When hundreds of pro-Trump protesters stunned and horrified the nation by forcing their way into the United States Capitol Wednesday, self-described “Anti-Communist Counter-Revolutionary” McCall Calhoun was among the first through the doors.
“The Deep State cannot stop us,” he wrote on Parler, a social media network popular with Trump supporters, “They learned that today when we stormed the Capitol and took it. The word is we’re all coming back armed for war.”
Calhoun, a practicing attorney in Americus for 30 years, admitted his participation in the riot in an exclusive interview with the AJC in which he described the mob as patriotic and heroic.
“This was civil disobedience. Anyone who claims it was anything other than civil disobedience was not there, and they did not see it and they do not know,” he said, referring to the riot that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer and a Kennesaw woman who was reportedly crushed to death in the crowd.
Calhoun, who said he primarily does criminal defense work in his south Georgia city, said the assault on Congress was done out of frustration over what he said was a stolen election.
“The crowd was of one mind. Everybody there had the same attitude. They felt they had been robbed of a fair election and the Congress wasn’t listening to them,” he said. “It probably wasn’t the best idea, but it was what this group of people did; they did it for the love of America.”
For months prior to the rally, Calhoun took to social media to express his ire at Democrats and antifa and to warn of a coming civil war.
“As part of the anti-communist counter revolution we’ve got to get serious about stopping them by force of arms,” Calhoun wrote on Parler in October. He said “regular Americans” had to be prepared to take action.
On Twitter, Calhoun retweeted a doctored photo of Joe Biden that mentioned hanging him.
When asked about the tweet, Calhoun was dismissive.
“Trump voters say that all the time,” he said. “We’re just ornery.”
Calhoun defended statements he has made about civil war as heated political rhetoric, not actual warnings that he and others intended violence during the assault on the Capitol.
While he said police attempted to stop the crowd from entering before giving way to the throng, Calhoun described the rioters as “tourists” looking at, but not disturbing, the building’s priceless paintings and artwork.
“The people who went in there, what they did was heroic. It was very patriotic,” he said. “I’m not saying it was the ideal thing to do. I am saying at that time and place those people felt like that was their only hope. They don’t want to lose their democratic republic.”
Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor who teaches legal ethics, had another way to describe it.
“I would say what he did – I would say what all of them did that entered the Capitol —is the serious federal felony of sedition. It’s the domestic equivalent of treason,” he said. “It wasn’t a sit-in. They knew the Congress was convened to do perhaps the most important thing a Congress can do: preside over the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.”
The mob went there to prevent that action, Cunningham said.
However, if Calhoun maintains it was an act of civil disobedience, Cunningham invited him to follow the practice of Gandhi and others and accept the legal penalty. For sedition, it’s a prison sentence of up to 20 years, he said.
“A central point of civil disobedience is you accept the penalty of breaking the law,” he said. “That’s what makes civil disobedience, potentially, a virtuous act.”
Calhoun said the worst criminal act he did was “trespassing.”
“I would freely admit that I trespassed, but I did it for the love of my country,” he said.
Regarding his status as a lawyer, Cunningham said Calhoun appears to have violated basic rules set by the Georgia Supreme Court on misconduct. According to the rules, lawyers can be disciplined or permanently disbarred if they “commit a criminal act that relates to the lawyer’s fitness to practice law or reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”