Why Canada needs a new citizenship oath

Posted: April 10th, 2021 | No Comments »
New Canadians take citizenship oath in Vancouver BC, 2015.

SPECIAL FROM ASHOK CHARLES, TORONTO/THUNDER BAY. APRIL 10, 2021 : Canada’s current citizenship oath, with its medieval pledge of fealty to a hereditary monarch, does not meet the needs of a prominent 21st century democracy.

In 2019 Canada accepted 340,000 new permanent residents, and is among the countries with the highest levels of immigration. Some 21% of the Canadian population is foreign-born — second only to Australia.

The top 10 countries from which we accept immigrants are India, China, Philippines, Nigeria, United States, Pakistan, Syria, Eritrea, Korea and Iran. Of these, at least half lack one or more of the following: multi-party elections, secularism, egalitarianism, press freedom.

Additionally, Canada is the world’s top re-settler of refugees and admits more people fleeing sectarian and ideological conflict than any other country.

New Canadians take citizenship oath in Toronto, ON, 2020.

It is fair to say that many of those who immigrate to Canada are coming from societies with conceptions of civil rights, freedoms, and responsibilities which are significantly different than our own.

When immigrants have fulfilled the requirements of citizenship, our citizenship oath represents our only opportunity to elicit a formal commitment in regards to how they will conduct themselves as full-fledged members of Canadian society.

It would be prudent to require a pledge to uphold democracy, egalitarianism, secularism and multiculturalism. Each of these principles is upheld by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as such, they are fundamental Canadian values. We benefit when joined by newcomers who honour them.

Revising our citizenship oath to include a commitment to these values would also benefit potential immigrants as they encounter the oath when investigating Canada’s naturalization process and would see a succinct summary of the ideals which underlie Canadian society.

New Canadians take citizenship oath in Halifax NS, 2017.

Unfortunately, we squander our opportunity to elicit a meaningful commitment from new Canadians by, instead, requiring them to pledge the following: “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Considering that the British monarch is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, our current citizenship oath actually contradicts rather than upholds the values of egalitarian democracy, secularism and multiculturalism. And, in the second half of the oath, only the commitment to respect the rule of law is pertinent — a promise to fulfill one’s duties as a Canadian citizen is too vague to be meaningful.

Australia had an oath similar to ours but recognized its deficiencies in the early 1990’s and revised it to be relevant and useful. This is what Australia now requires new citizens to promise: “From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”

New Canadians take citizenship oath in Montreal QC, 2017.

When Canada revised its Immigration Act in 2002, to better reflect the post 9/11 world, it is incomprehensible that our citizenship oath was also not revised. This oversight is all the more perplexing when you consider that it is well-established that allegiance and faithfulness to members of the British royal family are not requisite of Canadian citizenship.

Those born in Canada, or to Canadian parents, are granted citizenship without having to pledge allegiance to the Windsors. Furthermore, I am a naturalized Canadian and my citizenship was not revoked — or even threatened — when I officially recanted the monarchical allegiance portion of the oath. I submitted a notarized recantation document to Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a way of highlighting my preference for egalitarian democracy over any form of monarchy, and to draw attention to the need for a revised oath. (In the same document, I reaffirmed my commitment to the non-monarchical provisions of the oath — despite the vagueness therein.)

New Canadians take citizenship oath in virtual ceremony, Canada Day 2020.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada informed me, in writing, that my official rescinding of allegiance and faithfulness to members of the British royal family had not impacted my citizenship in the slightest. After my recantation, other naturalized Canadians have also disavowed the pledge of monarchical fealty without repercussions.

A superfluous, badly outdated oath is taking up space in an important naturalization protocol that should hold a commitment to Canadian values.

This is an oversight we cannot afford to ignore. Our citizenship oath could play an advantageous role in supporting national security objectives and helping to preserve social harmony but it is incapable of fulfilling these functions in its current form.

