It was Wednesday, January 6th, I’ll never forget. With the help of Club Quarantine, I’d managed to stay up until 3 something that morning. Shaun King, bestselling author, civil rights activist, and in my mind, President of the Black Delegation had posted that we could expect the official results about 2 a.m., so, I made sure I was wide awake to hear the final election results for the state of Georgia.
By 3 a.m., they’d called the election for now Democratic Senator-elect Reverend Raphael Warnock, but the race was tight between Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff (D) and David Perdue (R). By that evening, 98% of the votes were counted and the state of Georgia had saved the democracy!
These were significant victories because it meant Democrats would take control of the Senate. This hadn’t happened in over a decade. So, not only was this a huge win for Democrats, but it was a historic win for African Americans. Reverend Raphael Warnock had become Georgia’s first Black Senator. Coupled with the fact that Jon Ossoff is a Russian Jew who interned for civil rights leader and U.S. Representative, the late John Lewis, this was a historic day because it meant that the Republican stronghold and ideology that was pervasive throughout the Trump administration, had finally come to a decade-long end.
By Thursday, President Trump was more fervent than ever about the possibility of voter fraud and had summons a rally in D.C. less than 24 hours later. As the day progressed, I couldn’t wait to take my first 15-minute break. That’s because they hadn’t officially called the race for Ossoff so when 2:30 came, I rushed from my work-from-home workstation and bolted down the hallway to my room. As I turned to CNN, I saw a huge crowd of supremist standing outside the Capitol. Like right outside. At first, I didn’t think much of it because again, President Trump had just held a rally. Though I tend to not watch because of the disrespect, I did on this particular morning; not realizing that he was rallying his supporters for the events that lie ahead.
As I continued to watch, I saw a huge crowd of predominantly white men enter…no let me rephrase that - storm the Capitol. So much so, that they overpowered the officers, shattered the windows, rummaged through the Senate chamber, ransacked Senators offices, and defecated in the hallways – all while recording and taking selfies alongside Capitol police.
As the night progressed, it was no longer referred to as Trump supporters storming the Capitol but an insurrection on our government by a mob of white supremist. An insurrection? I hadn’t heard that term used since I’d read in it in Mark 5:7 which says, ‘…there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.’ Coincidentally, that was the verse I used in my book entitled, ‘Crime, Criminals, and Redemption: What the Bible Says About Crime And Those Who Commit Them’. In it, I discuss how Barabbas was sentenced to death for a murder he committed during the insurrection. Thankfully, a last-minute reprieve paved the way for his immediate release. Ironically, when I thought about it, I realized that the same outcome was possible for every insurrectionist in attendance. How you might ask?
Because when it came time for Barabbas’ sentencing, at the behest of the community, Pilate pardoned Barabbas. And thus it was determined that Jesus would stand in his place. Jesus took the place of an insurrectionist and thus, our salvation begins to unfold. A murderer who attempted to overthrow the Roman empire was pardoned. That pardon established a biblical precedent. The precedent – that it’s biblical for an insurrectionist to go unpunished. I know that can be disheartening but I’ve used the very same precedent when asking God to pardon wrongfully convicted death row inmates. But here’s the kicker.
Should President Trump decide, he could pardon every supremist in attendance. That means of the estimated hundreds of law-breaking insurrectionists that were present, President Trump has the authority to pardon each and every one. But is it legal? According to former U.S. Attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, it is. Article II Section 2 Clause 1 of the Constitution states,
“…the president shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” 1
Those offenses include but are not limited to Rebellion and Insurrection (18 U.S. Code § 2383)2, Seditious Conspiracy (18 U.S. Code § 2384)3, and Advocating Overthrow of the Government (18 U.S. Code § 2385)4. For those who may not know, Title 18 is the main criminal code for the U.S. 5 That being said, each offense carries a minimum 10 to 20-year sentence punishable by law.
