The guns of January

Brian Ulrich (photo, left), “one of the 11 members of the Oath Keepers facing sedition-related charges” from the Capitol riot, pleaded guilty on Friday, April 29, 2022, CNN reported here.

Briefly, he’s going to prison for taking guns to Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021.

CNN described his guilty plea as a “major step in the criminal case against the Oath Keepers,” who prosecutors are seeking to prove “plotted to stash weapons across the Potomac River, go to the Capitol and stop Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.”

CNN said Brian Ulrich, Joshua James, and Mark Grods “traveled together to DC on January 4. In his own plea agreement, James admitted to bringing a semi-automatic handgun on the trip, and said Grods and others brought firearms, including a rifle, a shotgun, a semi-automatic handgun, and ammunition to a Virginia hotel.”

And in chat messages before Jan. 6, “Ulrich repeatedly asked about bringing guns to DC” and “said civil war might be necessary” and made other references to violence, CNN said.

Of the 15,000 or so people who descended on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, at last report 815 have been criminally charged, many with simple trespass. Others have been charged with obstructing an official proceeding (i.e., certifying the 2020 presidential election). Judges have mostly let those rioters off with probation and fines.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who’s up for reelection in 2022, has described them as “tourists.” Most other Republicans in Congress have blown off the insurrection or tried to divert attention from it. Almost no Republicans have acknowledged it as the serious assault on democracy it was. They’ve claimed the rioters were “unarmed.”

But it’s now known at least a few people in the mob were carrying guns, and many more used flagpole spears, bear spray, and thrown objects as weapons. They also wrestled shields away from police officers, more than 100 of whom were injured in the melee. Five people died as a result of the riot.

The most serious charges to date have been brought against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, two far-right paramilitary groups. Unlike the other rioters, they planned ahead of time to attack the Capitol, and worked together to breach police lines and occupy the building. Prosecutors are concentrating on the leaders and organizers of these groups, and offering followers like Ulrich plea deals in exchange for their cooperation with investigators.

Even so, Ulrich, James, and Grods are likely to do prison time. Like many others, Ulrich was teary-eyed when he faced the judge, but it’s unclear whether that’s because he now realizes the gravity of what they did. More likely it’s the realization that he ruined his life. It’ll probably take longer for him to realize his actions that day betrayed all the sacrifices others have made for our freedom, if he ever does.

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