1664837597 Armed Rebellion US militia in court for raiding the Capitol

“Armed Rebellion”: US militia in court for raiding the Capitol

Hundreds of radical supporters of President Donald Trump, who was removed from office in the 2020 presidential election, stormed Congress just as Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory was supposed to be certified.

The attack on the Capitol with five dead caused horror around the world and is considered a dark day in the history of American democracy. In the weeks and months that followed, more than 870 perpetrators were arrested. Penalties have already been imposed in hundreds of cases, including for attacks on the police.

“Like a General on the Battlefield”

However, the trial against members of the “Oath Keepers” is the first with the serious charge of “seditious conspiracy”. The accused can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The charge, which dates back to the Civil War and is rarely used, includes attempts to overthrow the US government.

The militia founder,

AP/Susan Walsh Stewart Rhodes founded the right-wing extremist group in 2009

The trial of the far-right leaders began last week with jury selection. On Monday, prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler opened the trial in federal court in Washington. The force’s purpose was to “violently oppose the US government,” he said, showing jury footage of dozens of “Oath Keepers” in stun gear attacking the US Congressional building on Jan. 6, 2021.

“You didn’t come to the Capitol to defend or help. They came to attack,” accuses Nestler accused of militia founder Stewart Rhodes and his comrades-in-arms Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson. Rhodes, known for his black eye patch, acted “like a general on the battlefield,” Nestler said.

“Pelosi First”

According to the indictment, Meggs told his wife on US Election Day, “I’m going to stage a killing spree. Pelosi first.” This was a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress. Meggs and Harrelson were specifically looking for Pelosi.

The five defendants trained for January 6 and stockpiled weapons for a “rapid reaction force” at a hotel outside Washington. This one was ready to transport weapons to Washington. However, members of the far-right militia are not accused of carrying firearms on Capitol grounds.

Capitol Hearing on Capitol Storm January 2021

APA / AFP / Doug Mills A U-committee had previously dealt with the militia’s connections to Trump officials

Prosecutors said Watkins told Oath Keepers members at their Ohio chapter, “I need you ready to go before inauguration.” The real question is who is ready to die.” According to prosecutors, the quoted phrase comes from a text message from Meggs.

Defense argues with insurrection law

Defendants’ defense argued that their clients were only in Washington to protect various speakers at political rallies. Furthermore, his aim was by no means the overthrow of the government. Instead, they would expect Trump to activate the Insurrection Act of 1807 and then legitimately task militias like the Oath Keepers with maintaining law and order.

Prosecutor Nestler dismissed such an argument on Monday as “legal cover”. The indictment referred, among other things, to messages from the “Oath Keepers” on encrypted messaging services, in which they spoke of a “civil war”. Co-defendant Caldwell wrote that if Congress certifies Biden’s election victory, he will “personally start the civil war.”

Rhodes, who trained as a lawyer at Yale and served as a paratrooper in the US Army, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009. The militia is a nonpartisan group whose members are committed to upholding the US Constitution. Rhodes’ attorney described his client as “extremely patriotic. He is a constitutional expert.”

Great sympathy for Trump

In particular, the militia recruits former or current police and soldiers and wants to defend itself against an alleged tyranny of the US government. As with other extremist groups, the Oath Keepers have strong sympathies for Trump.

The commission of inquiry into the invasion of the United States Capitol had previously examined the activities of the “Oath Keepers” in more detail. According to the U-Committee’s findings, the group played a decisive role in the attack alongside the other right-wing extremist militia “Proud Boys”. Some of them appeared in full combat gear and coordinated the attack.