Happily, it is easy enough to change the current form of the oath with an ordinary act of our federal parliament. (Like the current independent Canadian flag — adopted by a vote of 163 to 78 in the Canadian House of Commons early on the morning of December 15, 1964.)

Ashok Charles was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. He spent his formative years in Thunder Bay, Ontario and is a graduate of Lakehead University. He then moved to Toronto where he graduated from Ryerson University in photographic arts, and has subsequently worked as a freelance photographer.

In the early 21st century Ashok became especially interested in democracy, the Canadian Charter of Rights, and the Canadian republican movement. He is now executive director of Republic Now/République du Canada, and can be reached at director@republicnow.ca. ; or #419-110 Cumberland St., Toronto, ON. Canada. M5R 3V5.

Blue Jays 2021 — Expectations will continue to rise .. and Montoyo says “Our guys are ready”

Posted: April 1st, 2021 | 4 Comments »
Jays’ manager Charlie Montoyo.

SPECIAL FROM ROB SPARROW, HIGH PARK, TORONTO. APRIL 1, 2021. Life for the Toronto Blue Jays, like everyone else for that matter, was and continues to be upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. A year ago, Canadian government border restrictions forced them to be baseball’s version of the nomadic warriors playing all of their games south of the border. Yet even in that most odd of years, it did not dissuade the youthful Blue Jays, who galvanized as a team and surprised with a 32-28 record and a spot in baseball’s post-season.

The potential for a breakout was there, but the consensus was that it wouldn’t happen until 2021 or beyond. To wit, the young Jays became the first team to ever qualify for the postseason without a single player with 10 years of major league experience. By reaching the playoffs — albeit an expanded 16-team version where they were quickly dispatched in two games by the Tampa Bay Rays — they arrived ahead of schedule.

“I think (we) should get more credit for what we did last year, not having a home and the guys believing from the beginning that we had a chance to play in the playoffs, and they did,” stated manager Charlie Montoyo, when asked if his team gets the respect it deserves. “The season gave us a tremendous window into their resilience, their determination, their perseverance and their toughness,” CEO Mark Shapiro said.

At TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida — where Jays will start 2021 season. Photo : John David Mercer–USA TODAY Sports.

It is with that accomplishment in their rear-view window that they look forward to the 2021 season with much anticipation, although once again with restrictions that will keep them out of Canada. The impact of COVID-19 and emerging variants of concern remains one collective unknown, and is tied to the Blue Jays’ lingering uncertainty over where they will play out their 2021 home schedule. Prevented from hosting games at Rogers Centre due to continued border restrictions, this year the club will begin the season in Florida, and play at least their first few homestands at Dunedin’s newly upgraded TD Ballpark.

Beyond the May 24 timeframe the team has not made any definitive plans. A couple more homestands in Dunedin is one possibility, but the club wants no part of the area’s searing heat and daily thunderstorms during the summer. A return to Buffalo is on the table, although that would also require relocating the Triple-A Bisons. The club’s enduring hope is that vaccinations accelerate enough to contain a third wave driven by the variants of concern, and allow for a return to Toronto, even if to play in an empty stadium.

Whether it’s Dunedin for two months, Buffalo for the summer, or even hope against hope, Toronto in the fall, after last years’ experience they will be more than ready for it. Like many things in this uncertainty of COVID-19, only time will tell.

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Commonwealth today not what it used to be in Canada — and it may have a bigger future than we imagine?

Posted: March 30th, 2021 | No Comments »

FROM THE DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. Evan Dyer on the CBC News site had an interesting column this past Saturday, called “Is the pandemic killing the idea of the Commonwealth? … It was COVID-19 — not Harry and Meghan — that revealed the lack of any real connection between former colonies.”

According to Wikipedia : “The Commonwealth of Nations, generally known simply as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 54 member states, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire.”

Or as summarized by the Government of Canada : “The modern Commonwealth is a values-based association of 54 countries, most with historic links to the United Kingdom and home to over 2 billion citizens.”

