FIRE statement on Capitol riot and threat of future violence

January 12, 2021

FIRE’s defense of constitutional rights relies on the sanctity of the rule of law and the democratic process. Last week, FIRE watched in horror as an angry mob stormed the Capitol in an assault that left five dead and many more injured. The violence constituted a lawless attack on democracy and the Constitution, and thus an attack on the First Amendment. Violence directed against our democracy strikes at the heart of our constitutional order and threatens the civil liberties and individual rights FIRE defends. 

Today, as law enforcement agencies warn of future violence across the nation, FIRE reminds all Americans that freedom of speech is the greatest invention for peaceful co-existence in human history. It allows for citizens of a free country to work out their differences through debate and discussion, not violence. 

We will often disagree with one another in a free society, sometimes loudly. Disagreement is expected and healthy in a pluralistic democracy like ours. The First Amendment rightly protects the broadest range of opinion, but threats of violence and violence itself cannot and must not be tolerated.