We must demand a clear standard for 'peaceful protest'
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
—Amendment I, U.S. Constitution
Our ruling class in general, and the U.S. Congress in particular, are using a double standard while deciding whether any given protest has been peaceful or not.
On one hand, BLM/Antifa protests that typically led to violent riots, gross property destruction, looting, burning of buildings, Red Guard–style "repudiations," and even homicides were mostly characterized by several leading members of the U.S. Congress as "peaceful" and, as such, protected by First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hardly any rioters and looters, even of those who were apprehended while protesting, and those disobeying law enforcement instructions, were actually punished.
On the other hand, mostly peaceful protest in the Capitol area that resulted in relatively minor property damage inside the Capitol building and psychological discomfort of the participating members of Congress in session on Jan. 6, 2021 has been declared, by several congressional leaders, an insurrection and an act of domestic terror. According to said members, not only are even those who did not break anything or threaten anybody not protected by First Amendment, but stern punishment is warranted for participants who just followed the crowd in their unobstructed way into the Capitol building in order to petition their government for redress of their grievances regarding what they considered dishonest and unfair elections. It appears that the Congress may undertake an action (most likely in a form of legislation) that would result in enhancements of criminal penalties, as well as and broadening of their scope of enforcement, for participants of any Capitol protest.
YouTube screen grab (cropped).
We need our federal Legislature to clarify once and for all a clear standard of what the adjective "peaceful" in the context of protests means and to apply such standard equally to all protests without regard to the contents of the message that the protesters convey. According to a Supreme Court's ruling (reference here), the government may impose, if it has a significant (and compelling, in the case of restrictions on political speech) interest of doing so, "reasonable time, place, and manner" restrictions on exercise of one's First Amendment rights, but only if they do not discriminate based on the content of expression. In particular, any restriction on protesters' First Amendment rights, by means of declaring their protest as not peaceful, that applies to those protesting elections "irregularities" and fraud must equally apply to BLM/Antifa and all other present and future protesters of their perceived racial inequality, etc.
It is true that a few of the unarmed individuals present on the scene did behave badly in the House (the people's House). However, I have not seen any credible evidence that they were bona fide participants in the protest who were expressing their grievances regarding widespread election "irregularities" and fraud. Some evidence exists that at least some were planted provocateurs (or "observers," as some of them called themselves) who intended to turn a peaceful protest into a violent riot.
Mark Andrew Dwyer's recent columns are posted at https://federalobserver.com/?