As law enforcement pursues those responsible for the riot Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, authorities are arresting and charging individuals from extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers. Meanwhile, on Inauguration Day, Antifa and Black Lives Matter continued their riots, violence, and destruction in Portland, Seattle, and Denver.
Let’s be clear: There is no place for violence in the American public square, regardless of what corner of the square the violence comes from. Likewise, society needs to condemn violence consistently whenever it occurs—last summer, Jan. 6, Inauguration Day, and in the future.
Recent media reports reveal that federal investigators have uncovered evidence suggesting that the assault on the Capitol was planned and not just provoked or merely a spontaneous reaction of the crowd that assembled to protest at the Ellipse in Washington. The planting of pipe bombs at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee on Capitol Hill is just one indicator of pre-planning.
Law enforcement has made over 125 arrests related to the Capitol riot, with more expected. Those arrested include members of extremist groups at both ends of the political spectrum and individuals belonging to no group at all.
Many media outlets have focused on the arrests of members of the Proud Boys, a group known for engaging in violent confrontations with Antifa and other extremist organizations. Just days before the unrest at the Capitol, local police arrested Henry “Enrique” Tarrio of Miami, who is publicly identified as the top Proud Boys leader and has been accused of numerous federal crimes.
An FBI official in Washington told the Miami Herald that law enforcement “developed information showing [Tarrio] was among those planning to incite violence as Congress voted to certify the presidential election.’’
More recently, authorities arrested and charged three members of the Oath Keepers in connection with the Capitol riot. An FBI agent describes the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”
As the FBI sorts through the 70,000 tips it has received, including photos and video, it is important that the bureau publicly identify who is being arrested and the criminal charges against them. Americans deserve true and complete transparency about who planned and committed the violence at the Capitol. This is too important an issue to get wrong.
Certainly, the House’s move to impeach the president without any evidence or investigation was an irresponsible example of acting first and asking questions later. Before making conclusions, it is best to wait until the evidence is clear.
Americans should categorically and consistently reject those who use violence to assault the constitutional foundation of this exceptional nation—whether it’s the Oath Keepers, Antifa, or other organizations.
For months, communities across our country have been victimized by organized political violence, including murder, beatings, arson, extortion, and destruction of government and private property.
This is violence not just for the sake of violence, but to promote confrontation and disruption to make our nation ungovernable, either yielding to radical change or collapsing in anarchy. The situation is not much different from radicalized, violent groups such as the Weather Underground in the 1970s.
And it continues. Antifa and Black Lives Matter planned and carried out riots in Western cities Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, in which participants broke windows of businesses, turned over an occupied car, assaulted police, and more. They carried banners and spray-painted graffiti that read, “We don’t want Biden, we want revenge,” “We are ungovernable,” and “Abolish everything.”
Yet for all of Democrat leaders’ condemnation of the Capitol riot Jan. 6, they continue to avoid similar criticism of riots involving Antifa and Black Lives Matter, just as they did throughout 2020. At a briefing Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked for comment on the violence and destruction caused by these groups this week in Portland and Seattle. She failed to condemn them.
The Founders created our constitutional system to allow for dissenting and seeking redress without resorting to violently attacking our neighbors and fellow citizens. We need to listen to our fellow Americans who have grievances, different views, and other ideas, respecting their rights and the laws that govern all of us. That respect and protection stops when groups resort to political violence.
Groups that embrace political violence divorce themselves from the American polity. They have more in common with each other than the rest of us. These groups are equally reprehensible, equally repugnant, and equally beyond the pale.
We, as Americans, should denounce such violent groups equally and seek their punishment in an equal fashion.