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The Invasion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Office was a Startling Violation of Her Privacy

The image of a man, now identified as Richard Barnett, sitting with his feet up on Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s desk has been circulating around social media for the past 24 hours. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve been no doubt kicking it Patrick Starr style – i.e., you’ve been living under a rock. Like many other images from the Washington riot, this one is not easy to view because it chronicles an occurrence much worse than any of the lies Trump and his supporters have spewed about Pelosi on Twitter.

Pelosi’s office ransacked

On January 6th, Pelosi’s office was broken into, ransacked and vandalized, and we can only thank our lucky stars that Pelosi herself wasn’t in it. What happened Wednesday is more vicious than Trump’s heated tweets directed at Pelosi of years’ past, reducing her importance and taking away her title. None of that was okay, of course, but this is a violation. The mob’s actions violated her position, her person and all that she represents. 

The man who took his post at her desk also left a note on a manila folder reading “WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN.” He stole one of her personal letters, for which he left a quarter on her desk in return while claiming he “wasn’t there to steal anything.” Yet there was a plaque stolen from outside of her office, and then paraded around like a trophy to the harrowing tune of “get her out” and “not our speaker.” There were rips and tears all over the place, photos torn from the walls and objects turned over. To say the space was left in disarray doesn’t begin to cover it. Imagine your office, whether at home or in an office-building, and now picture your desk being rifled through. Picture the desk drawers – what do you keep there? Perhaps you keep stamps or stationery, maybe receipts, photos and a snack or two. Whether the items in your desk are of great importance or little matter, are they meant for anyone else to see? To take? These such pieces from Pelosi’s office were not meant for public eyes. 

Trump’s Twitter proves eerily foreboding

It might seem that Trump’s heated tweets had nothing to do with the ransacking of Pelosi’s office, but that’s a falsehood of the highest degree. Trump’s base has been encouraged to disrespect and despise Pelosi for years. Trump has incited this by calling her all sorts of wicked names, from “Crazy Nancy,” “Nervous Nancy”, “‘dumb’” (with oddly placed quotes) to “unhinged.” He’s claimed that “she is a very sick person,” that there is “something wrong with her ‘upstairs.’” Pelosi has taken this heat with little public acknowledgement, other than saying that she “doesn’t like to spend too much time on his crazy tweets,” and rightfully so, as most people can see Trump’s tweets for what they are, frantic calls into the void to ‘restore’ his bruised ego. 

But these tweets aren’t insular. They led directly to the treatment of Pelosi’s office. How else were Trump’s supporters supposed to react? They’ve been consistently lulled with lies about Pelosi’s mental acuity, learning to hate her and the ‘corrupt’ Democrats who do terrible things like commit fake crimes and win elections. In their minds, this was the opportunity to get back at someone who their trusted leader has criticized for the past four years and even before that. The protestors finally had their moment to take from this ‘unhinged’ official, and they didn’t hesitate. 

It’s important to note that Rep. Pelosi’s office wasn’t the only thing vandalized, damaged or ransacked in the capitol; in fact, it was just one of many incidents defacing our democracy. Yet according to people on the scene, it seemed as though the most pride over stolen objects were those that came from Pelosi’s office. Meanwhile, the Speaker has handled this with an inspiring level of grace and determination to get our government functioning again. As she says in the press conference calling for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, “To those whose purpose was to deter our responsibility, you have failed. You did not divert the congress from our solemn constitutional purpose, to validate the overwhelming election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”


The power of words to spark hatred… and action

If we’ve learned anything from these events, Trump’s Twitter account held more power than anyone wants to admit, inciting so many of the horrifying events in D.C. Twitter finally suspended his account, but does the argument ‘better late than never’ still hold? Could social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have stopped this before it even happened? The sad answer is that it’s possible this insurrection might have been avoided, had social media platforms regulated and restricted those who did much of the planning, including Trump. 

There’s a saying that may prove telling in the analysis of how this occurred. It goes something like this: Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words cannot hurt us… right?

Not quite. 

For it was words that have been thrown carelessly about from the mouth of Donald Trump over the course of decades. These words led to treason, injury and death. Without careless 180 character limits, the world may not have had to witness what happened on Wednesday.

Pelosi took a stand in the aftermath of the destruction, along with countless officials across the country calling for Trump’s impeachment 2.0, and they have a point. The US cannot risk one more day where he is president. 

Good thing we only have a few days left. 

Elizabeth Sander is a National Writer for Her Campus and a recent graduate from Tufts University, where she earned a BA in English and French. Elizabeth served as a Her Campus Editorial Intern for the Fall of 2020 and loved every minute. When not writing articles about all things culture and style (or the occasional personal essay), Elizabeth spends time creative writing, reading and working on flying crow pose. Next up on Elizabeth's agenda is Columbia J-School! Find her on insta @elizsander or for meals inspo @confinemnt_kitchn
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