It’s a dubious distinction to be the first Triad resident convicted of a misdemeanor in relation to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol. It’s not something, we hope, that anyone would place on a resume. It’s more likely something that the resident in question hopes will disappear from public consciousness — the quicker, the better.
The distinction belongs to Virginia Marie Spencer, 38, of Pilot Mountain, who went to the Capitol at former President Trump’s behest and, along with her husband, Christopher Spencer, trespassed into the Capitol building.
Virginia Spencer pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, the Winston-Salem Journal’s Michael Hewlett reported last week. As part of a plea arrangement, three other misdemeanor charges were dropped. Spencer is required to pay $500 in restitution and could face a six-month prison sentence — sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2022.
Some will say the sentence is not punishment enough for participating in an attempt to overthrow the results of a presidential election. But six months in prison is no slap on the wrist.
There’s also, we have to say, a degree of nuance involved. It’s not likely that every participant intended to “hang (Vice President) Mike Pence,” as some chanted. Most certainly had no intention of attacking Capitol Police.
But some did. Out of more than 600 being charged with federal crimes, the most serious cases have been brought against members of two far-right extremist groups — the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. They deserve the harshest punishment that the law allows.
And the evidence — much accumulated from Christopher Spencer’s Facebook livestream — suggests that the Spencers’ visit was a bit more than a “normal tourist visit,” as Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia might put it. Christopher Spencer encouraged people to kick open the doors of the U.S. House chamber and yelled obscenities as police approached the mob inside the Capitol, authorities said. He’s heard saying that the crowd “stormed the Capitol, bro ... pushed the cops out of the way, everything ... took it over.”
Considering that, and considering the other misdemeanors with which Virginia Spencer could have been charged, we have to credit the court’s mercy.
It’s embarrassing that any North Carolinian participated in this travesty, fooled by former Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen. But we believe in redemption. The Spencers may yet take a more benevolent path. We hope they do.
Another rally at the Capitol is planned for Saturday in support of the supposed “political prisoners” being held by the government. You know, the ones who practiced their free speech by violently attacking Capitol Police, many of whom were seriously injured and several of whom have died following the attack.
Authorities say rally participants have already recorded online threats of violence at Saturday’s rally, including a call for participants to “do justice” against “local Jews and corrupted officials.” One 4chan poster said the demonstration should be used as a vehicle to participate in violent acts against local “Jewish centers and Liberal churches” while law enforcement is distracted.
Authorities have plenty of warning this time and we hope they’ll be better prepared.
We’ll be processing the Jan. 6 insurrection for many years to come. But this is one issue that Republicans will have to resolve for themselves, too.
Last week, speaking to Politico before a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that the Republican Party needed to be “the party that’s perceived to be telling the American people the truth.” During his speech, he said, “Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time and energy and credibility.”
He’s right. But this is in contrast to a combined 59% of Republican voters who say that believing that Trump won the 2020 election is either very or somewhat important in defining what it means to be a Republican, according to a CNN poll released last week.
Republicans who want their party to have a respectable future have their work cut out for them.