The following is an opinion piece written by Rado Baarda (editor-in-Chief) and Sofia Quinones-Vilela (Head Columnist North America). The article contains strong language in the way it describes the events of January 6th and those leading up to it.
While much can be said about the 2020 election, the true problem for the United States is what came afterwards. After his defeat to Joe Biden, Mr. Trump believed the election was stolen from him. It was in his right to contest the results in a court of law, despite the improbable likelihood that the election would be overturned. However, when his allegations of fraud started being dismissed Mr. Trump did not change his provocative rhetoric, instead he doubled down. While President Trump did not order the actions that took place and every individual that committed these crimes has agency, it was his rhetoric that gave rise to this chaos.
Through the use of inflammatory speeches that continued to allege that the election was stolen from him—while never, not even in his lawsuits, being able to show any proof of large-scale fraud that changed the outcome of the election—he pushed his most loyal supporters too far. He could have proven all his critics wrong by acknowledging the election results and moving on, but instead—whether it is due to his ego or inability to accept defeat—Mr. Trump decided to pour fuel on the fire. History judges a person by his (in-)actions and the events of January 6th will be the lasting image and legacy of the Trump presidency.
Wednesday’s joint session in Congress was supposed to just be a formality: a ritual to memorialize Joe Biden’s victory in the electoral college. Instead, fueled by lies and conspiracy theories about a stolen election, rioters overran the D.C. police and attacked the United States Capitol. Enticed by a speech from President Trump, these criminals breached the building, forcing everyone inside to be locked down. Around 2 p.m. the mob of Trump supporters that had gathered outside the building began smashing glass and pushing their way past the few police officers that were stationed at the Capitol. Ten minutes later, a microphone picked up the ominous words that were told to Senator Grassley: “The protestors are in the building.” Capital police would quickly seal the Senate chamber while in the House Chambers aids piled up furniture to block their entrances.
The police were unprepared to deal effectively with the sheer size of the insurgents and, once rioters had successfully barged into the Capitol, other law enforcement agencies were slow to respond. This allowed hundreds of Trump supporters to parade through the sacred building—posturing in the Senate dais and the House speaker’s office. It was shameful to see images of looters who had managed to steal a podium, desecrate the offices of politicians, and continuously posed for pictures like school children taking a field trip to a museum. On top of that there was the horrific sight of seeing the Confederate flag being waved inside the Capitol for the first time in United States history—when even during the Civil War the flag had never breached the walls of the Capitol. And yet while this chaos and turmoil happens within the building, outside there are rioters who were targeting journalists by smashing their cameras and destroying their equipment.
With a curfew instilled by Mayor Bowser—it would take until roughly 6 p.m. before the Capitol building would once again be secured. During this time, the first confirmed death was reported to the media—where the public would later find out an ex-Air Force veteran was shot in her neck when trying to climb through a broken window. Another development that shocked Americans was that of the FBI finding two suspected explosive devices next to both the Republican and Democratic National Committee.
These insurgents called themselves “patriots” but clearly have no idea what the flag they carry with them stands for. They claim to be doing this in the name of their country and president—but show absolutely no past knowledge, reference, or understanding of what American ideals and what being an American citizen stands for. Every American that watched what happened was likely seething with rage and utterly appalled and sickened by the actions of these so-called “patriots.” All of the trespassers, vandals, and traitors need to be arrested and charged to the fullest extent of the law.
While citizens around the United States were waiting for President Trump to stand up and demand an end to the violence, he failed to show any form of leadership. Much like during the BLM protests, Trump stayed silent and retreated into the comfort of his home. Instead, it was left to President-Elect Biden to take the lead and forcefully denounce the situation, stating: “this is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition and it must end now.” This finally led Mr. Trump to make a response, albeit not a very deescalating one, in which he told his supporters that while “we had an election stolen from us” they “needed to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.”
All former Presidents did come forward to condemn the mob. In George Bush’s words, the events were a “sickening and heartbreaking sight.” After which he also expressed his disgust “with the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election.” Others also condemned Trump as the instigator such as Obama who tweeted out a statement saying, “…today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election…”
President Trump’s refusal to accept his loss has enabled his supporters to attempt a disorganized coup. Members of Congress from both sides have come out to condemn the president’s behavior and rhetoric. In fact, at about eight o’clock, two hours after the city curfew was placed in affect, Congress reconvened to resume counting the Electoral College votes. Without a doubt, politicians from both parties expressed their heartache and distaste of the actions that had just transpired.
Vice-President Mike Pence—together with the leaders in Congress—stood up for democracy and made sure that the symbolic ritual electing Joe Biden to the presidency was performed swiftly. In his speech once Congress reconvened, Pence stated, “…And as we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy, for even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again on the very same day to support and defend the constitution of the United States…Let’s get back to work.”