Evan Dyer also helpfully notes : “Although it includes 54 countries, only a core group of 16 ‘Commonwealth realms’ still recognize Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state: Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu — and, of course, the UK itself.”

Marlborough House, on Pall Mall in London, headquarters of today’s Commonwealth Secretariat — designed by Christopher Wren and constructed for the Duchess of Marlborough, 1709–1711.

The main thrust of Evan Dyer’s argument (apt enough as far as it goes) is that the UK itself has now lost interest in the mere Commonwealth of Nations, into which its fallen empire on which the sun once never dared to set has almost completely dissolved in 2021.

As he puts it : “The Commonwealth is a multilateral institution of 54 nations. But it’s no longer the institution through which Britain conducts its most important business — nor does London feel particularly beholden to Commonwealth nations when it comes to vaccines.”

Early on in his piece, however, Mr. Dyer tells another story about what may be a side of the Commonwealth today that does look to the future, and still has some constructive role to play in the global village.

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Taking a Zoom meeting on the Chrétien and Martin years — and the royalist mythology in Canada today

Posted: March 20th, 2021 | No Comments »
Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his wife Aline as she arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for an inter-faith religious service, 1997.

FROM THE COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. SAT 20 MAR 2021 : Our most immediate news is that our colleague and friend (and intermittent self-declared editor-in-chief), Randall White (PhD), has finally handed in the almost next-to-last chapter of his long-meditated current work in progress, tentatively entitled Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada Since 1497.

(Or perhaps it should be, some at the publisher say, Democracy in Canada Since 1497 : Children of the Environment and the Global Village. Dr. White agrees : “Who knows? Still early days.”)

The at-last-completed new draft chapter in any case is called “The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992–2006.” It also appears at CLICK HERE. (And for more on the larger work in progress see The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic.)

Prime Minister Paul Martin at signing of Kelowna Accord, First Ministers Meeting at Kelowna, BC, November 24, 2005. Photo by Dave Chan-PMO.

Meanwhile, we thought CBC polling guru Éric Grenier’s recent “Apathy might be what’s keeping Canadians from ditching the monarchy” hit several nails on the head. One secret of the survival of the British monarchy in Canada (and other remaining “Commonwealth Realms”) is that in practice the modern monarch does nothing beyond visiting occasionally. The institution is so unobtrusive that it seriously annoys almost no one as a practical matter. Despite its increasing lack of popular acceptance in what the Constitution Act 1982 calls our “free and democratic society” today, there is thus no driving incentive to get rid of the monarchy — especially if there are said to be many troubling technical complexities.

At the same time, it also seems important to ask another question. If Canadians are all that apathetic on the subject, why has there been such a spate of Canadian commentary in response to Oprah’s recent interview with Meghan and Harry?

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Biden’s “bizarre closing” on March 11, the real tragedy of Harry and Meghan, and the future of the British monarchy in Canada

Posted: March 14th, 2021 | 1 Comment »
“President Joe Biden addresses the nation on the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, from the White House on Thursday, March 11, 2021. The New York Times.”

SPECIAL FROM L. FRANK BUNTING, PANCAKE BAY/ALONA BAY, ONTARIO. Some on Twitter have been reacting with bemusement to President Biden’s closing remarks in his first televised address to the American people this past Thursday night : “Thank you for taking the time and listening. I look forward to seeing you.”

It is the very last sentence that especially strikes some Twitter denizens in at least my region of the ornithological universe as a “bizarre closing.”

BUT IS IT REALLY BIZARRE? I’m guessing that even left-wing commentators like Bill Maher might just indulgently laugh this off as a little too Bidenesque. It is not as if President Biden is having a Zoom meeting with half a dozen Delaware friends and neighbours he is expecting to meet again at Easter, in person. And so forth.

On the other hand, it may not be altogether intellectually reprehensible to contemplate the prospect that “I look forward to seeing you,” whatever else, could also have authentic American political weight and heft in our present time.

