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Professor Roy Gutterman L'00 Addresses Sedition Laws with The Guardian

Posted on Wednesday 4/7/2021
Roy Gutterman

Why aren't we calling the Capitol attack an act of treason?

(The Guardian | April 5, 2021) During Donald Trump’s presidency, the UC Davis law professor Carlton Larson spent a lot of time on the phone telling journalists: “It’s not treason.”

Trump’s behavior towards Russia: not treason. All the FBI investigations Trump labeled as treason: also not treason. Then came the 6 January attack on the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters. That was treason according to the founding fathers, Larson wrote in an op-ed the next day.

But in the three months since 6 January, however, there has been little public discussion of “treason” as the framework for understanding what happened, Larson said. “Everything was ‘Treason, treason, treason,’ when it wasn’t, and now you have an event that is closer to the original 18th-century definition of treason than anything that’s happened, and it’s almost silent. Nobody is using the term at all,” he said ...

... Sedition laws in the early 20th century, including the Sedition Act of 1918, was “not only focused on World War I”, but “really focused on shutting down socialists and communists, who the government thought were going to be a threat to democracy”, said Roy Gutterman, the director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University.

The supreme court at the time upheld convictions of “small groups of dissidents” who were “distributing fliers speaking out against the US government”, Gutterman said. That included socialists passing out flyers advocating that Americans peacefully resist the draft, which the supreme court at the time ruled was not protected as free speech ...

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