During this session, it became clear that many republicans who originally thought of challenging the votes of the Electoral College backed down after the events that had transpired. Senator Kelly Loeffler from the state of Georgia—who in fact had just lost reelection that morning—originally intended to contest Biden’s win. She reversed this decision, receiving a thunderous applause from her colleagues after stating, “There can be no disagreement that upholding democracy is the only path to preserving our republic.”
Mike Pence and Donald Trump have had growing tensions over the last few weeks following their lost reelection. In fact, it is rumored that Trump had asked Pence to challenge the Electoral College. But Pence—unlike Trump—is an avid believer in the constitution and what many would consider to be a true republican. Having defied Trump’s request, the relationship between the two has soured and finally turned rotten after the Capitol Riots.
Merely hours after the siege on the Capitol, resignations also started to pile up. Within the first twenty-four hours of the insurgency, ten people—including senior members of the administration—have resigned. This included the US Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, who said that in his thirty years of policing he had never experienced anything remotely close to what happened Wednesday. Trump’s education secretary Betsy DeVos’ resignation will be effective by Friday. Elaine Chao—Trump’s transportation secretary and wife to Senator Mitch McConnel—said that the Capitol Riots, “…has troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.” Mick Mulvaney, the president’s former Chief of Staff resigned from his current position as special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland. Or Stephanie Grisham—chief of staff and press secretary to First Lady Melania Trump—has been a part of the Trump’s office since the early stages of his 2016 president election also resigned effective immediately on Wednesday. It seems that no one wants to try and hold out just another few weeks as bridges have started to burn and crumble
Mr. Trump’s tweets were removed and put on a hold during a twelve-hour ban after the carnage. The nation, which was quite busy trying to digest the chaos that unfolded on Wednesday, needed clear statements rather than mixed-messaged videos. In fact, on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Trump would be permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for inciting violence. Twitter has unlocked Trump’s ban and allowed him to return where his first Tweet was that of acknowledging the election result and accepting a peaceful transition of power.
President Trump should have acknowledged his defeat weeks ago instead of parading with false narrative and instigating—what will probably go down in history—as a national shame. After receiving harsh criticism, Trump finally released a video on Thursday damning all rioters. This however is like applying a bandage to a shattered bone. Politicians and citizens alike are calling for the President to be removed as soon as possible. The 25th Amendment is being incited by politicians in which the United States Constitution states that if the President is unfit or unable to perform his duties, the Vice President takes over. In the past, the 25th Amendment applied to president’s who have gotten sick or intend to get a surgery in place—but these are temporary shifts of power. The last time the 25th Amendment was invoked was in 2002 when President George W. Bush needed to get a colonoscopy.
In order for the 25th Amendment to be enacted, Mike Pence together with a majority of senior cabinet members need to step forward. If the president fights back, a two-thirds majority within both chambers of Congress will decide whether the president is indeed not able to perform his duties. Speaker Pelosi—along with many other democrat congressmen and women—are urging Pence to enact the Amendment. Ultimately, had this happened months before the inauguration, it could be very probably that Trump would be thrown out of office by the 25th Amendment, but with less than two weeks until the transfer of power, it is incredibly unlikely.
For now, it looks like Washington DC will remain under total lockdown until after the inauguration. It had taken hours for National Guard to show but they will now remain posted throughout Washington to maintain the peace. Biden was even asked if he is afraid of violence occurring at his inauguration where he boldly stated that he was not going to be threatened. There is, however, fear of more violence. Especially after five people have now been confirmed to have died during the riots—including one police officer. Many more have been injured, with about 80 arrests thus far, but with more to come as investigations are underway by the FBI.
Not all rioters are going to be caught but one thing is for certain: all American’s will remember this day. Every generation has an event that will forever be engrained into their memories and their lives—no American watching the news will forget what happened January 6th, 2021. The people who stormed the Capitol, who insulted the American people, values, and government, have no shred of a clue what it means to be patriotic. Patriotism does not revolve around one man—idolism does.
To claim to be doing this for the better of the country—yet breaching, vandalizing, and trying to destroy the American system. To claim that God is watching over their actions—yet ignore the Ten Commandments of “Thou shall not make false idols.” To claim to believe in the fundamentals of the constitution—yet attempt to destroy the legitimate votes of millions of Americans. This does nothing more than undermine those institutions that have made America the world’s oldest democratic republic.
But when sheep are being herded towards the edge of cliff, we cannot blame the sheep, if not the dog pushing them towards it. Donald Trump may not have given a direct order to attack the Capitol, but his derogatory narrative and rhetoric since the election has indeed created a vast chasm between the American people. Months and weeks of creating distrust in the system we are meant to believe in is what has led to such an insurgence. Ever since being denied his second term, Mr. Trump is doing everything to prove his critics right and it is unclear how much lasting damage he will leave behind. What Americans could—and should do—is unite.