Republicans have no use for the French. The Brits were with us when we headed off to Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and destroy his weapons of mass destruction, in response to what had happened on September 11, 2001, because he was one of “them” – which he wasn’t. And there were no weapons of mass destruction. When the French said they’d have nothing to with such foolishness, in public, at the United Nations, French Fries became Freedom Fries and a lot of French wine was poured into American gutters. Bill O’Reilly led the charge from his perch atop Fox News. He’d lead a boycott to destroy the French economy. But he didn’t and he’s long one now. Republicans forget the French. Their angry base did too. And the French shrugged. None of this mattered much to them.
But the angry base of the Republican Party seems to be getting a bit French. There was July 14, 1789, the storming of the Bastille, to free all those political prisoners, the revolutionaries, jailed for simply protesting their lot in life – and the Revolution was on! Robespierre and his Reign of Terror followed, everyone ratting out everyone else and a lot of heads rolling into the baskets at the guillotines. Everyone was scared of everyone else. Who would be accused of what and lose everything? Greg Abbott is giving that a go in Texas with the abortion thing, but without the guillotines.
But that’s another matter. Revolutions start with storming the giant prison and freeing all the political prisoners. Then the heads can and will roll. Mike Pence can finally be hung. That woman who said she was at the Capitol on January 6 to put a bullet in Nancy Pelosi’s brain will finally be able to do that. But first it’s storming the Bastille, if anyone can find this country’s Bastille these days. Perhaps we don’t have one.
But never mind. As the Washing Post reports, the angry right is going French:
Law enforcement authorities are monitoring plans by supporters of former president Donald Trump to rally outside the U.S. Capitol later this month to argue that the hundreds of people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection are political prisoners, an assertion that has exploded beyond far-right rallying cries and into mainstream conservatism.
That’s the call on Fox News now. Free these political prisoners! They did nothing! The spoke their minds! They’re allowed to do that! They’re innocent patriots!
That’s what this is about:
Look Ahead America, a nonprofit group founded and led by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, is planning a “Justice for J6” rally on Sept. 18 to bring its message to Washington. Braynard’s followers believe many of the more than 570 people who have been charged with federal crimes in the attack were nonviolent and “reasonably believed they had permission” to enter the Capitol, according to a Jan. 29 letter Braynard sent to the Department of Justice and FBI. Braynard’s letter demands prosecutors drop all charges.
In short, it was all a big mistake. They were sure that they had been invited. What the problem here? And now the want to drop by the Capitol again, this time with permission:
Braynard’s group requested to hold its rally at Union Square, the public park by the Capitol Reflecting Pool, according to a permit application his group submitted to the U.S. Capitol Police Board. Although local authorities have not provided crowd estimates, Look Ahead America estimates that 700 people will attend – up from an earlier estimate of 500 in a previous permit application. Plans for a counterprotest began to circulate online this week.
Yes, there will be trouble, and this will be tricky:
Authorities have not yet granted a permit for the event, Kimmie Gonzalez, the group’s director of government affairs who attended the meeting, said in an interview Thursday. The permit application described the event as “a peaceful demonstration of our First Amendment rights.”
That’s what Kimmie says. But there is experience:
A violent mob stormed the seat of the U.S. government on Jan. 6, disrupting Congress from confirming President Biden’s election victory and resulting in the deaths of five people. In April, a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building, killing a Capitol police officer, and last month, a man threatening that he had a bomb parked a truck near the Capitol and demanded to speak to Biden.
During the Jan. 6 riot, Trump supporters brawled with police, broke windows, threatened to harm lawmakers and stormed through the white pillared building.
Or that never happened:
Groups such as the far-right Proud Boys and Oathkeepers quickly organized to raise money for their members who faced federal charges, said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and the former director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
They embraced a counternarrative, that many of those at the riot were simply swept away in a moment of nonviolent political protest. This was soon a talking point among Republican lawmakers aiming to downplay the events of Jan. 6, including Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) who said footage of the riot that day appeared to be “a normal tourist-visit.”
He still says that, but they all say that now:
Braynard has held rallies for Jan. 6 arrestees before, including a small showing in July outside the D.C. Central Detention Facility where about 100 demonstrators gathered and carried signs that said “protests are not insurrections” and “patriots are not terrorists.” D.C. jail officials have also turned away Republican members of Congress – Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Tex.) – who showed up in July demanding to inspect the treatment and conditions of those detained on charges related to the Jan. 6 riot.
Those representatives all opposed a probe of Jan. 6 and were part of the group of 21 House Republicans who voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all police officers who responded that day.
“It was like wildfire. This went from the fringes to the GOP to Fox very, very quickly,” Beirich said. “Most of conservative America seems to think that January 6th was no big deal.”
But now some of them are a bit worried:
The Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, has told its members on social media posts not to attend this month’s rally, citing concerns that they would be arrested. Some ranks of the Proud Boys have splintered since its leader, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was revealed to have been an FBI informant.
“We aren’t going and you shouldn’t either because errbody [sic] going to jail. Sounds like bait,” the Proud Boys wrote in a message. This does not necessarily mean members of other factions will not attend.
