“Bild am Sonntag” has published fresh details of the 8th December 2022 attempted coup d’état in Germany which, although thankfully foiled, serves to highlight the fundamental differences between an armed insurrection and a riot, which is what occurred in Washington DC on 6th January 2021.
In Berlin a group of 16 armed extremists, led by the aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, conspired to storm the Reichstag and arrest Chancellor Olaf Scholz, remove the federal government and establish a monarchy modelled on the German Empire.
The “Patriotic Union of Reich Citizens” then planned to place Prince Reuss at the head up a new military regime under martial law.
The plotters included officers from the Special Forces Command and ex-soldiers who had stockpiled more than 1,300 weapons, ammunition and fully-developed plans for the coup – including a list of two million people targeted for “cleansing”, draft ordinances for the closure of the courts and the media, and a ban on all political parties.
That, I suggest, is what an armed insurrection looks like. Now compare it to the civil disorder that descended on the US Capitol in 2021.
Between 10,000 and 80,000 people attended the rally (sources vary wildly) and up to 2,000 waded into the unprotected Capitol building. To date 1,111 rioters have been charged with federal offences, 900 with “entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds”, and 103 face charges for “entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon”.
The single shot fired was by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd. Six defendants are charged with having a knife (none with using one), five with having a taser, three with an axe, four with a baseball bat, seven with a crutch, 11 with a baton, 13 with bear or pepper spray, eight with a police shield and 19 with a flagpole.
Only a small percentage of the people at the rally were armed with anything, and only five of them (less than 1% of those charged) have been charged with possessing firearms. One of these did not arrive until after it was all over, and none fired the weapons.
There were no armed coup leaders on 6th January 2021, just instigators, reckless fools and opportunists. There was no strategy or plan, no government-in-waiting, no armed military and only a handful of weapons, many of which were shaped from whatever came to hand.
In France, much more organised civil disorder, and on a far bigger scale, is routine. In three weeks of rioting in 2005, the PM declared a state of emergency and more than 4,000 people were arrested. The “gilet jaune” movement has to-date resulted in over 1,843 protester and 1,048 police injuries. In the most recent riots in 2023, 40,000 special police were deployed over five nights with 3,000 arrests.
But violent rioting in France is not conflated with armed insurrection. The US authorities would be wise to adopt a similar, less confrontational attitude.+