There’s no doubt that America is divided – now more than ever. The advent of Covid-19 served to divide the nation further. These divisions exploded onto the national scene during the 2020 presidential election. Those favoring President Trump reacted in disbelief when he lost to Joe Biden.
Many, fueled by post-Covid isolation, took to the streets to protest the election results. A lot of these protesters were genuinely upset and engaged in their First Amendment right of self-expression.
This culminated in the Capitol Hill riot, which started as a massive protest of Trump’s defeat. Rioters and extremists hijacked the rally, and armed with pipe bombs and firearms, occupied and ransacked the Senate chambers. Five people died, and over 140 were injured during this riot.
The FBI responded swiftly, charging more than 300 people with federal crimes, including members of the anti-government paramilitary Oath Keepers and neo-fascist Proud Boys.
Here’s the issue. In the wide net cast by the FBI, many legitimate protestors got ensnared in the net. As acknowledged by the Homeland Security Division of the Law Vegas Metropolitan Police Department:
“The challenge for law enforcement is determining the difference between someone who is ranting and raving and someone who is capable of carrying out an act of mass violence.”
That’s the problem. Those engaged in protected First Amendment speech, or “ranting and raving,” as law enforcement puts it, get swept up in law enforcement’s aggressive effort to round up those actually committing mass violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Ensnared in the Net
This is how the scenario plays out. Protesters attend the protest near the U.S. Capitol. They get caught up in the mass arrests and end up appearing in federal court, charged with participating in the Capitol Hill riot. They don’t have criminal records and aren’t linked to extremist groups like the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys.
The federal magistrate judge, at their court appearance, has little sympathy. He orders them to be detained and transferred to Washington, D.C., to face prosecution. The judge condemns them as showing utter disregard and shocking lack of respect for the country’s most sacred institutions.
The Change in Law Enforcement
Cases like this illustrate the changing and evolving nature of law enforcement. According to one professor specializing in the study of extremism, law enforcement will have to “get a new grip on how they coordinate intelligence and engage with various groups at conflictual events.” A representative of the Homeland Security Division of the Law Vegas Metropolitan Police Department went further, stating that law enforcement needs to treat domestic radicalism like international terrorist threats.
Protecting Your Right to Free Speech
All this illustrates the increased threat to free speech in Nevada and America. If you are engaged in legitimate protesting, you may get caught up in this law enforcement frenzy and be charged with domestic terrorism. If you find yourself in this position, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Our experienced defense lawyers will defend you and protect your right to protected free speech.