“Antifa is a real threat, and I’ve spent years documenting its illiberal activities. Most recently, antifa protested a book store for daring to sell a book by the antifa-critical writer Andy Ngo. (The predictable result of their efforts was that Ngo’s book surged to the top of the Amazon bestsellers list.)
But that doesn’t mean it’s fair to pin every example of mob violence on antifa. We know who caused the Capitol riots: supporters of the president who heard his call to protest the outcome of the 2020 election and took action.”
“If America wants to prevent another event like Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol in Washington, DC, officials should make all efforts possible to arrest and prosecute every single person involved in the violent protests — events that some branded as an attempted coup by President Donald Trump and his supporters.
This is not simply a matter of vengeance. It’s a real-world example of a common concept in criminological theory focusing on the best way to use punishment to deter future crimes.
In criminology, there are three levers for fighting crime, as the late Mark Kleiman previously explained: swiftness (how quickly someone is punished), certainty (the likelihood someone is punished), and severity (how harsh a person’s punishment is) — established way back in the 1700s by an Italian criminologist called Cesare Beccaria.
Much of the attention in US debates about criminal justice policy goes to severity of punishment — essentially, debates over how harsh or long a prison sentence should be. This has been the lever that public policy has largely relied on over the past few decades, contributing to the buildup of mass incarceration.
But severity is, based on the available evidence, actually the weakest of these levers. So simply making punishments very harsh doesn’t seem effective for deterring crime. What criminologists have found is that the certainty of punishment is far more important.”
“If Wednesday’s rioters get away with violently shutting down the workings of the federal government, it will send a message to them — as well as to other people interested in carrying out political violence — that this behavior is, if not okay, at least something they can get away with. That would invite copycats.
The good news is, much of the day’s events were recorded and photographed, with some demonstrators gleefully streaming their actions and posing for photos as they trespassed and looted the Capitol and congressional offices. If they’re serious about punishing these wrongdoers, police could use this evidence, as well as typical investigative tactics, to track down the hundreds of people involved (beyond the 13 already reportedly arrested by the police).
But that’s the rub: Officials have to be serious about punishing these wrongdoers. Otherwise, they’ll send a signal that what transpired on Wednesday was actually fine, making it more likely to happen again.”
“Trump’s messaging on January 6 is precisely in line with how he’s historically addressed violence on the part of hate groups and his supporters: He emboldens it.
As far back as 2015, Trump has been connected to documented acts of violence, with perpetrators claiming that he was even their inspiration. In fact, almost five dozen people, according to reports from the Guardian and ABC News, have enacted violence in Trump’s name.
In 2016, a white man told officers “Donald Trump will fix them” while being arrested for threatening his Black neighbors with a knife. That same year, a Florida man threatened to burn down a house next to his because a Muslim family purchased it, claiming that Trump’s Muslim ban made it a reason for “concern.” Then there are the more widely known examples, like Cesar Sayoc, who mailed 16 inoperative pipe bombs to Democratic leaders and referred to Trump as a “surrogate father”; and the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 that left 23 dead, where the shooter’s manifesto parroted Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants.
In some cases, Trump denounces the violence, but he often walks back such statements, returning to a message of hate and harm. In August, he defended a teenage supporter who shot three people at a Black Lives Matter protest. And at the first presidential debate of the 2020 election, President Donald Trump shocked many viewers when he was given an opportunity to condemn white supremacists but declined. In October, he equivocated on condemnation of the domestic terrorists who allegedly planned to violently kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Instead, he criticized Whitmer and fished for compliments.
Trump has continually refused to recognize what’s at the core of this violence: hate nurtured under a tense national climate that he has helped cultivate.
Trump’s campaign rallies have always been incubation grounds for violence, the sites where Trump spewed hate speech that encouraged physical harm against dissenters. And as president, he has used his platform to encourage violence against American citizens, whether through the police and National Guard or militia groups — unless those citizens are his supporters.”
“One of the clearest moments Trump refused to denounce violence, and thereby encourage it, was when he equated the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of a “Unite the Right” rally with the leftist protesters who demonstrated against them. During the rally, a Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd of anti-racism counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The evening before, on August 11, the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups marched at the University of Virginia, carrying lit tiki torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans, in response to the impending removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.”
“Trump’s very first response to the events in Charlottesville was to condemn violence on the part of many players, while initially refusing to even mention the presence of white supremacist groups. In a short statement issued Saturday evening, Trump said from his golf club in New Jersey, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
That same night, he tweeted condolences to Heyer’s family but made no mention of who was responsible for the violence. Trump called for there to be “a study” to understand what happened in Charlottesville.
On the Tuesday following the weekend rally, Trump infamously said, “You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.”
