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People stormed the capitol—was it domestic terrorism?

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(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
District of Columbia National Guard stand outside the Capitol, Wednesday night, Jan. 6, 2021, after a day of rioting protesters.

Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s most fervent loyalists has led to arrests and calls for justice. But labeling the incident “domestic terrorism” is hard because there is no consensus on what the term means, and there are many definitions, says a Northeastern professor who specializes in counterterrorism.

More than 50 people have been arrested so far, with more arrests likely, after Trump supporters clashed violently with police and entered restricted areas of the domed Capitol building while lawmakers were inside formally signing off on President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

People who attack non-military targets like a government building for a political goal could be categorized as domestic terrorists, says Max Abrahms, an associate political science professor who teaches about national security, international relations, and counterterrorism. He explains that those who stormed the Capitol waving “Trump 2020” flags “defended their behavior in political terms in order to ‘prevent the steal.’”

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