Pitt experts say insurrection should have consequences


Pitt political and law experts were outraged and disgusted by the actions of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, where pro-President Donald Trump supporters broke through Capitol security and infiltrated the building, seeking to interrupt the electoral vote count that would solidify President-elect Joe Biden’s win over Trump.

As investigators continue to uncover the extent of the motives and security breaches that led to the incident, which left four people dead, including a Capitol police officer, Chris Bonneau, political science professor and Senate Council president, said this was the natural end result after years of falsehoods and enabling by elected officials.

“If you tell people the same thing over and over again, some of them are going to believe it,” Bonneau said.

When he first saw the news of the riot at the Capitol, Bonneau said he immediately thought, “Oh, my God, it’s a coup attempt, this is an insurrection. This is people trying to stop the duly elected members of our government from doing their job.”

“And the reason why they’re so upset is because they believed a bunch of lies, and lies that were perpetrated by the president and echoed by many members of government,” Bonneau added. “And it shows the words have consequences. I mean, the whole thing was disgraceful.”

Jerry Dickinson, an associate professor of law, echoed these points and added that there will be serious repercussions to the riot.

Dickinson called the riot “a bona fide coup attempt and is possibly turning into an act of terrorism.”

“What happened last week was clearly a seditious assault on American democracy,” Dickenson said in an email. “It was a historic attempt at insurrection facilitated by the president of the United States. The assault has left an indelible, and perhaps irreparable, wound in the fabric of our democracy.”

Bonneau said there was a clear difference in how law enforcement handled this incident compared to racial injustice protests from last summer.

“It’s pretty obvious that if that was a bunch of African Americans storming the capital, or a bunch of Muslims, we’d still be putting tags on their toes from the body counts,” Bonneau said.

In an unprecedented move, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time on Jan. 14, condemning his role in the riots, with representatives saying Trump’s rhetoric directly led to the riot.

Bonneau said this was Congress’s strongest move in holding Trump accountable. Additionally, Bonneau called for members of Congress who helped spread falsehoods to be expelled.

And if members of Congress are afraid to speak out against the riot and Trump’s rhetoric, they need to resign, he added.

“There have to be consequences for this,” Bonneau said. “This is behavior that sought to undermine a free and fair election. If you don’t punish that, and you don’t punish that severely, then it will happen again. And next time, maybe it will be successful.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905. 


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