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Capitol event was not ‘civil disobedience’

This is in response to Stephen Kershnar’s commentary (Jan. 13) in which he mocks the seriousness of the Jan. 6 riot and attack on the Capitol and members of Congress by a mob whose angry and violent actions were fueled by President Trump’s repeated but unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him due to widespread voter fraud, an allegation Kershnar repeats.

In his column he states, “Clearly there was widespread election fraud,” despite reporting by every major news outlet including Fox that 59 of at least 60 legal challenges mounted to date by Trump’s team have been rejected as unproven, unfounded or lacking in sufficient evidence to consider. Many of the officials making these determinations are Republican governors, secretaries of state, judges and election officials, as well as out-going U.S. Attorney General William Barr himself. Why would they lie?

Incredibly, Kershnar downplays the grave nature of an armed attack on the legislative branch of U.S. government by a mob whipped into a frenzy by the President himself, voicing his opinion that the violence “paled in comparison” to several Black Lives Matter marches over the summer that devolved into physical injury, looting and arson.

This unbalanced analogy suggests that a mob using threats and violence in an attempt to prevent lawmakers at the highest level of U.S. government from carrying out their Constitutional duties is a less serious challenge to American society’s overall safety than the kind of opportunistic mayhem that is always an unfortunate possibility during large public demonstrations. I cannot agree.

Undermining our system of government through mob violence could have long-lasting consequences for our country far surpassing any property damage and human injury, however deplorable, resulting from other social protest events such as those he mentions. Political observers more astute than I expressed reasonable concerns that Trump would seize upon the Capitol Hill riot as an opportunity to invoke martial law–a tactic he is reported to have discussed with his few remaining high-level supporters–and attempt to hang onto office past Jan. 20, causing many to give serious thought to the possibility of a Trump dictatorship.

Suggesting that members of Congress were over-reacting to the Capitol Hill attack while largely ignoring the serious damage and violence during some of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Kershnar asks, “Did you see any prissy members of Congress clutching their pearls following these (BLM) outrages?”

Even though I am appalled at the danger faced by everyone in the Capitol during the riot, I have to admit I laughed at the unintentionally funny image this question evoked of not only Nancy Pelosi, but Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, etc., “clutching their pearls” in collective outrage in the aftermath.

During the resumed Electoral College count certifying Joe Biden’s win, both sides of the aisle were in nearly universal agreement on an issue for one of the few times in living memory, with both Republicans and Democrats giving heartfelt and eloquent speeches condemning both the riot and the President’s role in it.

Finally, the Capitol Hill riot was not, as Kershnar refers to it in several places in his column, an example of “civil disobedience,” defined in Webster’s as “nonviolent opposition to a government policy or law by refusing to comply with it, on the grounds of conscience.” Note the qualifying tern “nonviolent.” It is either disingenuous or ignorant, but definitely offensive, for Kershnar to equate what happened on Jan. 6 to lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations protesting clearly immoral and unjust segregation laws in the Jim Crow south.

Mary Rees is a Dunkirk resident.

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