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UB experts offer perspectives on attack on Capitol

Rioters supporting President Trump assembled on the lawn in front of the Capitol building.

UB faculty members have something to say about the violent takeover of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6. Photo: Tyler Merbler, this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

UBNOW STAFF

Published January 11, 2021

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UB faculty members from a variety of disciplines have something to say about the Jan. 6 siege by rioters on the U.S. Capitol.

Gardner calls Trump’s actions ‘an act of treason’

Elections law expert James Gardner, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Bridget and Thomas Black Professor in the School of Law, calls Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump “an act of violence and insurrection of a kind not seen in this country since the Civil War.”

“That a sitting president would incite the violent seizure of a coordinate branch of government represents a complete rejection by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer of any kind of constitutional order,” Gardner says.

“It is an act of pure destruction, and thus constitutes treason against the United States.”

Gardner outlines options available to lawmakers if they choose to seek Trump’s removal from office.

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Misinformation won over free speech and democracy

The misinformation that led to the siege of the U.S. Capitol has made it clear that freedom of speech currently outweighs societal good in the U.S., says UB information literacy expert Heidi Julien.

Election misinformation — including claims that the general election was stolen — has proven to be a threat on democracy, says Julien, professor of information science in the Graduate School of Education, adding that political leaders and executives of social media companies bear responsibility for the rampant spread of falsehoods.

But Julien says that “half-baked” actions by Facebook and Twitter to label misinformation or ban people who disseminate misinformation “is too little too late.”

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Race of Capitol rioters determined treatment

Noting the “glaring” double standard in the way law enforcement treats people of different races, UB faculty member Henry Louis Taylor Jr. says there would have been “a bloodbath” had predominantly Black and Brown group of rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week.

“I am stunned by the restraint showed by law enforcement, including the National Guard. This crowd of angry Trump supporters stormed the nation’s capital,” says Taylor, professor of urban and regional planning, who researches issues of race and class.

“If hundreds of Black and Brown people had stormed the nation’s capital, there would have been a bloodbath.”

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Invoking 25th Amendment will further divide nation

UB political scientist James E. Campbell says invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office in the wake of the violence Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol will further divide an already-divided nation.

“If you want to heal the nation, I can’t think of a worse idea than using the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump. It’s like pouring gasoline on a bonfire,” says Campbell, UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

Campbell studies polarization and has written extensively on the subject, including his book “Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America.”

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Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed by faculty in commentary about current events are based on their scholarship and/or research and do not represent the official positions of the University at Buffalo.

READER COMMENT

Sen. Cruz's proposal of a commission to study fraud in the 2020 election was motivated by his desire to take political advantage of a volatile situation, and Congress was right in rejecting it. But this is a case of good idea, terrible timing. Once the new administration is in place, Democrats should propose a similar broadly based commission to study election fraud, not only with regard to the 2020 election but more generally as well. This would give them an opportunity to expose not only the fairness of 2020 voting but also the real fraud in our elections that takes place when voter roles are trimmed. The recommendations of such a commission could lead to better practices in the future and Republicans would be hard put to oppose its formation, given their earlier support of the concept.

Gerald R Rising