The president also attempted to identify the “good people” in the sea of white nationalists that weekend: “You had people and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. … You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.””
“A 39-year-old Montana man was charged with felony assault for choking, slamming, and fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old boy who didn’t take his hat off for the national anthem. The man’s attorney told the local newspaper that Trump’s “rhetoric” led to the violent act. “His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” the lawyer said, referencing Trump’s harsh words against athletes like Colin Kaepernick who protested for social justice.”
“A 61-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested and charged with a felony hate crime after allegedly throwing acid at a Peruvian American who was walking to a Mexican restaurant. The perpetrator accused the victim of being inside the country illegally, asking him, “Why you invade my country?” and “Why don’t you respect my laws?” before attacking him. When police searched the perpetrator’s home, they found three letters addressed to Donald Trump. The victim suffered second-degree burns.”
“On the day that Congress moved to certify the 2020 presidential election results confirming Biden as the winner, Trump encouraged thousands of his supporters to dispute vote counts. At an outdoor rally, Trump turned on Republicans who refused to support his efforts to overturn the election results, calling them weak, and urged Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College results.
Trump told listeners, “You will never take back our country with weakness.” (Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani also delivered a speech in which he encouraged “trial by combat.”) Hours of violence followed the speech when supporters stormed the US Capitol, as well as state capitols across the country. Capitol Police fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter, as she and others tried to breach the halls of the Senate. Three others are said to have died. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a city-wide curfew beginning at 6 pm, and few people were arrested, though many rioters violated the restriction.”
” Believers in boogaloo ideology — a focus on visible gun ownership, with some advocating for a violent civil war against the federal government — have shown up to protests in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and other cities, sometimes wearing Hawaiian shirts (based on a movement in-joke) and carrying large guns.”
“members of the boogaloo movement are unlikely to be the majority of those arrested at either the protests or the violence. In Minneapolis, Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and elsewhere, the majority of those arrested during the protests and violence haven’t been outside agitators traveling the country to start fights and cause violence. Rather, they’ve been people largely from the same places where they are arrested.”
“if Barr—or Trump, Cotton, or anyone else—think active duty military played an important role in restoring order to Los Angeles, they’re misremembering history. In fact, the L.A. riots offer cautionary lessons about the limits and perils of using military force to restore order and protect lawful protest. Although the National Guard played a critical role in restoring and keeping the peace, the same can’t be said for active-duty Marines and soldiers.”
“The arrival of the guard was desperately anticipated in Los Angeles, where looting and fires spread overnight and left the city smoldering by daybreak on April 30. That morning, I waited outside the Los Angeles Coliseum, where guard units had deployed. But even as the day heated up, the guard troops remained frustratingly cabined inside their armories.
The trouble: Guard soldiers had made it to Los Angeles overnight, but devices to convert their automatic weapons into semiautomatics had not. When he learned of the holdup, Wilson ordered the guard soldiers to hit the streets with one bullet each, and by late afternoon, about 24 hours after violence first erupted, the guard finally began deploying from Exposition Park, home of the Coliseum.
One guardsman marched across the street to where I was standing, and as he and I took in the scene, a man pulled up in his pickup truck and began videotaping the melee. A rioter casually walked over, shot the man in the arm and grabbed his camera. Spotting the guard soldier, the shooter fled; the victim lived.
By the time guard units were fully at work, more than 25 people had died, nearly 600 were wounded and roughly 1,000 fires were burning or had burned.
The guard units were applauded, sometimes literally, as they made their way to ravaged sections of the city. I watched looters thumb their noses at police and then, moments later, melt away when they spotted guard soldiers rolling up to the scene; something about the military’s presence was both intimidating and soothing. In neighborhood after neighborhood, the arrival of the guard meant the diminishment of violence. “They were reassuring to the people who wanted their presence,” Wilson said.”
“But by the time soldiers and Marines were in position, the violence was already subsiding, so their mission was muddied from the start: Authorized to “restore law and order,” they were not empowered to “maintain law and order.” Some military leaders concluded that their authorization thus was no longer valid.”
“In some cases, the cultures and practices of police and soldiers clashed, with dangerous implications. When one pair of LAPD officers, for instance, was preparing to enter a home in response to a report of a domestic dispute, the officers were accompanied by a contingent of Marines. The Marines held back as the officers approached the front door and were greeted with a blast of birdshot. The officers dropped to the ground and one called out, “cover me,” thinking the Marines would point their weapons at the house and be alert for any additional threat. Instead, the Marines opened fire, pummeling the home and its occupants, which included children, with more than 200 rounds. Amazingly, no one was hurt.”
