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Incitement of Insurrection Meaning

United States Capitol
Insurrection can be defined as act of revolting against an established government.

Incitement of insurrection means that someone is promoting, organizing, and encouraging people to revolt against the government.

Definition of an Insurrection

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an insurrection as:

“An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”

This means any riotous or mob-like activity which is seen to be aimed at shifting or altering a governmental landscape can be defined as an insurrection.

Generally speaking, rioting can be reviewed as spontaneous behavior. We often see it where one activity or event sparks a riot among protestors or other gatherings of humanity.

An insurrection is usually planned with a clear goal in mind.

Definition of ‘Incitement’ and Why it is Bad

According to American law, the official meaning of incitement is:

“To organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry out a riot” includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such acts.

USA Today headline
Donald Trump supporters were accused of insurrection when they entered the Capitol buildings on January 6, 2021.

But What Does All That Mean?

In plain English, incitement is spurring on or encouraging someone or a group of people to commit unlawful behavior.

While it’s not a crime to encourage someone to do something out of their own free will, incitement would involve the encouragement of criminal acts. That’s why there are federal laws against it.

What Is Incitement of Insurrection, and How It’s Done?

Taking what we know already, inciting an insurrection is the crime of urging or encouraging another person to rebel against the state’s authority.

This can be done through the following:

  • speech
  • writing
  • other forms of communication
National Guard
National Guard in Washington, DC.

The ways and means of inciting an insurrection have changed throughout the ages. With the growth and subsequent prevalence of technology, it has become much easier for those in positions of power to reach sympathetic ears.

Previously, leaders would generally stand at a podium or publish written works to deliver commands or promote ideologies. However, as time and technological progress has taken hold, we’ve seen radio, television, and, even more recently, the internet utilized in these events.

For example, President Donald Trump leveraged Twitter throughout his election campaign and during his tenure in the White House to deliver political news and stances.

But the recent Commander in Chief also used the eponymous social media app to whip up his followers into a furor following the 2020 election result.

smart phone
President Trump was a prolific tweeter before his account was suspended.

Who Was the Last Person To Incite an Insurrection?

Throughout American history, there have been many examples of insurrections. However, as mentioned above, the most recent event occurred in 2021 when the outgoing President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill.

Donald J. Trump
President Trump has been accused of inciting an insurrection.

Disbelieving the president’s impending loss to Democratic candidate Joe Biden at the 2020 general election, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building to stop Congress from counting the electoral college votes that would see his tenure end.

On January 6, President Trump’s supporters made their way into the Capitol building in Washington DC, which eventually saw five people tragically lose their lives and another 14 reported to have been injured in the clashes.

The insurrection of the Capitol building would see President Trump become the first President to ever be impeached twice.

The first call for impeachment was in 2020 after reports that Trump used Ukraine to investigate his political opponents – a charge of which he was later cleared.

Democrats called for a second impeachment after the insurrection, but the former president was acquitted again, and the charges were quashed.

What Are the Penalties for Incitement of Insurrection?

The penalties for inciting an insurrection are severe. If found guilty of encouraging or causing a revolt against the government, you could face a fine, up to 10 years imprisonment, or both.

Plus, those guilty are considered ineligible for re-election in the United States.

Inciting an insurrection can lead to 10 years in jail.

Moreover, anyone convicted of participating in an insurrection can be fined up to $250,000. These penalties are just a few of the many that are in place to discourage people from trying to overthrow the government.

In the wake of the 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, there have now been over 910 arrests. Those arrests have developed into a range of convictions and subsequent punishments. 

However, that number is predicted to get even larger as even more arrests are forecast. In addition, just 390 of those federally charged for the Capitol riot have entered guilty pleas.

How To Prevent Incitement of Insurrection?

Nobody wants to see a repeat of the awful scenes in January 2021. So how can we ensure they never happen again?

As the adage says, violence begets violence.

Preventing the incitement of an insurrection is a three-pronged approach. First, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the signs of insurrection.

Look out for people who are publicly trying stir-up negative feelings and encouraging acts of violence.

Second, communicate regularly. When people feel they have someone to engage with, they are less likely to start moving toward those more aggressive thoughts and actions.

Being ignored, marginalized, or talked over can cause people to take more drastic measures to be heard.

Finally, if violence has become inevitable, it’s important to act quickly but sensibly.

Avoid being drawn into physical confrontations in favor of informing the relevant authorities of the escalation. As we’ve seen in the past, engaging in violence almost certainly leads to more violence.

Implications of Insurrection

When defining what incitement of insurrection is, there is a clear answer. But, as we have seen from painful recent events, the aftershocks of insurrections usually stretch far wider than the venue they are in.

Insurrection can lead to anarchy.

Destruction, chaos, and even death follow these acts. So it’s important to know what the signs leading up to an event look like and how we can come together to prevent them from ever happening again.

Although legal and political frameworks are regularly bemoaned, we have them for a reason, and these statutes are designed to keep us safe from harm.

When events like insurrections occur, they do so outside of the legal frameworks we all operate under. This anarchic scenario never results in a fair and reasonable outcome.

Incitement of Insurrection must be strictly controlled to avoid it happening.

2 Responses

  1. Umm insurrection applies to a LEGITIMATE government.
    Encouraging people to march on (where ever) is not insurrection.

    When certain politicians try to install an illegitimate government (eg a president as example), they commit treason. Again, demanding they don’t do that is not insurrection.

    FYI that pesky 9th amendment overrides all laws to the contrary. Constitutional amendments control whatever topic they were for.
    And it is a right of the people to abolish ANY government (see Declaration of Independence).
    It is a right that cannot be taken away, suspended, or controlled.
    9th amendment secures the Declaration of Independence as part of our inalienable rights.

  2. Everyone knows we need to do what we don’t necessarily want to do…and most of us can agree that doing wrong may be the only way to get it right, hence free will!!

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