Antifa and the Capitol: A tale of two insurrections - opinion

The inexcusable actions of the Capitol rioters were the foreseeable extension of what came before.

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
The shocking attack on the US Capitol has been uniformly characterized in the past few weeks as an insurrection incited by a sitting president and carried out by a seditious mob. It’s worth reviewing what preceded the riot, and considering the impact of its aftermath.
The event was entirely predictable. It was evolutionary rather than revolutionary; the logical next step in the trend we have witnessed over the past four years. Here are just a few examples of efforts to overturn the 2016 election that were at least as “seditious” as what happened at the Capitol.
Violent anti-Trump demonstrations began even before his inauguration. The American intelligence apparatus assisted the Democratic Party in advancing the Russian collusion hoax based on a source and document they knew to be unreliable from the outset. In 2018, left-wing demonstrators occupied the Senate office building and attacked the Supreme Court. This summer, mayors rushed to declare solidarity with rioters as police stations and federal courthouses were fire-bombed and thousands of businesses were looted and destroyed. Laying siege for a full week, a mob attempted to break through barriers surrounding the White House, injuring several Secret Service officers. They then assaulted people leaving the White House, including members of Congress.
An atmosphere of lawlessness was created. The media and the Democratic leadership minimized or ignored violence incited by Marxist Black Lives Matter and anarchistic Antifa supporters. Political violence was not only tolerated; it was encouraged by people in power. Rioters were hailed as patriots.
Violent Antifa demonstrations in Washington State and Oregon continue to this day, with rioters chanting, “We don’t want Biden. We want revenge!” Clearly, Antifa’s ultimate goal was not removing Trump but destroying the American system. Democrats have remained silent.
None of this justifies the abhorrent attack on January 6. However, the Capitol rioters did not act in a vacuum. Their inexcusable actions were the foreseeable extension of what came before.
The reaction to the Capitol riot has been very different.
The few Democrats who criticized the violence this summer were at great pains to draw a distinction between the rioters and the many peaceful demonstrators. Now, however, hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators on January 6, indeed all Trump voters, are tarred with the actions of a small minority.
We see a concerted effort to intimidate, silence and punish Trump supporters, including some who are members of Congress and the former administration. Some 5,000 Harvard University students and faculty have petitioned the school to revoke the degrees of anyone who supported the administration. Former FBI director James Comey put it succinctly: “The Republican Party must be burned to the ground in some form or fashion.”
Consider the lack of response to far-left Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a government commission to “rein in the media.” The same people who condemned Trump’s comments about fake news as an assault on the First Amendment have been silent this time. This is situational morality at its worst.
What is especially troubling is the obvious glee with which many in the media reported the assault on the Capitol. They were thrilled to assert that Trump and his supporters were irredeemably evil, having no place in ordered society. At the same time, tech giants silenced an alternative social-media site and froze the accounts of many conservative voices. Anyone who expresses disfavored political views risks being banned.
This is not a good faith effort to prevent future violence. These same tech monopolies host threatening and hateful statements by Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Bashar Assad of Syria, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Antifa, and shameless antisemite Louis Farrakhan. Rather, the victors are exacting brutal retribution from the defeated, purging Trump supporters and erasing their ideas.
Nowhere is this glee more pronounced than the halls of Congress. There is talk of “deprogramming” Trump supporters and “reeducating” their children. Senators who recommended establishing a commission to examine possible election irregularities are accused of treason. (Recall that within days of Trump’s victory, Democratic leaders described him as an “illegitimate president,” and declared themselves part of “the resistance.”) A newly elected Republican congresswoman was accused of having given “reconnaissance tours” of the Capitol prior to the riot. In fact, she had hosted her family.
Within days of the riot, Democrats rushed to impeach president Trump. There was no deliberative or investigative process, no witnesses were called, no due process accorded. Trump’s call to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” was ignored. It has emerged that the attack on the Capitol was planned days in advance, and that it began before the president spoke. These factors refute the allegation that Trump’s speech was the primary impetus for the Capitol breach.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed that Trump posed an imminent threat and needed to be removed from office immediately. Why then are the Democrats pushing ahead with an impeachment trial – unquestionably divisive and almost certainly unconstitutional – now that Trump has left office?
While we must condemn all political violence, the aftermath of the latest attack is truly frightening. This single event is being used as a pretense to deny the rights of a large segment of society. Tyranny is masquerading as morality.
President Joe Biden has spoken of the need for healing and unity (read “surrender” and “enforced conformity”), but he has failed to block his party’s hostile actions. The rush to impeach Trump without regard to the facts, and to condemn all Trump supporters for the acts of a few, evinces a desire simply to silence Trump and his millions of voters. The Democrats’ primary objective is political: preventing the Trump movement from being reconstituted.
Far from bringing the country together, these limits on civil liberties will further inflame an already incendiary situation.
The writer is a retired American diplomat and former law professor. He lives in Zichron Ya’acov.