Inciting to Riot

Ideas and Issues
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February 15, 2021

Pearl River       Predictably, former President Trump was acquitted in his latest impeachment trial. It has always been important to him to set records, and he notched a couple of more. Only president to be impeached not once, but twice. How about that? His 57-43 acquittal, although ten short of what was needed to judge him guilty, was still the highest vote to judge him so in history, with seven Republicans in that number. In the surprise category, two southern senators voted with the majority. North Carolina is kind of purple and a battleground, so that might explain the risk Senator Richard Burr took with an election pending in 2022, but who would have figured Louisiana Senator Cassidy? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m proud to see he did the right thing in this ridiculous exercise, but I’ll have to watch more closely to get a grip on the weirdness that Cassidy is starting to represent. I except that right now he sees some power and prestige to be towards the middle, where in Jim Hightower’s famous expression, there’s nothing but a yellow line and dead armadillos.

There’s one thing I don’t get with all of the talk and speculation about whether Trump is going to face criminal and civil prosecution for this or that. The whole case from the managers on the Democrats side seems to have been that Trump was inciting the crowd, triggering the Capitol takeover riot, or insurrection as some have called it. Reportedly, there’s even talk of a 9/11 or more appropriately a Kerner Commission similar to the one that looked at the urban riots in the 1960s to investigate and assess responsibility for the January 6th mayhem.

The FBI and others have now charged some 240 or so people with various crimes from misdemeanors to felonies for their activity around the riot, but I haven’t seen or heard anything after all of this hootnanny about Trump’s role and charging him with inciting to riot. Why not? A simple search on sites involving criminal defense lawyers seems clear. “Criminal incitement refers to conduct, words, or other means that urge or naturally lead others to riot, violence, or insurrection.” So, why hasn’t Trump been charged, if there’s this much evidence? If not now, when?

I’m serious, because I do have a bone to pick here, having been charged in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1969 as a 21-year-old with inciting to riot after a welfare rights demonstration and sit-in that I had organized triggered a riot after the police responded in a ham-handed fashion. Police were quick to make this charge then and still are now, as we have seen in a number of states in the recent Floyd and Black Lives Matter actions.

If Trump can’t be charged for inciting to riot after the whole world witnessed his provocation, then take the statute off the books everywhere. If he gets a pass, everyone should get a pass. That’s what equal justice under the law means. Charge him, make him plead, and make it stick, or put the whole thing in the trash can, and let the dogs out, as they say. One way or another, but no double standards, please!