Capitol rioters face FBI arrests and prosecution: How not to make them martyrs in the process

Justice remains the goal as prosecutors prepare their cases against the 440 people and counting who have been arrested on charges of participating in the riot at the Capitol in January. But whenever a large number of people are connected with some kind of wrongdoing, whether it’s organized crime or ideologically motivated violence, then law enforcement also takes into account the larger threat to society, not just the individual cases.

The righteous wrath of those who view Jan. 6 as an insurrection — and believe we need uncompromising prosecution of those who incited, instigated, financed or otherwise encouraged the attack regardless of the consequences — is understandable. But is it strategic thinking? It’s crucial we prevent polarizing society further, escalating turmoil or galvanizing anti-government sentiment. The goal is isolation, not idolization. Any ability for offenders to claim they are victims of political persecution, victims of oppression, prisoners of conscience — in a word, “martyrs” — can lead to those very outcomes.

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