Opinion: Capitol Chaos


Trump supporters wave their flags as they storm the U.S. Capitol (Getty Images)

Jayah Caley, Joslyn Bowman, and Vivian Tran

January 6th, 2021: a day that will go down in history for the United States.

On a day unlike any other, the world watched as the US Capitol building was stormed by citizens of our own country who were united by unconstitutional motives. Trump supporters who refused to acknowledge the loss of their beloved presidential candidate took up their grievances with the Capitol. Although they may have been under the illusion that they were exercising their right to protest, in reality, they were executing a full fledged terrorist attack. Walls were climbed, windows were broken, law enforcement was attacked, and the Senate Chamber was stormed. It was unlike anything this country has seen before. 

America’s 45th president, Donald Trump, played a large role in the riot; he incited the violent protest. Prior to the uprising, Trump delivered a speech to his supporters, We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.” By saying the words ‘we’re going to have to fight much harder’ he built the hatred that inspired this riot. Never in the history of America has a president ever done something like that.

The speech was a long-winded complaint in which Trump acted as if he had still won the election. Rather than simply accepting that he had lost the election, Trump played the blame game, acting as a five-year-old would. Perhaps the largest accusation he made was when he said, They [the democrats] rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before,” inspiring his call for votes to be recounted, especially those cast in Georgia. 

Georgia played a vital role in the election, turning blue for the first time in 28 years. In disbelief that he had lost, Trump called for a Georgia recount—doing nothing for him but further proving that he had lost. It’s ironic that he did this, as for some argue that he cost the Republicans an election in Georgia. Even Republicans disagree with his actions, as Republican Senator Mitt Romney put it, “It turns out that telling the voters that the election was rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters.”

In his address, Trump expressed his distaste for losing the election by ensuring his supporters that their voices wouldn’t be silenced. Another example of him refusing to accept his defeat.

Rangeview’s social studies teacher, Mrs. Walsh, described Trump by saying, “He does not understand how if you have a grievance with your government, we have a process to have your voice heard.”

Prior to this ‘protest’ event occurring, Donald Trump tweeted about a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” and then proceeded to tell his supporters, “Be there, will be wild!” Rather than it being his direct words, it was his rhetoric throughout the entirety of the speech. From talking about ‘fighting’ much harder to creating a sob story about how the election was stolen from him. 

In his final remarks, Trump ignited the final flame in his supporters by stating, “We will stop the steal. We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol…We’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones…the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

It wasn’t his direct words, but the underlying meaning in what he was saying. To use the words “stop the steal” and “they need to take back our country,” implied that things needed to get physical. He directly told his supporters, “let’s take back our country,” and the only way they knew how was through the use of violence.

Trump tweets this message on January 6th after the Capitol is stormed. Twitter marks it with a warning. (USA Today)

As Walsh put it, “This group just ignored the process and went straight to Insurrection and violence. This shows white privilege at its best.”

Many are still trying to wrap their head around the fact that white Trump supporters were able to break into the capitol building because they lost the election without violence used against them. But, when African Americans and other allies wanted to peacefully protest against brutal actions that left Black citizens dead all across the country, it was a different story. 

Donald Trump truly created racial, social, and political divides within the country. In his last week in office, he left a mess that’s up to the rest of the nation to clean up.

As the events at the Capitol unfolded before our eyes, videos of some Capitol law enforcement disgusted America while others like Eugene Goodman are being praised for being heroes. Videos of Capitol police officers willingly opening up the barriers put in place to protect the building and its importance to democracy flooded the media. Along with these heinous acts were officers who took selfies and practically joined the dangerous rioters. 

It is unimaginable to believe that the men and women who were there that day to protect and serve enabled the terrorist attack that resulted in one of their own men in blue being beat to death by the same people they chose to stop and take selfies with. Officer Brian Sicknick died due to the injuries he sustained at the Capitol. He was said to have been hit multiple times in the head with a fire extinguisher. Officer Sicknick had been serving in the Capitol Police since 2007. He died serving his country.

The trauma caused by the events at the Capitol resulted in another Capitol police officer’s death; Howard Liebengood committed suicide four days after the attack. 

There are now at least thirty one police officers under investigation in regards to their participation in the events of the Capitol on January 6th. 

During the Black Lives Matter protests, the Capitol building was completely surrounded by the highest levels of security. The National Guard was deployed to the Lincoln Memorial after the murder of George Floyd. All throughout the nation, in the Capitol’s cities, the National Guard was utilized to brutally tear gas, beat, and shoot at protesters.