“The Los Angeles riots were extraordinarily violent, but mercifully short-lived, in large measure because of the decisive actions taken by Wilson. They do not, however, stand for the principle that active duty military are the most effective means of suppressing urban violence. In Los Angeles, police and local leadership failed at the outset, to be rescued by state coordination and the National Guard. The Army and Marines came too late to make a difference but just in time to sow confusion and concern.
The history in Los Angeles suggests that solid coordination between the state and federal governments, along with decisive use of the National Guard, can save lives and protect property. It argues against employment of active-duty forces, certainly without consultation and consent of the states. In the current crisis”
“Keep in mind that the current protests and related riots were sparked by the abusive and murderous actions of police officers who are (allegedly) trained to protect the communities in which they live and the public that they serve. It’s difficult to see how the situation is going to be improved by the addition of troops more often trained to kill people and break things—especially when they’re handed weapons and pointed toward antagonists.
“U.S. soldiers are trained for combat against a foreign enemy, not for riot control against Americans,” the Wall Street Journal editorial page warns. “The risk of mistakes would be high, and Mr. Trump would be blamed for any bloodshed from civilian clashes with troops.”
The Journal editors were recoiling not from Tom Cotton’s eagerness to escalate hostilities against American civilians, but from the president’s similar scheme. Trump, too, has proposed sending in the military to battle rioters, even over local objections.”
“it’s exactly that history of domination and imposed order, which treats members of the public as an enemy, overcriminalizes a wide variety of conduct, and disproportionately targets minority communities, that led us to this point. Deploying the military to clear the streets might disperse protesters and looters alike in the short term, but it will exacerbate the problem of authoritarian law enforcement. And that guarantees escalating tensions that, if they’re not addressed, will eventually explode into new conflict.”
“POLITICO spoke to 10 National Guardsmen who have taken part in the protest response across the country since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. Many Guardsmen said they felt uncomfortable with the way they were used to handle the unrest because demonstrators lumped them in with the police. They felt that while they swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, their presence at times intimidated Americans from expressing their opinions and even escalated the tension.
And in the case of Guardsmen involved in the Lafayette incident, some felt used.
“As a military officer, what I saw was more or less really f—ed up,” said one D.C. Guardsman who was deployed to Lafayette Square last Monday and who, like some others, spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely. The official line from the White House that the protesters had turned violent, he said, is false.”
““I’m here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and what I just saw goes against my oath and to see everyone try to cover up what really happened,” the Guardsman continued. “What I saw was just absolutely wrong.””
“One of the Guardsmen at the scene said the White House isn’t being truthful.
“I’ve been tear gassed before. I was there the night before when we got tear gassed, there was tear gas there” on Monday evening, he said. He added that he and some of his soldiers felt the effects of the tear gas from their colleagues because they didn’t have masks on.”
“The U.S. Park Police has acknowledged firing pepper balls into the crowd, which is also a chemical irritant.”
“The officer said he even told Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just before the Park Police moved in that the protests had been peaceful that day, a sentiment that was shared by three other Guardsmen who were there.”
” As of Monday, 42,700 National Guardsmen were deployed across 34 states and D.C. to deal with protests. At the height of the response last week, 1,200 D.C. National Guardsmen and another 3,900 from 11 states were patrolling the nation’s capital. Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave the order for the out-of-state Guardsmen to begin leaving on Friday; all are expected to return home by Wednesday.”
“Torrie Osterholm, the D.C. National Guard’s director of psychological health, said in an interview that many Guardsmen have reached out to her in the past week to express the pain and confusion they struggled with during and after the mission, both for what they witnessed and how the protesters reacted.
One Guardsman told her, “‘I never thought I’d get a bottle thrown at me and be told I should die and I should kill myself,’” Osterholm said. “There’s not enough Kevlar to protect you from those kinds of statements spoken in your own language.”
Walker, the D.C. Guard commander, acknowledged the challenges Guardsmen faced in a Sunday briefing with reporters.
“I have some Guardsmen whose family members came out and criticized them. ‘What are you doing out here, aren’t you black?’” Walker said. “Of course, we’re all hurting. The nation is hurting.””
“It is unclear whether ordering emergency curfews — that is, telling people they must stay at home and avoid public areas after a certain time in the evening, and increasing public police presence to enforce it — is effective in reducing unrest. Criminologists note there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of research on the matter. But some experts have raised concerns about the way curfews are likely to be enforced in communities of color and argue they could exacerbate the very dynamics that gave rise to the unrest in the first place: namely, that they will encourage confrontational policing at a time when people are demanding the opposite.”
““Curfews are an extremely blunt tool that should only be used sparingly and as a last result. They give police tremendous power to intervene in the lives of all citizens,” he said. “They pose a huge burden on people who work irregular hours, especially people of color in service professions who may need to travel through areas of social disturbance in order to get to and from work at night.””