What Happens When the People Storm the People’s House?

On January 6th 2020, supporters of Former-President Donald Trump contesting the certification of now-President Joe Biden stormed the US Capitol. Overpowering Capitol police, rioters – some brandishing guns and confederate flags – broke windows and doors to gain access to the seat of US power. Congress was evacuated, and rioters looted offices, erected gallows, and walked around the US Capitol for hours. Former President Donald Trump stalled on activating the DC National Guard. Five people lost their lives as a result of the insurrection. 

 

Some call them rioters while others say they are domestic terrorists, but it is clear that the people who stormed the Capitol did so with reason and provocation – they wanted to keep former President Trump in power. Since major news outlets called the election for President Biden and VP Kamala Harris, the Trump administration made repeated claims of election fraud. There’s little documented evidence of such fraud. Former Attorney General William P. Barr spoke out on December 1st, saying “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Trump lost over 50 legal cases, including one in the Supreme Court, in attempts to get to a different election outcome.

 

Trump planned a “Save America March” in DC on January 6th, the day Congress planned to certify Biden, and thousands of Trump supporters flocked to DC in response. Trump used this moment to incite the events that followed, telling supporters to ‘walk down to the Capitol’ and talking about the need to ‘take back our country’ with strength. Trump also made comments about former VP Mike Pence, who later certified Joe Biden, and supporters of Trump were heard calling for the hanging of Mike Pence. Recent research shows that the riot at the Capitol was planned on social media days before the attack. 

 

Upon reaching  the Capitol, hundreds clashed with the Capitol police, who were understaffed for such an event. The National Guard was later activated, but Capitol police were  ill-equipped  to stop the attack. Rioters walked through the halls of Congress while filming their insurrection and posting it to social media. One person was shot by law enforcement, while others died from medical emergencies.

 

The riot has sparked discussions and comparisons to the police response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. A main facet of the debate has been that the police response to the insurrection sheds light on the racial injustices in America. National Guard troops stood ready at areas such as the Lincoln Memorial during the DC Black Lives Matter protests on June 2nd 2020, and law enforcement across the country fired rubber bullets and released tear gas during protests. Peaceful protestors were even cleared using force to allow Trump to take a photo at St. John’s Church in DC, with a Bible in hand. In stark contrast, rioters at the Capitol were met with little resistance and limited force. One police officer even appeared to take photos with the rioters. Niwot student, Anika Nagpal, spoke out about this in an interview: “For the BLM protests, there were thousands of guards ready with weapons… Whereas, the security [at the Capitol] was quite lenient even though it got incredibly violent and people lost their lives.”

 

What is undisputed is that the Capitol riots damaged American democracy. Officials on both sides of the aisle have attributed the insurrection to Trump’s rhetoric, and have since condemned the violence. A series of resignations followed  at the White House, with both the Deputy Vice Press secretary and Trump’s NSA advisor leaving. Big tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google began a battle to take down posts suggesting violence and extremism – all of Trump’s social media accounts were suspended and right-wing social media platform Parler was removed by Apple and Google. Amazon then shut down Parler’s servers. And finally, Trump has been historically impeached by the House for the second time. If he’s impeached by the Senate, he won’t be able to run for re-election.

 

We asked Niwot students how they felt about the Capitol insurrection. Most were at home and saw the events live as they unravelled on TV. Some students said that they were worried for the stability of our country, while others said that they felt personally affected. Students are worried that the divide which ruptures America could harm them or their families. Niwot senior Ben Goff said that the insurrection was a wakeup call to bring our country back together.

 

The riot at the Capitol shed light on what some may say is the new America. Polarized. Divided. And most of all, fearful of the other side. Biden, who campaigned on the principles of unity, promises to bridge the gap he says Trump widened during his term. Stark polarization makes it harder for laws to be passed in Congress and increases the prevalence of extremist militia groups, as well as creating fear and uncertainty among American citizens. Niwot freshman Daniela Garcia said that she’s worried for the future of our generation in these social conditions. It is important to understand the views of other people in an attempt to break through the barriers that separate us.

 

We leave you with a final l comment on the insurrection from Niwot senior Maya Beauvineau: “This bipartisan recognition [Congress talking about the Capitol riot] was refreshing and relieving because it gave me hope for an America beyond Trump: an America that stands for open and respectful interchange of ideas, collaboration, and unity.

 

Sources:

 

Bibliography

Barrett, Ted, and Manu Raju. “US Capitol secured, 4 dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win.” CNN, 7th January 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/us-capitol-lockdown/index.html. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Bennett, Brian. “After President Trump Incited a Riotous Mob, Will He Face Any Consequences?” Time, 7th January 2021, https://time.com/5927361/donald-trump-incited-capitol-consequences/. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Chavez, Nicole. “Rioters breached US Capitol security on Wednesday. This was the police response when it was Black protesters on DC streets last year.” CNN, 10th January 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/07/us/police-response-black-lives-matter-protest-us-capitol/index.html. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Fandos, Nicholas. “Trump Impeached for Inciting Insurrection.” The New York Times, 13th January 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/us/politics/trump-impeached.html?name=styln-impeachment2&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=047a07c0-60b7-11eb-947e-c936f7a76155&variant=1_Show. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Gerhart, Ann. “Election results under attack: Here are the facts.” The Washington Post, 14th January 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/interactive/2020/election-integrity/. Accessed 24th January 2021.

McGreevy, Nora. “The History of Violent Attacks on the U.S. Capitol.” Smithsonian Magazine, 8th January 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/history-violent-attacks-capitol-180976704/. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Relman, Eliza, et al. “Trump tells his violent supporters who stormed the Capitol ‘you’re very special,’ but asks them ‘to go home.’” Business Insider, 6th January 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-video-statement-capitol-rioters-we-love-you-very-special-2021-1. Accessed 27th January 2021.

Savage, Charlie. “Incitement to Riot? What Trump Told Supporters Before Mob Stormed Capitol.” The New York TImes, 10th January 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/us/trump-speech-riot.html. Accessed 24th January 2021.

Wikipedia. “2021 storming of the United States Capitol.” Wikipedia, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_storming_of_the_United_States_Capitol. Accessed 24th January 2021.