The excellent Mr.Maher notwithstanding (possibly), it does seem most of those most critical of and/or amused by the “bizarre closing” of President Biden’s first TV address would agree they are right-wing and/or red-state.

My mind was at least opened to a different perspective by a tweet I recently stumbled into from the counterweights editors, in response to the “bizarre closing” point of view :

Or is this just another example of the difference between Republicans and Democrats in USA today? Why shouldn’t a guy who used to ride the train back from DC every night look forward to casually bumping into the American people? As would sometimes happen with Obama etc!”

That exhausts my interest in this subject. Now I want to turn to “Meghan Markle Has a Quarrel With the Queen, But Why?” and, eg, “Meghan Markle Racism Revelations Are “Shocking, But Not Surprising” to People of Color in UK.”

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Basic income in Canada, US GDP, small towns for people who flee Toronto, and waiting for new Governor General

Posted: March 2nd, 2021 | No Comments »
Julie Dzerowicz, MP Toronto Davenport.

FROM THE COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. 2 MARCH 2021, 1 AM ET. UPDATED 14 MARCH 2021. We have no idea what Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal governing establishment thinks about Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz’s private member’s “BILL C-273 … An Act to establish a national strategy for a guaranteed basic income” — which received first reading on Monday, February 22, 2021.

Prime Minister Trudeau has made clear that, while he believes the concept of a guaranteed basic income for Canada is worth discussion and debate right now, his government does not “see a path to move forward on” the concept in any near future. So there is virtually no chance that the particular proposal advanced by Ms Dzerowicz, Liberal member for Toronto Davenport, will be taken up by the actual Liberal (minority) Government of Canada.

Yet the prime minister’s position seems to be that while the concept is interesting, it needs to be further debated and refined to arrive at seriously well thought-out practical proposals, in a world where Canadian governments have already committed unusually large financial resources to the more immediate needs of the citizenry in a time of high stress … and so forth.

Leah Gazan, MP Winnipeg Centre.

This implies that “the government” in the narrowest sense of prime minister and cabinet (or executive council, and now maybe the Prime Ministers Office/PMO too?) is at least not unfriendly towards hearing further debate and discussion on the subject. And it is encouraging that Liberal Members of Parliament are getting involved in the discourse, as political scientists might say.

(At her Bill C-273 Press Conference this past Friday Julie Dzerowicz was joined by basic income advocates Floyd Marinescu of UBI Works and Sheila Regehr at Basic Income Canada Network …and parliamentarians Hon. Wayne Easter, Annie Koutrakis and Senator Kim Pate … Special guests Hugh Segal and Art Eggleton also joined the event.”)

All this also has obvious things in common with the NDP MP Leah Gazan’s private member’s motion “M-46 GUARANTEED LIVABLE BASIC INCOME”, moved during the 1st session of the 43rd Parliament, and then reinstated in the current 2nd session. (Ms Gazan is MP for Winnipeg Centre. Her motion was seconded by fellow parliamentarians across the country — more than a dozen NDP, three Greens, and one Liberal.)

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New Valentine’s Day Massacres 2021 in the United States and Canada

Posted: February 14th, 2021 | No Comments »
“A Bit of the Sun” by Michael Seward, February 2021.

CITIZEN X REPORTING FROM BUFFALO, NY AND FORT ERIE, ON. For me the most striking new thing revealed in the latest evidence from the second Trump impeachment trial in the US Senate was that at least one Canadian flag was on display during the wild invasion of the federal Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.

I see from further hasty research that possibly more than one such flag was identified by others when it happened on January 6. (See HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

On balance, all this finally strikes me as just another reminder that, while Canada today is happily more left-wing, liberal and progressive than the United States, we are also the place where the Proud Boys were born, and we do have our own anti-democratic right-wing extremists who bear watching.

