Insurrection at the United States Capitol

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Photo Credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Capitol Is Breached, Challenging the Constitutional Order

Photo Credit: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Photo Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Discussion Questions

  1. Should private social media companies have the ability to censor and “deplatform” public figures who use their accounts to communicate with the public? Do these companies have more grounds to censor if these figures actively disinform the public?
  2. Should riot participants who did not break the law (enter the Capitol, use violence, trespass, etc.) be penalized or ostracized by their employers, communities, etc.? Why or why not?
  3. Was the government responsible for inciting the insurrection? Why or why not? 
  4. Do you think the Capitol rioters were aware that they were effectively attempting to suppress their fellow Americans’ right to vote? 
  5. Why did the mob harbor such animosity towards the media, threatening and hurting journalists? To what extent did this mistrust of the media precipitate both the riot and Trump’s denial of the 2020 election results? 
  6. To what extent should media companies, social media platforms, and online communications services be held legally responsible for the speech posted/disseminated on their platforms? Should they limit the spread of far-right speech? Anti-governmental speech? Speech directly threatening violence? Anything else?
  7. To what extent are Free Speech and the stability of governmental/political institutions dependent upon one another? How are they harmful and/or beneficial to one another?


Click on these themes below: National Security + Protest Politics  + Legal Action

Discuss: What does this confluence of stories with these filters tell us about free speech issues surrounding electoral rights and democracy? Free speech and the ability to protest?

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This course module was prepared by Logan Richman ’25, a sophomore in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service from New Jersey. He serves as the principal research assistant for the Free Speech Project, and also plays the jazz trombone.