What should be done about public officials who took part in the insurrection?

David Ellis Jr. in his office last November. Photo via New Hampshire Public Radio.

What kind of fallout should there be for public officials who are Donald Trump supporters and who took part in the “Stop the Steal” rally-turned-insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6? Three stories in The Boston Globe explore that issue.

The most ambiguous, and therefore the most interesting, is the case of David Ellis Jr., the police chief in Troy, New Hampshire, a longtime Trump supporter who’d previously gotten into trouble for displaying MAGA paraphernalia in his office (see photo above). According to the Globe and to New Hampshire Public Radio, Ellis took part in the protest, but was not among the rioters who invaded the Capitol. He’s also spoken out against the violence.

“I witnessed the people harassing the riot police that were getting in their gear on Constitution Ave, as I’m walking back to get to the train station at Union Station,” Ellis told NHPR. “It was ridiculous, people were giving police such a hard time.”

Nevertheless, there have been calls for town officials to fire Ellis. There have been threats, leading to a lockdown at town hall. But, so far, they’re standing by Ellis. NHPR quoted Richard Thackston, chair of the town’s selectmen, as saying at a public meeting:

I personally find the events that happened yesterday appalling; they brought tears to my eyes, the thought that three people, four people lost their lives in an utterly unnecessary and pointless occurrence is tragic. But I believe that any individual, any public servant has the right to participate in political events without fear of loss of employment or having it have any effect.

I think that’s the right call for anyone who took part in the protests but did not engage in any violent behavior and made no attempt to enter the Capitol. It sounds like Ellis holds dangerously false views put forth by Trump about the integrity of the election. But unless evidence emerges that his activities were not limited to peaceful protest, that should be the end of the matter.

Not so with an unnamed Boston Police officer who, according to the Globe, may have attended the rally and gone inside the Capitol, and who issued threats against Vice President Mike Pence on social media. He should be gone for the threats alone, and if he was among the invading force, he should be prosecuted.

The same goes for Natick town meeting member Suzanne Ianni, who was photographed inside the Capitol, and who told Agence France-Presse (not Yahoo News, as the Globe erroneously reports), “We will fight tooth and nail. This isn’t over just if Biden gets inaugurated, if that happens. We’ll never stop fighting. And Trump will be our president for the next four years, no matter who they inaugurate.”

Town officials have said they can’t get rid of Ianni. But every single one of the rioters who entered the Capitol should be prosecuted. And there she is in the photo accompanying the Globe story, fist upraised.

7 thoughts on “What should be done about public officials who took part in the insurrection?

  1. Steve Ross

    This is exactly what I would do about these particular folks.

    But should there be explicit ethics rules on these things for elected officials? I assume there are for public employees, but loose ones generally). What about others in private employment?

    Specific tighter rules make me nervous. But we really have to see them, don’t we? As a Columbia University professor, I had to sign an oath to protect and obey the New York State and the US constitutions…. even though they are sometimes in conflict! The oath is mandated by state McCarthy-era law and has held up in court.

  2. Seems about right. A couple of questions come to mind – why is the Boston PD officer unnamed? And under what conditions CAN Natick get rid of a town meeting member? I think it would be prudent for them to wait to see if she’s charged and convicted (which I agree she should be). The citizens of Natick decided that she should represent them at town meeting, and she doesn’t seem shy about her politics, so isn’t she what the town of Natick deserves?

    Looks like the recent internet meme is true – these people are finding out why their grandparents wore hoods.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      As best as I could tell, investigators haven’t determined whether the social-media account in question actually belongs to the Boston Police officer who’s under suspicion.

  3. Marcus J Breen

    Steve Ross – thank you for an insight into the continuation of the McCarthy-era suppression laws.

    This leftover of the dark days of red baiting, anti-communism and McCarthyism, indicate how politically illiberal the US has been since the 1960s, as ideological frames that were set then remain in place. These frames have been effective in minimizing the influence of the Left: ergo what we have now in the US is the bastard offspring of liberal tolerance for the right (not the Left).

    1. Steve Ross

      On McCarthyism, yes. Anazing. Evil has a long lifespan.

      On the the other, maybe. I was a Warren supporter in the primaries, just to anchor my political attitudes. But I have great contempt for what has come to describe “populist,” anywhere on the spectrum: labeling, shaming, cartoon bills rather than well thought out legislation, absolutism.

      There are too many on the right and the left, and media tends to emphasize them. Look at the Squad. Three loudmouthed louts (one of whom, AOC, who has the brains to be so much more) and Ayanna Pressley. Even in Boston, she gets less press attention because she engages brain before opening mouth.

      I joined the full time Columbia faculty in 1985 and ignored the loyalty oath. Three years later (by which time I was on university Senate and familiar to top admin) I got a panic call from the president’s admin chief. The state had actually expended funds to audit compliance! I signed the oath rather than drive people nuts. Right wingers would probably go hunting for politicians…

  4. David W. Ellis

    Dan! Oh Great!. Your first cousin and long time Democrat and Biden supporter -almost dangerous, living here in the Villages- has to have the same name name as this guy. (Least I’m not a Jr.).

    Dave

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