Should Trump be held liable for the U.S. Capitol riot?

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Aaron Shanks, Staff Columnist

The phrase “incite a riot” refers to prompting or encouraging other persons to engage in a riot. Though some Americans assert former President Donald Trump’s pre-riot speech as fitting, most Americans believe that the former president should be held responsible for Officer Brian Sicknick’s death.

During President Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, he made a series of incendiary remarks. Specifically, “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” A crowd of eight-thousand rioters took these comments literally.

Consequently, these individual’s violent acts caused U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick’s death. President Trump has a solid track record of spewing divisive rhetoric.

Following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., he uttered that there “were very fine people, on both sides.” Trump’s vague response to Charlottesville violence further defended the white supremacist movement in America. Some people would say that Trump did not foresee the actions of the crowd. Bringing criminal charges against Trump is challenging considering the United States Supreme Court decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969).

The Supreme Court established that inciting imminent lawless action includes speech that can be restricted if it causes an obvious and present danger of imminent lawless action. It must be shown that the speech will result in imminent illegal conduct that is likely, and the speaker intended to cause that unlawful conduct. Most citizens would argue that Trump is responsible for stirring up supporters to “stop the steal.” Trump caused the lawless violence of Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s behavior is impeachable based upon legal grounds. When this news piece was published, the House of Representatives voted for articles of impeachment. A few high-ranking Republican senators are attempting to delay the Senate impeachment trial until mid-February. Senate Republicans claimed that Trump’s impeachment trial is unconstitutional, suggesting that the House’s case against Trump is virtually bound to fail. After forcing a procedural vote, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul declared impeachment as “dead on arrival.” He also faulted Democrats for pursuing this impeachment process.

Undoubtedly, one could argue that not only Trump should be on trial. The Republican Party, collectively, needs to be held accountable for promoting anti-immigrant rhetoric, maintaining the “stolen election” lie, and failing to hold the ring-leader of an attempted coup responsible. Pro-Trump Republicans also showed an utter disregard for the five deaths that occurred amid the attack. The violence of Jan. 6, 2021, was an attack on the founding principles of American democracy.

Indeed, it is perhaps unmistakable to recognize the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol violence. Among America’s most grave concerns are the threat of domestic terrorism. Throughout Trump’s presidency, there was an increase in white-supremacist violence. Often, Americans look at political violence occurring in foreign countries. Many citizens did not expect such a bold attack to take place in the nation’s capital.

Aside from domestic terrorism, America’s legacy of racial violence is brought to the forefront of our lives. The U.S. Capitol attack can be paralleled to racial terrorism post-Reconstruction when thousands of African Americans were lynched. Symbols of white supremacy were on full display during the U.S. Capitol attack. America can take the needed steps to restore our democracy, starting with expanding voting rights and securing the country’s elections. Though this is a dark period in American history, hopefully, this can lead to lasting change with the United States emerging as a global leader.