“During the BLM protests, people would peacefully protest and cause no harm but the police felt so threatened by them that they started pepper spraying, shooting rubber bullets, and using tear gas. It really showed their motives because they weren’t there to protect protesters, they were there to harm them,” Senior, Wendy Avelar, stated. 

Police use teargas against protestors following the death of George Floyd. (Independent)

On the day of insurrection, Trump didn’t even have the sense of responsibility to deploy the National Guard or send in any sort of assistance. Instead, Trump released a statement saying that he loved the domestic terrorists at the Capitol and just wanted them to, “go home safely.” 

The insurrection at the Capitol on June 6, 2021 made it clear that the reelection of Donald Trump was and has never been about the economy or the tax cuts he believes in, it’s about upholding white supremacy. 

Senior, Julia Stacks, said, “Since this has never happened, that shows what a negative, violent and evil impact Trump had left on our country. Seeing the capitol made me so angry and filled with fury because it was so easy for those terrorists to do what they wanted because they were all white supremacists.”

If Black people and the BLM activists had even thought about doing what this cult of people did, they would have been killed without hesitation. They would have never even stepped foot in the Capitol without being met with bullets first.

The same group of people who were disgusted with the phrase ACAB (all cops are bastards),were screaming that blue lives matter and stating that they proudly “back the blue,” ended up being responsible for the lives of the officers they took. 

Those who participated in the riot, proved that the policing system in America is inherently racist. There is a lack of training required to become an officer in America that has led to thousands of preventable deaths. In America, on average, it takes only 21 weeks to become an officer. In 2020, 988 people were killed by the police. In Japan, there were only 2 people killed by the police in 2020. It takes on average four years to become a police officer in Japan. Data shows that in countries that require more training, there are far less incidents of law enforcement caused deaths. Being an officer in America is often sought out by those craving power, which is undeniably dangerous. 

“The Capitol riot screamed white privilege and it’s disappointing, but not surprising to see that not much has changed,” said Avelar. 

Policing in America is a broken system built to redefine slavery. Time and time again we see white privilege prevail in the name of law enforcement. The Capitol police who enabled the insurrection let the nation down. All law enforcement officers and military that were off duty that participated in the riot let our nation down. There is no place for white supremacists and domestic terrorists in law enforcement. 

At least twenty five cases of domestic terrorism have been opened since the coup. 400 suspects have been identified and 135 have been arrested in relation to the siege. 

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This phrase is supposed to convey the inconsistency when it comes to defining terrorism. Whether this should be classified as an act of terrorism has been a controversial matter in the past few weeks but many were quick to label it as so, including newly-inaugurated president, Joe Biden, in a speech he gave on the day following the attack, “They weren’t protesters — don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob of insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.” 

To call what happened on the 6th, “mob violence” would be a mislabeling because it implies that this was a spontaneous event. However, this was premeditated and those who participated had a clear political goal in mind while attacking nonmilitary targets, “I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming. But that isn’t true. We could see it coming.” Biden said. 

A man holds a confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol building (People) (JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shuttersto)

Whether it is labeled as domestic terrorism or not, it can be agreed that these people weren’t protesting, but rather committing a crime, “Insurrection is a better term,  trying to overthrow a constitutional practice of acknowledging an election,” said Mrs. Walsh as she described the attack,  “[They were] domestic terrorists who planned an insurrection.”

So what are prosecutors and lawmakers saying about it?

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” National security experts agree that the incident falls in life with this definition. Despite this, there is no single domestic terrorism statute or one law that makes it crime. Federal prosecutors will have to use other statutes and the entire criminal code will be used in their playbook; here’s a few they may focus on:

  • Seditious Conspiracy
    • With a maximum sentence of 20 years, this statute makes it a crime for two or more people to attempt to interfere with the government. “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.” (Cornell Legal Information Institute)
  • Homicide and Assault
    • There were five deaths during the Capitol raid. Many federal provisions could be used here and if there is the appropriate evidence showing an “intent to kill or depraved disregard for human life” (TIME), then a person can be charged with murder. 
    • Assault charges could also be made including those with a deadly weapon.
  • Possession of Firearms & Explosives

As of January 8th, thirteen individuals had been charged in Federal Court for their actions. However, the amount of crimes committed on the day of the raid far exceeds this number.