The line between free speech and terrorism was made clear last week when justice was served against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, sentenced to 18 years in prison for his part in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Rhodes now joins a growing list of more than 500 driven and impromptu terrorists who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a clear effort to disrupt and prevent the transfer of presidential power away from Donald Trump.
The trial against Rhodes, and dozens of other convicts, has dispelled disinformation and outright lies perpetrated by Trump and the subversives themselves that this was merely a protest, and that those charged in the attack on Congress and the Capitol are actually “political prisoners.”
They admittedly share Trump’s lies and rhetoric about the events that led up to the invasion of the Capitol, the intent of Trump and many of the attackers and the egregious and constant banter about a so-called “witch hunt.”
Prosecutors were clearly able to prove that Rhodes and others were able to pull off the Capitol attack. They did it by strategically planning for the invasion and provoking thousands of like-minded Trump loyalists to come to Washington on Jan. 6. They were then instrumental in inciting the mob into attacking the Capitol in an effort to prevent Biden from becoming president.
“Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at trial show Rhodes and his followers growing increasingly enraged after the 2020 election at the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they viewed as a threat to the country and their way of life. In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers to prepare their ‘mind, body, spirit’ for ‘civil war,’” according to AP reports of court proceedings.
Rhodes’ defense attorneys argued that it was just rhetoric, and that the Justice Department should instead focus on “real” criminals in the case.
“If you want to put a face on (Jan. 6), you put it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians, all the people who spun that narrative,” Rhodes’ attorney told the court.
The Department of Justice absolutely should bring a case against Trump for his indisputable role in manipulating his acolytes and supporters into finding a way to turn himself into the nation’s first dictator.
Trump, too, is burdened by his clear terrorist plans and actions, hiding behind false victimhood and claims of free speech.
Both Republicans and Democrats alike must do more to draw attention to the convictions and sentences meted out for the hundreds of Jan. 6 brazen acts of terrorism meant to destroy our American democracy.
Democrats and Republicans must take these convictions and push back against the lies from Trump and apologists like Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck, who described Rhodes and terrorists merely as “knuckleheads” who got out of line.
These are not political charges, they’re criminal indictments.
“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” the judge said at the sentencing.
Rhodes is a convict who was blocked from carrying out a terrorist plot to upend the transfer of presidential power away from the man American voters overwhelmingly rejected, for the sole purpose of perpetuating the deceits and damage Trump hoped to inflict on the nation.