| June 23, 2022 1:00 AM
My intent is to explain that the article in the Coeur d’Alene Press, Insurrection at the Capitol, treating the events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2017, and Jan. 6, 2021, as equivalent is absolutely absurd.
This My Turn article comparing Jan. 6, 2021, to Jan. 19, 2017, qualifies as a combination of misinformation and disinformation. The first of these terms means a lack of understanding and the other meaning intentionally false. The article claims to describe protests in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2017, the date of President Trump’s inauguration. Jan. 6, 2021, was the day the 2020 election result was certified by Congress.
On Jan. 19 there were protests in cities across the country and in cities in other countries extensively covered by the national news media. These protests were generally directed toward the views Mr. Trump had expressed before being elected president. It was not his election certification as the article states with “Democrats objecting to the transfer of power” which was already certified without incident as it has been throughout the history of our country. Misinformation or disinformation? You decide.
Legal demonstrations were authorized after groups obtained a permit specifying where the group could congregate and/or march in Washington, D.C. Numerous demonstration groups were present in Washington, D.C., that day, Jan. 19, 2017. At that time the Acting D.C. Police Chief, Peter Newsham, told the news media that several hundred demonstrators who actively confronted police were vastly outnumbered by the thousands of nonviolent protesters who went to our nation’s capital for Inauguration Day. “We have been pointing out all along that this is a very isolated incident, and by and large, everything is going peacefully and a lot of folks have come to the city to enjoy this historic day, not only the Capitol but walking all around the city,” he said.
Generally I trust the information of our law enforcement leaders. It should be clarified that national news coverage was extensive in 2017 contrary to the My Turn writer. Coverage was provided by CNN, Denver Post, LA Times, Washington Times, The Hill, NBC, Reuters, the Guardian, The Spokesman-Review, even the Irish Times and more including Fox News, which stated “The march, while mostly peaceful, did see isolated incidents, with some … vandalizing portable restrooms designated for the inauguration.”
If you missed the coverage a person must have been glued to Facebook or social media. Perhaps this may qualify as misinformation if the My Turn writer misunderstood what he read or had not read it at all.
The Denver Post reported in 2017 over 200 were arrested who shattered shop windows, and by the end there was more than $100,000 in property damage. The Jan. 6 storming of our Capitol building resulted in an estimate by the Architect of the Capitol. The Jan. 6 attack caused approximately $1.5 million worth of damage to the U.S. Capitol building and people were killed including law enforcement.
The first six people of the over 200 arrested in 2017 who went to trial in the case were acquitted by a jury on all the charges of rioting and destruction of property. The six acquitted defendants said they were lawfully exercising their First Amendment right while a few others broke away to cause damage. Over 840 of the Jan. 6 rioters were arrested on more serious charges and 185 have received criminal sentences. Much official and individual video identified and documented the activity and damage which resulted in charges from Jan. 6, 2021.
The events of Jan. 6 were markedly different when the U.S. Capitol building went into lockdown as supporters of President Trump broke through barricades and entered the building following clashes with police. Both houses of Congress abruptly went into recess, interrupting debate over the Electoral College vote that gave Joe Biden the presidency. Earlier, Trump riled up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud. This was reported and viewed on television as it was happening. Failing to recognize this difference between 2017 and 2021 is clearly disinformation.
The disinformation is more evident in the inappropriate comparison of the motivation for protests on these two days. On Jan. 6 the intent was to stop the certification of the election and force the Congress to certify the losing candidate. Call this sedition, treason, insurrection, etc. Regardless, this is unacceptable in America. When any group is attempting to invalidate a legal and proper election result it is “an existential threat to Democracy itself.” People died, members of Congress scrambled for a safe place, our Capitol Building, the people’s house, was desecrated with the flag of the states which had attempted to overthrow our country by force in the Civil War. Use whatever word you prefer; this was an insurrection assisted by some who wear American flag lapel pins to work each day.
By all measures, the 2020 general election was one of the most secure elections in our history. Voters turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots by mail and in person, and the votes were counted in a timely manner per the Brennan Center for Justice.
Reuters reported, “state and federal judges dismissed more than 50 lawsuits presented by then President Donald Trump and his allies challenging the election or its outcome. Independent experts, governors and state election officials from both parties say there was no evidence of widespread fraud.” Attorney General William Barr said that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election, even as President Trump kept up his legal efforts to reverse his defeat.
All these people, reporters, jurists, elected officials with direct access to election information, state unequivocally this was a fair election result. Why would we question them? Are they all lying, uninformed, stupid? What is their reason for deceiving us? More importantly who do some of us choose to believe if not reputable people? What is our source of truth, factual information?
Perhaps supporters of the My Turn article writer refuse to accept these factual news reports. I hope we all consider the sources of our information. Good leadership emanates from knowledge and truth, the same should be expected of an informed electorate.
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Phil Ward is a Coeur d'Alene resident.