Words have meaning.
The events of Jan. 6 have been described by Senator Schumer as a date that will live in infamy — harkening back to FDR’s words after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Others have compared Jan. 6 with 9-11. Some historians declared it to be the worst act of rebellion since the nation’s founding, while others believe there’s been nothing like it since the Civil War. The news media and the Left use “insurrection” to describe Jan. 6.
They’re all wrong.
Historically, Shays’ Rebellion (1786-1787), the Whiskey Rebellion (1790), and Fries Rebellion (1799) were actual acts of insurrection.
Post-Civil War, the Wilmington Insurrection (1898) is by far worse than Jan. 6. Another one, the Battle of Athens, TN (1946), involved local armed WWII GIs taking over the town, forcing the corrupt sheriff to hide in the jail clinging to the election ballot boxes, until he finally surrendered and the GIs’ candidate won the election. There were the L.A. riots of 1992.
And the BLM riots during the summer of 2020 caused 18 deaths, over $1 billion dollars in damage, including federal and state buildings, and in some cities sovereign nations were declared.
Jan. 6. caused $1.5 million in damage and, despite what was often reported, one person was killed. An unarmed woman, Ashley Babbitt, was shot by a Capitol police officer. The officer’s interview on NBC resulted in more questions than answers about why he fired his weapon and killed Babbitt.
The word insurrection is a legal term. Under federal law it’s a crime to incite or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the U.S. or its laws. Black’s Law Dictionary defines insurrection as “a violent revolt against oppressive authority.” It is to be distinguished from a mob or riot based on organization of an armed uprising. Mobs and riots can involve unlawful and violent acts, but they aren’t necessarily insurrections. A revolt is an act to overthrow the government. Insurrection, therefore, requires an organized group that plans an attack to overthrow the government.
To date, a small percentage of the approximately 725 charged have been accused of violent crimes, and no charges of rebellion or insurrection have been filed. Around 165 have pled guilty to charges — mostly to misdemeanors. Only 30 were given jail time. The FBI investigation has yielded little evidence of a coordinated and organized attack. Instead, 95 percent of the participants were acting individually.
An AP story intending to link Trump to the riot published some of the comments made by participants during court appearances. None of them stated that the event was planned. Indeed, most indicated they didn’t really know why they did it. They said they felt inspired by Trump’s comments and believed the election was fraudulent, but there was no organized or coordinated plan to attack the Capitol.
Most of the Jan. 6 participants have been charged with trespass. One local man was at the Capitol dressed as George Washington for selfies. A woman from Missouri recently admitted being at the Capitol and stealing a broken sign.
Video footage shows people walking single file past idle officers as they entered the building. Afterward, most exited on their own accord.
Very few were arrested that day. Since Jan. 6, the DOJ has used a campaign of “shock and awe” to round up and detain people, again predominantly charged with misdemeanors. Compared with the BLM riots, prosecutors do seem more zealous about Jan. 6. Yet, insurrection charges haven’t been filed.
Confrontation between officers and rioters did happen. Violence definitely occurred. But, the only shot fired was, again, by the officer who killed Babbitt.
Jan. 6 was a horrible event. People who acted violently or damaged property should be prosecuted. Those who unlawfully trespassed should also be prosecuted. But as bad as Jan. 6 actually was, it was not the worst in American history. It can’t be compared to Pearl Harbor or 9-11. It’s not even the worst this century.
Because words have meaning, Jan. 6 can’t be called an “insurrection” just to satisfy the urge to convey a particular seriousness of the event or to propagate a political narrative. This type of narrative is aimed at silencing conservatives, not describing what happened that day. Most participants were not violent people. They weren’t acting as part of a coordinated rebellion. There was no intent to topple the government. They were impassioned citizens at a rally that turned into a riot. It was shameful, but not an insurrection.
Derek Snyder is an attorney and resident of Joplin.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Jan. 6 wasn't an insurrection. Stop calling it what it isn’t.