It is clear that a number of those who directed the participants of the Stop The Steal march toward Congress on January 6 did so knowing full well that this The group included white nationalist militias. That didn’t stop Trump from pushing those forces into Congress with threats that failure to march could amount to the end of the nation. That didn’t stop Rep. Moe Brooks from telling the crowd that “today is the day American patriots start jotting names and kicking ass” and cheering the crowd to go after Congress, saying, “We American Patriots will come to them directly.” He didn’t stop Donald Trump Jr. from telling the crowd, “You have a chance today: you can be a hero or you can be zero. The choice is yours but we are all watching it.” And that didn’t stop Rudy Giuliani from telling the assembled militia members, “If we’re wrong, we’ll be fools. But if we’re right, many of them will go to jail. So, let’s get the fighting experience.”
Despite Donald Trump’s impeachment, actions against him or others on that day, whether civil or criminal, are expected to fail due to the Supreme Court’s strict restrictions on calls for violence. Going back decades, the court has insisted that the First Amendment protects calls for violence unless they are “clear and present,” which are generally read as specific and immediate. So Trump could criticize Congress and even demand that they be harmed, but unless he comes down to something like “crawl in there this moment and hang Nancy Pelosi,” those words wouldn’t be criminal. Mo Brooks should be especially happy with these rulings, because even by that standard, his January speech is. 6 have crossed the line.
But in 1941 the government prosecuted 29 men under the Smith Act, with the specific claim that the legislation had been passed by Congress with the absolute intent of eliminating the need to prove a clear and present danger. A district court upheld those convictions on appeal.
In this case, the Smith Act was used to prosecute members of the Socialist Workers Party associated with the Teamsters union. They were convicted not because they are immigrants, but because another part of the Smith Act sets a definition for “disruptive activities.” This includes any person who “prints, publishes, modifies, issues, distributes, sells, distributes or publicly displays” information intended to promote the overthrow of the government, as well as any person who “organises, assists, or attempts to organize any society, group, or gathering of persons who know or advocate or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence.”
What led to the Teamsters’ conviction in 1941 was evidence that they had published a newspaper promoting labor action against military contractors. Notably, the government also accused the group members of collecting “a A small arsenal of pistols and rifles” and that they conducted military-style exercises – a description that makes them look a lot like militia.
During the war, the Smith Act was used to prosecute individuals and groups that included some true Nazi sympathizers, fascists, and white supremacists including George W Christians and his white crusader shirts. But after the war, it was used primarily as a means of deporting immigrants suspected of communist tendencies, and in another connection to the current headlines, it was also used to prosecute people who Teacher about communism, as well as those who defended it. Some of those convicted under the Smith Act took their cases to the Supreme Court, which upheld their convictions. This included the 1949 case Dennis vs. the United StatesAnd the There were 11 members of the American Communist Party He was convicted of “calling for the violent overthrow of the United States government”.
The surprising thing about this case is that the charges were brought against the men not because of anything they had actually said, done or published, but on the grounds that communist philosophy advocated the violent overthrow of governments in general. The prosecution has already entered Communist Manifesto In the evidence, along with a bunch of pamphlets and articles that none of the accused wrote. “The prosecution argued that the texts call for violent revolution, and that by adopting the texts as its political basis, the defendants are also personally guilty of calling for the violent overthrow of the regime.”
If that sounds startling, the men were not only imprisoned for five years, but lost 6-2 in the Supreme Court. Justice Hugo Black explained in his dissenting book that “these petitioners have not been charged with attempting to overthrow the government. They have not been charged with public acts of any kind aimed at overthrowing the government. They have not even been accused of saying anything or writing anything that aims to overthrow the government.” “.
But they are still convicted.
Smith’s Law is still law. It has been misused in the past to prosecute – and prosecute – both immigrants and trade union organizers. It was used to imprison those who supported communism, just to support them idea communism.
But if public advocacy for the violent overthrow of the legitimate government was a violation of Smith’s law, let’s see some of the charges. If stockpiling weapons and conducting mock military exercises is a sign of discord, there are some good candidates. And if promoting anti-democratic ideas can lead to someone’s imprisonment… well, we’ll need more cells.