If only bit players are punished, democracy is doomed

Because of his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, Stephen Ayres has lost job, been forced to sell his house and faces further court action. Yet the instigator of the attempted coup and those in his inner circle appear to remain above the law.

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July 15, 2022 - 3:34 PM

Stephen Ayres, left, who entered the U.S. Capitol illegally on Jan. 6, 2021, and Jason Van Tatenhove, right, who served as national spokesman for the Oath Keepers and as a close aide to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, are sworn-in during the seventh hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on July 12, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Demetrius Freeman/Pool/Getty Images/TNS

Jan. 6 rioter Stephen Ayres isn’t nearly as deserving of our sympathy as the U.S. Capitol police officers to whom he apologized this week.

Still, I did feel for him as he testified about being conned into marching off to stop a steal that Donald Trump knew wasn’t happening.

And if we keep prosecuting insurrectionist minnows like Ayres — 874 rioters had been arrested at last count — but then let the flounder-in-chief swim free of the net, the former president’s coup attempt will have succeeded, not in denying Joe Biden’s rightful election, but by doing grave damage to our democracy.

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