“I was at the 6th and we got played,” one user wrote in another message.
But the organizers say that’s just not so:
On the recent conference call with local officials, Gonzalez said she was asked about the purpose of the event, the number of attendees, vendors and whether Look Ahead America was aware of any other “groups” planning to attend.
“Our event is a Rally Against Political Persecution to bring awareness and attention to the unjust and unethical treatment of nonviolent January 6 political prisoners who are being denied their basic rights as afforded by the Constitution,” a description of the event reads on a permit application.
“The event will include the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance, songs of patriotism, prayer, guest speakers, and the showing of a video. We will be using this time to make our voices heard in asking that all charges be dropped for nonviolent detainees and they be released from solitary confinement.”
And really, there was no violence, and really, she doesn’t know those other people over there in the corner:
Look Ahead America, Gonzalez said, has “no relationship” with the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers. But she said that she has heard from state-level volunteer coordinators for the group’s “Satellite Rallies to #FreePoliticalPrisoners,” which occurred this summer in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida and New Jersey, that members of the Proud Boys have showed up to some rallies.
However, there was “zero incident,” she said. “They came to listen. There was no attack, there was no violence, there was no incidents, no altercations, no anything… everyone came in peace.”
At least that’s what she heard from her people, which impressed no one:
A federal law enforcement official said the FBI was aware of online chatter about the event, and said Capitol and D.C. police were discussing extra security precautions. Though many similar events in the past have come and gone without incident, law enforcement has generally eyed them more warily since Jan. 6.
They know better now, but at least this guy won’t be there. The New York Times reports on the famous flamboyant shaman:
Jacob Chansley, a former actor and Navy sailor widely known as the QAnon Shaman, who stormed the Capitol in January in stars-and-stripes face paint and a horned fur hat, pleaded guilty on Friday to a single felony count of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress.
Mr. Chansley, 34, became one of the best-known figures in the Capitol breach after images of him standing shirtless on the Senate floor brandishing a spear made from a flagpole shot around the globe, vividly representing the role played in the riot by adherents of QAnon, the cultlike conspiracy theory embraced by some backers of former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Chansley, who says he has now lost faith in Mr. Trump, remained in the spotlight even after his arrest.
He changed his tune but it was too late to change anything else. He was and still is a strange fellow:
In February, his lawyer, Albert Watkins, persuaded a federal judge to order the jail where Mr. Chansley was being detained to provide him with a strict diet of organic meals. The next month, Mr. Chansley gave a widely watched interview to “60 Minutes,” saying that his actions on Jan. 6 were not an attack on the nation, but rather a way to “bring God back into the Senate.”
He seemed to think that God had been hanging out there for ages and had left in a huff when Trump’s big 2020 win was stolen from him. But there would be no more of that:
His plea hearing in Federal District Court in Washington on Friday departed from the circuslike atmosphere that has surrounded the case from the start. He did not speak other than to answer yes-or-no procedural questions. Under the terms of his deal, Mr. Chansley agreed to accept a recommended 41 to 51 months in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17.
He wasn’t going to argue:
Among the first rioters to break into the Capitol, Mr. Chansley was arrested three days later and charged with civil disorder, obstruction, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and demonstrating in a Capitol building. Prosecutors say that while he was in the Senate chamber, he left a note on the desk of Vice President Mike Pence saying, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
That sounded like a serious threat. It was time to move on. And this wasn’t his fault:
Mr. Chansley, who had appeared in his shaman costume at several pro-Trump rallies before Jan. 6, was also one of the first defendants to blame Mr. Trump for his own behavior at the riot. A few weeks after Mr. Chansley’s arrest, Mr. Watkins said that Mr. Trump was culpable of inciting his followers to attack the Capitol, adding that he planned to ask the White House for a pardon for his client.
“Does our president bear responsibility?” Mr. Watkins told the New York Times at the time. “Hell, yes, he does.”
So, will Joe Biden pardon the QAnon Shaman? Watkins hopes so:
More recently, Mr. Watkins has said that Mr. Chansley – like other rioters – felt betrayed by Mr. Trump. He also said that Mr. Chansley has repudiated the QAnon cult and would like to be known merely as a shaman, not the QAnon shaman.
“The path charted by Mr. Chansley since Jan. 6 has been a process, one which has involved pain, depression, solitary confinement, introspection, recognition of mental health vulnerabilities and a coming to grips with the need for more self-work,” Mr. Watkins said in a statement on Thursday.
So yes, cut him some slack! No one else will:
At a news conference after the hearing, Mr. Watkins told reporters that Mr. Chansley had been under pressure from his family not to plead guilty. His family, Mr. Watkins said, believed that Mr. Trump was going to be reinstated as president and could issue Mr. Chansley a pardon…
“It took a lot of courage for a young man who was raised by his mother to say, ‘No,’” Mr. Watkins said.
That’s a lot of courage? Maybe these days that is courage. Or it’s common sense. Those may be the same thing now. No one is storming any Bastille. We are not the French. We are just weird. And we seem to have unfinished business.