Capitol Rioters Face FBI Arrests and Prosecution. How Not to Make Them Martyrs in the Process

commentary

(NBC News THINK)

A protester is detained inside the U.S. Capitol as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A protester is detained inside the U.S. Capitol as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

by Brian Michael Jenkins

May 14, 2021

Justice remains the goal as prosecutors prepare their cases against the 440 people and counting who have been arrested on charges of participating in the riot at the Capitol in January. But whenever a large number of people are connected with some kind of wrongdoing, whether it's organized crime or ideologically-motivated violence, then law enforcement also takes into account the larger threat to society (PDF), not just the individual cases.

The righteous wrath of those who view January 6 as an insurrection—and believe we need uncompromising prosecution of those who incited, instigated, financed, or otherwise encouraged the attack regardless of the consequences—is understandable. But is it strategic thinking? It's crucial we prevent polarizing society further, escalating turmoil or galvanizing anti-government sentiment. The goal is isolation, not idolization. Any ability for offenders to claim they are victims of political persecution, victims of oppression, prisoners of conscience—in a word, “martyrs”—can lead to those very outcomes.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nbcnews.com.


Brian Michael Jenkins is an army combat veteran and currently serves as senior adviser to the president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, where he initiated one the nation's first research programs on terrorism. His books include Unconquerable Nation, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?, The Long Shadow of 9/11, When Armies Divide, and The Origin of America's Jihadists.

This commentary originally appeared on NBC News THINK on May 10, 2021. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.