The thing about it is that as of today, the more than 100 of those captured, have not been officially charged with the aforementioned. According to the Justice Department’s website, they’ve only been charged with ‘knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; or knowingly, with intent to impede government business or official functions.’ 6 Though similar in nature, those aren’t official insurrection charges which may explain why the media refers to them as ‘rioters’ and not so much as insurrectionists. Just this Friday, the Justice Department even walked back previous statements about their intent to ‘capture and assassinate elected officials.’ 7 With that in mind, if that was their intent, that would have solidify them as such.
So what’s the difference between a rioter and an insurrectionist? According to the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, a riot is defined as, ‘a concerted action: (1) made in furtherance of an express common purpose; (2) through the use or threat of violence, disorder, or terror to the public; and (3) resulting in a disturbance of the peace. Under common law, the crime of riot requires the assemblage of three or more actors…while most riots occur in public places, they may also take place within prisons.’ 8 Key thing to remember is that a riot is for a common purpose resulting in disturbing the peace.
An insurrection, however, is ‘a violent uprising against an authority or government.’ 9 It occurs when a person, ‘…incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States.’ 10 The difference between the two is that a riot disturbs the peace for a common purpose while an insurrection is direct rebellion against the government. And though “Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said officials are looking at "significant felony cases" tied to sedition and conspiracy”, 11 none have been charged with insurrection…as of today. Crimes range from disorderly conduct, illegal entry, theft, interstate threats, to firearm-related crimes.
But, with all that in mind, on top of the fact that they…
Rummaged through the Senate chamber
Ransacked Senators offices, and
Defecated in the hallways…
It is still still both biblical and legal for them not to be punished for it.
As a woman of color and faith, that hit different. The fact that FELLOW COUNTRYMEN attempted to overthrow OUR NATION’S GOVERNMENT because they wanted to give President Trump four more years to ‘Make America Great Again’, which is code for keeping minorities underfoot, is upsetting. The fact that FELLOW COUNTRYMEN would rather overthrow the government than to give minorities access to opportunities, capital, and free enterprise after 400+ years of oppression, free labor, and discrimination is disturbing. But then to discover that it’s possible – both biblically and legally for them to walk away scot clean is heartbreaking. And though I might not like or agree with the fact that there’s biblical precedence, as a child of God I have to deal with it.
Is it easy? Not in the least because it just seems as if – yet again – the white man wins. Now hear me well. I am not racist. My salvation and other life-changing moments came through white people. But I’ve seen this movie before. This is the movie where white people always win while minorities take the L. Yeah, I’ve seen that before. Only this time it seems as if the plot has thickened and some of our fellow countrymen are about to take some L’s. And this is where the not-so-easy part comes in. As people of color and faith we have to, ‘…not rejoice when [white supremist] fall [and are charged].’ We also cannot, ‘…let [our] hearts be glad when they stumble [and are convicted]. Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from [them].’ - Proverbs 24:17 and 18
As people of color, we are going to have to be mindful of what we let come out of our mouths during this season. With a Black Vice President, a Democratic majority Senate, Black Lives Matter, and white supremist facing exposure and conviction, we have got to be silent during this time of judgment. If Proverbs 24:17, 18 says that we can’t rejoice, that includes commenting, joking, reposting, and discussing when the systems and people fall. Might I submit to you that one of the reasons why supremist have not been punished to the full extent of the law is because we kee-de-kee’d during their time of judgment. For 2021, I challenge you to keep your mouth off those that are being exposed and/or convicted. Not saying that you cannot discuss it but be sure that it’s done WITHOUT JUDGMENT and certainly don’t rejoice when they are.
“…For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Matthew 7:1,2
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2- “18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2383.
3- “18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious Conspiracy.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2384.
4- “18 U.S. Code § 2385 - Advocating Overthrow of the Government.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2385.
5- -WIkipedia contributors. "Title 18 of the United States Code." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Dec. 2020. Web. 17 Jan. 2021.
8- “Riot.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2383.
9- “18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2383.
10- “18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2383.
11 - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55626148