Most Americans were stunned and sickened to see violence hit the Capitol building this week.

Rioters objected to what the Legislature was doing: counting the electoral college. They had not, and likely have not and will not, accepted the outcome of the 2020 election, insisting Donald Trump is the rightful leader of the country (after Jan. 20).

As an institution protected under the First Amendment, this newspaper upholds the right to free expression. We also uphold the right to peacefully assemble. This wasn’t peaceful.

Traditionally, anyone caught on the grounds vandalizing or theatening in any way could expect to be jailed or shot. The invaders on Wednesday didn’t seem to have that fear, perhaps because they, at first, outnumbered police.

Yes, in America, we have the right to disagree and to demonstrate. But this was no demonstration. This was a riot.

Some commentators said others who have protested, Black Lives Matter, for instance, were met with more violence than these, who breached the security of the Capitol and basically made themselves at home.

It’s true, but police likely held back because, at first, they were outnumbered. Once backup arrived, replying to their actions with too much force would have escalated the violence.

When comparing the two groups, the most important thing to realize is the difference.

Black Lives Matter and other protests target an issue that needs to be addressed. Protesters in the 1960s wanted Americans to understand we shouldn’t be involved in the Vietnam War. Various marches on Washington have been aimed at awareness of a problem and upholding the civil rights of Americans.

The events of Wednesday were not attacking an issue, but a governmental system that has been in use in America for more than 200 years. It is a system countries throughout the world envy for its peaceful transition of power.

In fact, a peaceful transition of power is something we can be thankful for, too, as that’s how we’ve operated during our lifetimes.

Although our lawmakers often frustrate us, thankfully they returned to business Wednesday night to certify the electoral college votes. It was their way of showing the troublemakers they will not stop the progress of our democracy.

It’s acceptable to protest an issue, but it’s not acceptable to urge the overthrow of the government of the United States of America. The existence of our republic is the reason we have the freedom to protest.

We can’t help but think Wednesday’s rioters aren’t well-versed on civics. If they were, they would have realized their acts were seditious, and, as proud Americans, wouldn’t have had a part in such behavior.

Unfortunately for them, ignorance of the law is no excuse. At this point, it would be impossible to locate, charge and jail everyone involved in these embarrassing and frightening riots, but in our country of laws, every effort should be made. We must reassure the American public, and observers around the world who would love to see us fail, this democracy is strong.

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