My biggest surprise at the conclusion of yesterday’s 57-43 vote to convict Trump in the US Senate (still 10 short of the two-thirds needed, but …) was Mitch McConnell’s final speech, resolutely attacking Trump’s actions on January 6, while also claiming in the end that it was not constitutionally possible to vote him guilty. (And that he and the other 42 Republicans who voted not guilty were somehow on the side of the angels.)

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon witness Valentine’s Day Massacre in movie Some Like It Hot (1959).

I felt that Bill Kristol ultimately got this right when he tweeted : “McConnell’s speech after the vote didn’t have the effect of mitigating his dereliction of duty. It brought it into bolder relief.” At the same time, I also agreed with Michael Steele on MSNBC that Moscow Mitch may have made a “deft political” move. I have no idea whether he will finally work to take the Trump toxins out of the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, President Biden may have noted a February 12 article from the Gallup polling organization : “Americans Support Massive Stimulus Spending.” (Maybe they aren’t all that different from Canadians, or vice versa?)

Back in Canada itself, there are those who say the future of Justin Trudeau and his federal Liberals is now intimately tied to the future of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

On CBC TV’s Power and Politics last week Liberal strategist David Herle was urging that if the ultimate good news Prime Minister Trudeau is promising on vaccines proves true, the Liberals will win a majority government in an election before the end of this year. If it proves false they will lose even their present minority government.

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Why a Royal Commission on Democratizing the Governor General of Canada makes sense in 2021

Posted: January 30th, 2021 | No Comments »
Lieutenant-General Julian “Bungo” Byng from his family’s ancestral lands in Hertfordshire, UK, in early June 1916. Just after his appointment as commander of the Canadian Corps of the Empire in the First World War. And not long before the Corps would conquer Vimy Ridge. Viscount Byng of Vimy was later Governor General of Canada, 1921–26.

SPECIAL FROM RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, JANUARY 30, 2021. The main reaction to the unusual resignation of Governor General Julie Payette so far has focused on how she was vetted, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose her to fill the office in the summer of 2017.

The Democracy Watch advocacy group has already spoken up for a somewhat broader view of the issue, by calling on the prime minister to “democratize and Canadianize the choice of the next Governor General.”

This is important because the governor general or de facto head of state has significant reserve powers in our kind of parliamentary democracy. And this can be especially relevant for minority governments like the one we have in Ottawa now.

As authorities on the subject note, the governor general is meant to provide some degree of restraint on the prime minister, and evaluate his or her requests “to suspend Parliament or call new elections.”

From confederation in 1867 to the 1930s the Governor General of Canada was effectively appointed by the government of the United Kingdom. And this at least gave the office enough real-world independence from Canadian prime ministers to credibly assert prime ministerial restraint as required.

King George VI (left) with William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada (right), in London 11 May 1937 — the day before the king’s coronation, and three days before the start of the last Imperial Conference of Great Britain and her self-governing dominions overseas.

As the “free and democratic society” finally written down in the Constitution Act, 1982 evolved over the 20th century, this arrangement was quite rightly found wanting. The crafty mid 1920s clash between Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Governor General Lord Byng led to the 1931 Statute of Westminster.

The 1931 Statute made clear that the self-governing British dominions overseas were completely autonomous from the government of the United Kingdom. And this led the power to advise the monarch about governor general appointments to pass, as it were, from the prime minister of the United Kingdom to the prime ministers of the dominions.

In an earlier era this was a welcome sign of the growth of Canada’s own independent parliamentary democracy. Today it may seem more like just another step towards the never-ending aggrandizement of the friendly prime ministerial dictatorship in Ottawa.

Democracy Watch’s call on Prime Minister Trudeau to “democratize and Canadianize the choice of the next Governor General” now that Julie Payette has resigned is welcome enough.

But it is finally just another version of the advisory process put in place by Stephen Harper, but then not used by Justin Trudeau when he advised Queen Elizabeth II to appoint Julie Payette Governor General of Canada.

