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“How the GOP Is Reshaping the Meaning of ‘Insurrection’ with State Capitol Protests”

by Joshua Brown
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Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr was not allowed to say anything by her Republican colleagues, but when she looked up to the people watching in the gallery they were shouting “Let her speak!” She then lifted up her microphone, showing them how strongly she felt about having a chance to speak. This made it clear that the Democratic lawmaker who is transgender was being stopped from expressing herself.

Seven people were taken into custody for going on someone else’s property without permission. The protest was loud but did not cause any harm or cause damage in any way. Even so, Republican politicians claimed Zephyr (the leader of the protest) had “motivated an uprising.”

Recently, Republicans have been very critical of protests at state capitols because they think it is similar to an uprising. This has happened four times this year and three times in the last five weeks.

This has been going on for the last 2 years. People have been using a wrong term to discuss public protests and even the election of Joe Biden as President in 2020. According to experts, this is not right because it doesn’t take into account the deadly attack that happened at the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021 due to supporters of Donald Trump’s. This attack caused the House to officially impeach Donald Trump for “inciting an uprising”.

Some Republicans have been trying to say that Democrats are the same as what happened on January 6th in Washington. But, according to Andy Nelson who works for the Democratic Party in Missoula County where Zephyr lives, it’s completely wrong and different because there was violence at the Capitol on January 6th, but no violence at all when they gathered in the House of Montana.

This week’s events in Montana were similar to what happened in Tennessee.Three Democratic lawmakers wanted more gun control legislation after a school shooting there, so they protested on the House floor with “Power to the people” written on a megaphone. The Republican leaders described it as an “insurrection”, so those three Democrats got kicked out by local commissions but then allowed back in later.

The supporters of a group in the state of Montana were so loud from their seats above that it stopped the legislative proceedings. The speaker at the Tennessee House, Cameron Sexton who is a Republican, was very mad about this . He said that what they did was just like starting an uprising in the Capitol and it might even be worse.

He said he was only talking about lawmakers and not protesters who were at the Capitol. He still believes that the Democratic lawmakers wanted to cause some trouble.

Democrats think that Republicans are trying to steer the conversation away from a really important issue.

Tennessee Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons expressed that many people strongly believe in what they’re protesting but some are trying to avoid further debates about the issue. Legal experts say that insurrection refers to a violent rebellion against a governing authority.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the word ‘insurrection’ was used to describe protests in places like Montana and Tennessee. However, Professor Laurence Tribe from Harvard University said that these demonstrations didn’t involve any physical harm or an attempt to make a new government – so they shouldn’t be called insurrections.

Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina, said that trying to overthrow government is called “insurrection”.

He added that protesting and disrupting things is not considered as insurrection – it’s just a protest.

Certain people on social media and in blogs have been using the word ‘insurrection’ when referring to protests at state capitols. This is a comparison to what happened on January 6th, when thousands of Trump supporters rushed into the Capitol in an attempt to keep Trump in office and stop the vote from being confirmed. During this time, some people even looked for Nancy Pelosi, who was House Speaker then, and yelled that Mike Pence should be hung.

Republicans using the word ‘insurrection’ in certain cases is totally wrong and it is also done on purpose. This is according to Yotam Ophir, a professor from University at Buffalo who studies incorrect information.

By saying the same term again and again, it will lose its power and meaning. Republicans are also doing this for two other reasons: they want to make Democrats look bad by labeling them as violent, while also making people believe that what happened on January 6 was exaggerated.

Recently in Montana, someone posted on Twitter saying that transgender people had taken control of the Capitol building. A right-wing website also described the protest as a “second takeover” from Democrats in just two months.

The Montana Freedom Caucus, which released a statement describing the insurrection, is also asking for somebody named Zephyr to be disciplined. It’s made up of 21 Republican lawmakers from Montana. This group was started in January and was encouraged by U.S House Freedom Caucus Member Rep Matts Rosendale who supported Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election being fraudulent.

Republican lawmakers finally agreed to not allow Zephyr to be present at the House floor, which made her have to vote from a distance. Even though the Republicans didn’t mention anything about an “insurrection”, some of them accused her of trying to get people into trouble or even hurt others.

This happened in Montana and Tennessee too, and it caused Republicans to shout out words like “insurrection”.

Donald Trump Jr. posted a tweet in February saying that transgender people had caused an uprising at the Oklahoma Capitol. However, local reports showed that hundreds of individuals who supported transgender rights were allowed into the Capitol by police officers and simply demonstrated without causing any problems.

Recently, in Minnesota there was a group of people who peacefully assembled outside the Senate building as the Democrats discussed some topics. This included things like LGBTQ rights and abortion. Nobody did anything bad or dangerous during this gathering.

Some conservative people said that their meetup was an ‘insurrection’, but really it wasn’t an extreme event like the riot at Capitol Hill on January 6th – where loads of people tried to interrupt a peaceful transfer of power in America’s democracy.

Clemmons, a Democratic representative in Tennessee, said that members of the other political party had spent so much time attempting to stop the minority parties’ voices from being heard. This made it so anyone else speaking up sounded like they were trying to cause an uprising even though they weren’t actually doing so.

Kruesi wrote something from Nashville and Swenson from New York. Kate Brumback in Atlanta, Steve Karnowski in St. Paul, Minnesota, Sam Metz in Salt Lake City and Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina all helped with this news report.

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