Florida Man Charged in Plot to Harm Capitol Rioters
Almost all of the charges stemming from the Capitol riots targeted protesters who were there on behalf of then-President Donald Trump who was still falsely insisting that he won the election. The group arrived hoping to disrupt the process of counting the electoral votes, stormed the Capitol, looted the building, and attacked police officers. Pro-Trump protesters were also set to march on the State Capitol of Florida in Tallahassee, but the protest never materialized.
Now, someone on the other side of the fence is facing charges for conspiring to attack the rioters during the Tallahassee protest. This individual is described as anti-capitalist, anti-white-supremacist, and anti-government.
The individual in question, Daniel Baker, is a former military man who was dishonorably discharged after going AWOL before his deployment in Iraq. Ironically, he called on fellow anti-fascists to confront the protesters at the Capitol making a circle around them to prevent them from leaving. Baker also believed the confrontation would lead to civil war and is accused of threatening and conspiring to injure and kill members of the protest.
What Did Baker Do That Was Illegal?
The First-Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants every American the right to practice the religion of their choice, make political statements, and guarantees that prior restraint (censorship) can only happen under the most extreme conditions. However, there are certain types of speech that are not protected. Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, for example, a form of speech likely to evoke panic, is, of course, illegal.
Also illegal, calling others to violence. You cannot make statements that are likely to call others to engage in an armed conflict. You can’t call on others to join an attack on members of a political group.
Baker, for his part, created an online flier for the event encouraging Tallahassee residents to rise up against the Trump terrorists with “every caliber available”. Since the threats were of a variety likely to be interpreted as true by the Trump supporters and law enforcement, they are considered illegal under the law.
Basically, for an utterance to be considered illegal, the utterance must include a direct threat against someone who is vulnerable to attack. The individual who issued the threat must have the means to carry it out. In this case, Baker was calling on members of the Tallahassee community to engage with other members of the Tallahassee community in armed combat. It’s within the realm of possibility that members of the community would hear Baker’s cries and respond to them.
So yes, Baker’s speech is not covered by the First Amendment which excludes direct calls to violence.
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