Tom Henderson: Protest, even if violent, not same as insurrection


State Rep. Ron Noble, bless his heart, wants to be a statesman. He wants to add a voice of sobriety and reason.

“We are seeing an assault from both sides and each side engaging in the same activity they accuse of the other side,” he wrote after right-wing terrorists tried to overturn the presidential election by storming the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. “And it seems to have peaked through the violence and criminal activity of each side.”

In his comments, the former McMinnville police chief urges people to calm down and return to polite and civil discourse.

The man’s a good cop. He wants to talk us all off the ledge. More cynical observers might suggest, however, how he also recognizes the need to walk a political tightrope.

The assault on the Capitol, the largest since the British attacked the building in 1814, cries out for condemnation. However, Republicans realize they no longer win elections by appealing to the sobriety and reason of moderate voters. They dare not alienate the lunatic fringe represented by the attempted insurrection. So they blame the violence on “both sides.”

As grudgingly as any journalist should dare, I trust Noble’s basic sincerity. The Yamhill County representative markets himself as a moderate Republican, and his words and actions indicate this is more than just a political brand. I have no reason to believe his reaction to the coup attempt originates from a campaign playbook. It seems to come from the heart.

But his words promote a troubling narrative that threatens to undermine the unprecedented and historic nature of what transpired this month.

Much has already been said about the difference between how law enforcement responded to Black Lives Matter protests and how it reacted to an attempt to overthrow America’s constitutional government. However, it bears mentioning.

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Donald Trump said in a May 29 response to largely peaceful protests against police brutality. But when people looted the Capitol this month, and Adam Johnson of Florida made off with speaker’s podium, the president launched into no such Rambo impersonation.

“We love you,” he told the armed insurrectionists. “You’re very special.”

This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand. This was a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn a national election at the direction of the sitting president. The president orchestrated this coup attempt.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” he tweeted Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!”

He instructed his followers to march on the Capitol. “Let’s have trial by combat,” his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told the mob.

Both Trump and Giuliani later condemned the violence, but they must have seen it coming. Either that or they were dangerous fools of historic magnitude.

Leaders of this month’s treasonous and well-armed mob made it clear they intended to kidnap members of Congress who failed to humor Trump’s insane delusions about a landslide victory. These are the same sort of zealots who planned to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October. And the violence came as a surprise?

Not that it matters. Trump and his sycophants can not and should not escape their responsibility for instigating it. Their actions were the textbook definition of treason.

I covered the Portland protests this summer. They often turned ugly as night fell, and many people acted reprehensibly. However, the vast majority were unarmed and peaceful.

Remember when Trump accused them of arming themselves with cans of Bumble Bee tuna? How quaint compared to the premeditation of insurrectionists armed to the teeth and ready for war. They were decked out in riot helmets, gas masks and shields, and carried pepper spray, firecrackers, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, pipes and baseball bats.

Lecture me now on “liberal amnesia.” Tell me now how the Wall of Moms posed a threat. And explain to me again how Trump needed to gas peaceful protesters in D.C. for the sake of a photo opp.

In Portland, protesters occasionally tried to illegally enter Portland’s Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, but they never got as far as insurgents attacking the Capitol. Of course, the coup attempt received ample help — not only from Trump, but also people like U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who stoked the mob’s paranoid delusions about a “rigged” election.

Oregon insurrectionists offered a preview of the attack when they breached the Oregon State Capitol during a Dec. 21 special session. They may have had more direct help, as video evidence shows state Rep. Mike Nearman, who represents part of Yamhill County in District 23, opening a back door of the State Capitol to an armed mob.

Did Nearman purposefully let the intruders in? That charge must be properly adjudicated. However, if the video is as conclusive as it seems, and Nearman collaborated with armed trespassers, he deserves a one-way ticket out of public life.

With all due respect to Rep. Noble, treason is not the same as protest. To suggest otherwise is a specious exercise of the logical fallacy of false equivalence.

Such rhetoric reeks of Trump’s comments after Unite the Right, the 2017 white supremacist rally that erupted in racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president notoriously said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

God grant we never forget what happened this month was not a protest that turned ugly when a few participants got drunk on emotion. It was nothing less than an attempt to overthrow constitutional government and the rule of law — one encouraged and manipulated by a deranged man who deserves as much consideration as he showed the Constitution.

He and the hatred and hysteria he’s generated are the problems demanding our focus.

Former News-Register reporter Tom Henderson is an independent journalist contributing to a variety of Northwest publications.



So sick of the way anyone supporting conservative values is labeled as racist. The great majority protested peacefully and many of the ones who rioted planned it days before. I don't support violence, but really, if the hundreds of thousands of people who protested peacefully had rioted, the capitol would have been destroyed. Also the police officer who died days later was not hit with a fire extinguisher. cnn lied but has retracted this quietly and for some strange reason with still don't know the cause of death. No stores burnt or businesses destroyed as they do frequently in Portland . And the greatest threat to our freedom is when the social media and fake news outlets when they censor those they don't agree with.