Recently, the former president of the United States of America was brought in to face arraignment once again.
With a third indictment filed, and several more on the way, we are witnessing yet another First. Donald Trump was the first former president to be indicted, and now he is the first to face a felony indictment for attempting to overthrow an election.
This is a historic occasion for several reasons. And while there is a deeply shameful element to it, namely that a very powerful and respected country on the world stage managed to elect a man like him, I can also detect a faint blush of hope.
America is holding him accountable for his crimes. This is remarkable, it's rare, and it is sorely needed.
In today's world, democracy itself is under threat. The will of the people is carrying less and less weight, the rights and freedoms of citizens the world over are being stripped away, and those in power are escaping accountability for corruption and criminal antics.
So to see one of the most powerful nations on the face of the Earth take such a momentous step towards justice is both a triumph and a relief.
There are four charges included in this newest indictment, and all of them are vital:
Count 1: Conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Count 2: Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
Count 3: Obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.
Count 4: Conspiracy against rights.
For the preservation of democracy, all of these counts matter. But the one I find most interesting is number 4.
Count number 4 is 'Conspiracy against rights'. This is a reference to civil rights as laid out under United States law, which goes back to the days of Reconstruction. This is the period of time from around 1861 to 1900 where the country was attempting to integrate newly freed slaves into life as free citizens.
It was a rocky road, to say the least. One of the first things president Lincoln tried to do was kick all of the freed slaves out of the country, which...I don't need to explain how horrifying that impulse was. It was rooted in the deeply racist belief that people of different skin colors could never successfully live equally alongside one another.
But part of Reconstruction involved writing and rewriting laws that previously excluded Black Americans from the basic rights of citizenship.
This count, 'conspiracy against rights', is a specific felony charge in the United States. It was first written in 1870, though it has since been revised, and the original purpose was to protect the rights of Black citizens against vigilante hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan at the time was boldly and openly taking action to try and prevent Black citizens from exercising their rights, typically through violence. This included free exercise of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
While the original purpose was to protect the newly acquired rights of freed slaves, the modern day version offers protections for all citizens. Race, class, gender identity, sexuality, religion, or birth nation aside- every American citizen is entitled to exercise their civil rights.
To see 'conspiracy against rights' used in this context is very important as a felony charge. What this essentially means is that the prosecutors believe they can prove that Trump attempted to disenfranchise American voters.
They believe that they can prove, to the court's satisfaction, that Donald Trump and his co-conspirators sought to prevent votes from being counted. He tried to prevent American citizens from exercising their right to vote.
He tried to prevent citizens from taking part in democracy.
I can't tell you how pleased I am to see this count included in the indictment. Apart from the obvious declaration that a former president is not above the law, this charge creates the possibility that an important precedent could be set.
The will of the people, their voice in democracy, will be protected under the law. Attempting to silence the citizens of the United States is punishable through legal means.
Disenfranchising voters is commonplace in Republican-run states, particularly those votes cast by people of color. For an example of what this looks like, give this article a read: Here.
To see the specter of the so-called 'Ku Klux Klan Act' raised in this context gives me a teensy bit of hope.
If Donald Trump is convicted of this, and if he faces punishment...maybe we'll see a turning point. Maybe we'll see a shoring-up of the foundations of democracy again.
A girl can dream, right?