstration and hold no accountability. There were many people who actually entered the Capitol building after it was cracked open and simply walked around. They are no doubt guilty of trepassing, but that’s about it. That leaves the remaining group who smashed windows, broke down doors, damaged or stole property inside the building, and in some cases assaulted law enforcement officers. Those people were rioting and there is supposed to be a price to pay for such illegal behavior.

Here’s the thing about that, however. More law enforcement resources have been dumped into this effort than any other investigation I can recall in a very long time. Federal officials have been scouring social media content, conducting interviews, taking testimony, and doing everything else imaginable. They have identified and charged literally hundreds of people. Some have already pleaded guilty or been convicted with reasonable sentences being handed down. Many others are still awaiting trial. The point is that the system is working.

With all of that said, let’s consider the other side of the reality coin for a moment. Those rioters attacked a federal building, albeit a historic one central to our federal government. But the past few years have seen many attacks that fall into the same category. What about the crowds of rioters who attacked police stations and federal government buildings in multiple cities? They set some of those buildings ablaze and thoroughly destroyed others. They too attacked law enforcement officers and “damaged our democracy” in equal fashion. The sum total of the property damage resulting from the BLM riots makes the damage to the Capitol Building on January 6th look like chump change.

Where are the calls to “hold all of the perpetrators accountable?” It’s a laughable question if you’ve been following the news at all. Portland was one of the cities that was hardest hit for the longest period of time. There were reams of video data out on social media that should have made it child’s play to identify most of the rioters and track them down. Just imagine if the federal government had gone after them with the same zeal.

And yet, as the Wall Street Journal reported, by last August only a relative handful of people were ever arrested or charged. And of that paltry group, more than half of them had all charges against them mysteriously dropped. Those riots were also attacks on our democracy and our system of law and order. And the same people screaming about accountability for January 6th largely haven’t uttered a peep about it. Some have gone so far as to defend the perpetrators. Apparently, the level of culpability you bear and the pressure that will be applied to bring you to justice are situational, based largely on which party line you vote on.

I’m not going to fall into a double-standard here or back down from what I wrote above. I still think that the people who are found guilty of actual rioting on January 6th need to be held accountable. But if you aren’t expressing the same level of outrage over the BLM riots, spare me your breathless, sanctimonious outrage. We can see right through it.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023