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Biden inauguration at last : “Americans always finally do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else first”

Posted: January 20th, 2021 | No Comments »
The 22-year old poet (and democratic political theorist) Amanda Gorman was the surprise star of the Biden-Harris inauguration.

FROM THE ELEGANT NEW MACBOOK AIR LAPTOP OF RANDALL WHITE, GANATSEKWYAGON, ONTARIO, CANADA. JANUARY 20, 2021, 10:30 PM ET : I had noted Daniel Dale’s tweet last night — “The President and The First Lady will depart the White House at 8:00 AM for Palm Beach, Florida.” I made a point of getting up to watch it on TV.

As it concluded Donald and (a smartly-dressed-in-black) Melania Trump left Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One, to the recorded strains of Frank Sinatra singing My Way. I have altogether no use for Trump’s politics. But if you seriously believe in democracy (as I certainly do : what else is there to believe in nowadays?), you have to respect the 74.2 million votes (or 46.9% of the total) that he won on November 3, 2020. My feeling was that this last bow of the blatantly lying President Trump who would soon vanish from the official record was a “class act” of sorts — different from the “low class” supporters he apparently regretfully observed on TV at the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol he did so much to inspire.

Lady Gaga also gave a sensational and deeply passionate performance of the US national anthem at the inauguration.

Out of the same democratic respect, I want to put some positive spin on Trump’s (albeit inadvertent) contribution to what Richard Hofstadter called The American Political Tradition (in a classic history book first published in 1948). My best shot is that Trump has finally forced the US political system to recognize and stand up for its most important evolutionary past, present, and future as a democracy : a “free and democratic society” — the society rightly celebrated in President Biden’s inaugural address. Of course, the narcissist authoritarian Trump does not believe in any of this himself. But as the Reverend William Barber suggested on TV, we may be able to most usefully regard Trump’s four long years as president not as the end of something in the past, but as the “pangs of a birth of a third reconstruction” in the evolution of democracy in America — which the Biden-Harris administration has now happily begun!

In a similar determination to take an optimistic view of the USA today on January 20, 2021, I am happy to think as well that Joe Biden in his late 70s just may be the right person at the right time in the ongoing history of democracy in America. He is reaching out not so much to the extremist Republicans who still crazily believe the blatant big lie that Trump somehow actually won the 2020 election, as to the increasingly largest share of the electorate who now call themselves Independents, in between Republicans and Democrats. Recent polling also suggests President Biden just may be able to unite at least some broader swath of America, including at least parts of the Republican USA that former President George W. Bush spoke for on January 20, 2021.

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Waiting for Biden-Harris at the last minute .. on a great lake in the far north

Posted: January 18th, 2021 | No Comments »
Pancake Bay on Lake Superior, in warmer weather.

SPECIAL FROM L. FRANK BUNTING, PANCAKE BAY, ON. JANUARY 18, 2021, 2 AM, 2 PM ET : Some worried that yesterday would be a kind of state-Capitol reprise of what transpired at the national Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. According to CNN, however : “Weekend protests at state capitols stayed small amid heavy police presence.”

CNN authors Christina Maxouris, Eric Levenson, and Dakin Andone have reported some further details : “Demonstrations remained small and peaceful as of Sunday night, despite warnings that armed protests were being planned at all 50 state capitols and the US Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration” (on Wednesday, January 20).

The Daily Cartoon from The Independent in the UK, 18 January 2021.

A FEW STATE CAPITOL CASES. In Michigan “several dozen demonstrators — some of whom were armed and armored … gathered at the state Capitol in Lansing under a light snow … There were fewer than a dozen people at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul — a group far smaller than the journalists and law enforcement who were present.”

In Denver, Colorado “demonstrator Larry Woodall told CNN he was disappointed with the low turnout, saying he’d come out to ‘support Trump, let him know we still care’ … Woodall said he did not support violence or the Capitol riots this month, and he’d accepted that Biden would be president, calling it ‘a done deal’ …”

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