Attack on U.S. Capitol has many asking: ‘What is sedition?’

Credit: WSBTV Videos

caption arrowCaption
Georgia lawmakers, officials condemn violent protests at U.S. Capitol

Credit: WSBTV Videos

The mob was still in the U.S. Capitol when people — on television and social media — started throwing around the “s” word: sedition.

It wasn’t just that the rioters were entering the building while both the House and Senate were in session, most ignoring the prohibition of guns — including replicas and ammunition; sharp or pointed items; and liquids.

ExploreAJC's view: a shameful day in U.S. history

It was because they were using force to disrupt what the House and Senate were doing Wednesday: certifying the electoral ballots that would officially hand the White House to President-elect Joe Biden.

U.S. Code 18, section 2384 states: “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

The mob used force to try to stop Congress from doing its constitutional duty to certify November’s election, and that, experts said, is what made their actions seditious.

ExploreRaffensperger refutes election claims in letter to Congress

Biden went on television to call for an end to the occupation, saying the lawlessness “is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end, now.”

Devin Schindler, a law professor who once clerked for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Detroit Free Press: “For at least some of these protesters, particularly the ones that broke into the Capitol, I think there’s an extraordinarily strong case that they used force to delay, to hinder, the execution of our laws governing the election and how electoral votes are counted. It seems fairly clear to me, based on what we’re seeing, that folks are in fact, almost textbook violating this seditious conspiracy statute by using force to interfere with lawful government activity.”

But it wasn’t just those who broke in to the Capitol who were being called seditious; lawmakers, and even the president, were being accused of sedition as well.

ExploreCapitol riots bring new focus to 25th Amendment, presidential succession

Why?

In addition, according to Cornell Law School, the U.S. Code 18, section 2385 states:

“Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

“Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

“Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof —

“Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

“If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

“As used in this section, the terms ‘organizes’ and ‘organize’, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.”

About the Author

Editors' Picks