In Washington DC, shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, hundreds of pro-Trump protesters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the Capitol. Rioters stormed our nation’s Capitol and fought with officers in full riot gear; some called the officers “traitors” for doing their jobs. These rioters violently stormed inside, mask-less and armed, smashing windows and looting congressional offices. Some rioters shouted about lynching powerful lawmakers, including Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as the halls of the Capitol were evacuated and the representatives were barricaded inside a safe room. As the House floor was evacuated by police, Vice President Mike Pence was also evacuated from the chamber, where he was to perform his role in the counting of electoral votes.
When the building was secured hours later, authorities found a gallows and a noose left behind by the rioters, a truly chilling thought that leaves many Americans without words. About 90 minutes after the violence broke out in the Capitol, police said demonstrators got into the building, and the doors to the House and Senate were being locked. It took over four hours for the Capitol to be secured, five people died and at least 52 people were arrested the day of the riot (that number now sitting closer toward 100+). This stunning display of insurrection was the first time the US Capitol had been stormed or overrun since the British attacked and burned the building in August of 1814, during the War of 1812. And to add to this, this violent riot was met with less police force than almost all of the Black Lives Matter peaceful protests due to the untimely and inhumane murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last year. To juxtapose this with another picture in the time of Trump’s presidency, we see the contrast of federal police attacking peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square outside the White House clearing the way for Trump to take a photo in front of a nearby church with the rioters on Wednesday, able to overrun Capitol police and infiltrate the country’s legislative chambers with relative ease.
In the wake of this afternoon of chaos and taint to our democratic values, I have asked a few people to share their views on the riots at the capitol and ask them how they think it will affect politics going forward.
Speaking to a senior member of the community, she reflects: I am heartbroken to witness what is happening to our democracy with the seeming unawareness of so many Americans as it sways and crumbles before our very eyes. We, together, must recognize the intrinsic value of truth and of justice for all and cling to these concepts as we prop up, refurbish and stabilize our democracy while that option still remains to us. We are good people, and we can do this by carefully discerning the truth in what we see and hear, and letting our conscience and best angels guide our behavior as we go about our daily lives in this democracy we know and love and must never simply take for granted.
From a baby boomer’s generational perspective, this participant reflected: Who would have thought in this day and age that our democracy would be threatened? The power is with the millennials to select and vote for people who will represent democracy. The future is yours. Shape it.
Speaking with a college student participant viewing this insurrection, she reflects: The riots in the Capitol were, like everyone has been saying, unprecedented and a very real threat to democracy. The United States’ ability to peacefully transition power has been a hallmark of our democracy for centuries, and the fact that a mass of people felt they were entitled to stop a fair election with violence is un-Democratic. The nation is deeply divided, and this white supremacist movement that Trump has created will not go away with a new administration. I believe it will take generations to undo what Trump has created and strengthen our political and democratic institutions again.
In the aftermath of these riots, it is unclear and maybe a bit frightful to think about what the future of our democracy may entail. No matter political views or partisanship, it seems clear that the events of January 6th present a threat to the protection of American democratic values by questioning the standards to which people in office, law enforcement and common civilians hold themselves to. Though, reflecting on this, what can we gain from this experience? Lawmakers, members of Congress and other political affiliates have made it clear that stability and morality need to be instilled once again into our governmental system. With the second impeachment of Donald Trump passed by the House on the grounds of incitement of violence and Joe Biden’s inauguration into office on January 20th, we must all remember the phrase: “United we stand, divided we fall.”