Fourteen Months After the Capitol Riot – A Disappointing Reflection on our Country’s Biggest Judicial Failures

It’s been over a year since the January 6th, 2021 riot at the Capitol. How have events played out since then?


Christopher Ryan / Unsplash

Here is the United States Capitol Building, the site of the riots on January 6th, 2021.

January 6th, 2021, is a date that will be taught in  U.S. history classrooms ten years from now as a prime example of the fragility of democracy. The events on that day will go down in American history as one of our biggest societal failures.

On January 6th, 2021, hundreds of Trump supporters from around the country attacked the Capitol after months of planning. They came in waves, carrying signs and screaming delusions about the results of the election, as Congress met to confirm the electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. 

In a matter of hours it became an all-out attack. Windows were broken, doors were smashed, and people were hurt. The Capitol police force was understaffed and could not fend off the mob of attackers. Over 140 officers were injured during the riot from the guns, pipes, bricks, pepper spray, bear spray, and other weapon-adjacent objects that rioters brought to bludgeon resistance. 

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the left and right have been in a tense ideological stalemate of differing ideas. The left is known for its progressive policies and a focus on the general welfare of citizens; on the other hand, the right is renowned for its conservative policies that often seem to act in favor of certain groups of people with their policies. 

After being kicked off popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for their participation in the insurrection, radical far-right influencers created alternative ways to communicate through messaging apps like Telegram and the social media platform, Parler. 

Parler, which advertised as a “free-speech driven” social platform instantly became home to right-wing radicals. Following the January 6th riots, the app was terminated from all platforms including Amazon’s web-hosting service and both the Google and Apple App stores for improperly policing the content spread regarding the riot. 

A year later, it continues to be a question whether appropriate punishment was given to those who participated in these acts of domestic terrorism. 

An astounding 55% of the rioters sentenced received no time in jail time.

So far, more than 700 people have been charged (only 212 of whom pleaded guilty) with a variety of crimes, with more cases making  news headlines weekly. Around 200 individuals were indicted for assault but of these, 3.5 years was the longest prison sentence, given to a man who attacked a police officer. Even the famed QAnon Shaman, Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to 41 months in prison after spending ten months in prison for his crimes.

These are shockingly low sentences for what many consider a domestic terrorist attack. However, due to the event’s unprecedented nature, the only crime that prosecutors could convict rioters with is assault. 

According to Ms. Meyer, an AP United States Government teacher at Bronx Science, “The current Attorney General of the Justice Department, Merrick Garland, has had a steadfast approach when it comes to collecting the evidence required to prosecute the individuals responsible for the attack. According to reports, Garland wants to conduct a thorough investigation that is not compromised by unnecessary media scrutiny in the 24/7 news cycle. To that end, much of  the investigation has remained secret, as the Justice Department leaves no stone unturned to gather the evidence needed to prosecute individuals responsible for the riot at any level of government.”

The most disappointing part is the lack of conspiracy charges. 

According to John Seaman, the previous Assistant Chief Counsel at ICE,  “A Conspiracy can be described generally as a sort of partnership in crime. Legally, a Conspiracy exists when two or more persons join together and form an agreement to violate the law, and then act on that agreement.”

It’s incredibly easy to prove that attendees at the January 6th riot had agreed to launch a proper assault on the Capitol building (which opens a whole new field of breaking and entering charges). Prosecutors have countless records of messages between individuals outlining the attack. Thus, we fulfill the requirements of a conspiracy in legal terminology.

Compare the actions of police during the January 6th domestic terrorist attack and the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. During the peaceful protests organized by Black Lives Matter, there were rampant cases of police brutality. Unarmed citizens were often tear-gassed and pepper sprayed. Rubber bullets were shot at crowds for little to no reason. In the minds of law enforcement, the BLM protests were seen as a threat, a bias that cannot be ignored when crowds of armed white radicals are banging on the Capitol doors.

In contrast, the police practically stepped aside during the January 6th riot. There was no tear-gas, no pepper spray, no use of rubber bullets.

To this day, it is still baffling to think about how little the police did to halt the rioters. These people were clearly not acting peacefully; many carried blunt weapons and even more carried firearms. When they had breached the Capitol doors, the police were forced to retreat. Two officers died from their wounds, and many suffered major injuries as a result of the attack. This likely could have been prevented had the police taken the same drastic measures as they did during the Black Lives Matter protests.

After the January 6th riots, our leaders have done nothing but disappoint the people who staunchly defended them. Democrats have failed to respond to the attacks against them. President Biden continues to disappoint; many of his policies continue to fail to pass as his major bills have been locked in a stalemate by the Senate. 

Republicans, on the other hand, have used this dismissal in their favor to support the rioters, attacking their fellow party members, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who condemned the actions of the radicalists. 

Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee Chair said, “They [Cheney and Kinzinger] crossed a line. They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.” As a reminder, this is the same woman who wanted to sue the Biden administration after the president issued two executive orders requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for large employers, federal workers and contractors. 

Furthermore, Donald Trump did nothing to halt a growing crowd of people as violence erupted. For over three hours, Trump kept his silence while Congress was sheltered in the Capitol building. 

Democrats continue to lose seats in the House of Representatives, and we are likely to see a repeat of Barack Obama’s later years in office: the Republicans will refuse to compromise with any bills made by Democrats once they control both the House and Senate. 

Fourteen months later, it’s unlikely that most people are still following the aftermath of the attack when there are bigger, more pressing matters to be concerned about. “Polling indicates that the vast majority of Americans today (whether conservatives or liberals) are mainly concerned with COVID-19, crime, and the cost of living. Americans want to see the country move past the pandemic, to have a reduction in crime (especially in big cities), and to have a strong and prosperous economy,” said Ms. Meyer.

We are a country divided. But hope rests with the young. Generation Z are much more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, and as they begin to replace older generations on the world-stage, it’s inevitable that there will be a change of political climate. With all hope, we will finally be able to become a more progressive nation.

We are a country divided. But hope rests with the young. Generation Z are much more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, and as they begin to replace older generations on the world-stage, it’s inevitable that there will be a change of political climate. With all hope, we will finally be able to become a more progressive nation.