Sedition? Treason? Coup? What do they mean?

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Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)-Violent protests in the nation’s Capitol Wednesday, January 6 prompted politicians and government officials to words like sedition, treason, coup, insurrection, and terrorist. Some called for use of the 25th Amendment.

But what is sedition and how does it pertain to United States laws? NEWS10 conducted research and spoke with two local college professors to find out.

Coup

A coup (coup d’etat) by definition means to overthrow the government, which is illegal in the United States, said Professor of political science and women’s studies at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, Julie Novkov.

The word has no legal bearing but is used by political scientists, said Director, Government Law Center and Assistant Professor at Albany Law School, Ava Ayers.

Sedition (Seditious Conspiracy)

Seditious conspiracy is an attempt to put down, destroy by force, or overthrow the government conspired (planned) by two or more people. Seditious conspiracy also includes attempting to hinder, delay, or prevent the execution of any laws, explains Novkov.

Insurrection (rebellion)

Rebellion or insurrection is the incitement of people to rebel or resist against the authority of the U.S. A person convicted of either would serve jail time and be unable to hold political office, Novkov said.

Riot

Most of what took place at the Capitol can be classified as rioting, said Novkov. “More broadly the kind of activity involving breaking into the Capitol Building and damaging property of the Capitol Building, taking things from the Capitol falls pretty squarely under the legal definition of riot,” she said.

“A riot is a type of civil disorder that results in a public disturbance against authority, property, or people,” according to Findlaw.com.

25th Amendment vs. impeachment

The 25th Amendment states; If a sitting president becomes incapacitated, resigns, is removed from office or dies, the vice president would become president. Whereas impeachment is the removal of a president, according to Cornell Law School.

The important distinction here is that a president who is impeached, would be banned from holding any political office in the future, said Ayers.

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