In the very first week of 2021, the whole world watched as a group of radical, right-wing domestic terrorists walked into the Capitol building of the United States. They wandered around the rotunda, took pictures of confidential material on the Senate floor, lounged in lawmaker’s offices, stole government property, waved a Confederate flag in the Capitol building, and set up gallows outside. Their occupation of the building lasted for around five hours and ended with five deaths: four rioters, one who was shot and three who died of medical emergencies such as heart attacks; and one police officer who was injured during the riot.
The goal of the riot was to “Save America,” or in other words, stop President Donald Trump from being removed from office. On Dec. 18, Trump announced on Twitter that there would be a “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th (sic). Be there, will be wild!” This protest was the starting point for the riot that took over the Capitol building that very same day. In the speech Trump gave at his protest that day, he declared he would “never concede” the election and told his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol”. He told them, “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
As Trump finished his speech, his crowd of followers — his crowd of police officers, of lawyers, of Proud Boys, of veterans, of ordinary, real people that truly believed that what they were doing was necessary to preserve the country they love — marched to the Capitol and prepared to “fight like hell.”
As the insurrectionists made their way into the Capitol, the Representatives and Senators still inside the Capitol went into lockdown, hiding beneath their desks or in hallways, scared for their lives — not unlike many children regularly do in most American public schools, I would like to add — and stayed there, waiting until the coast was clear. After 6 p.m., when a curfew was put in place, the rioters were slowly removed from the Capitol grounds. Around 8 p.m., Congress reconvened, finally confirming the Electoral College outcome (Biden 306 to Trump 232) at nearly 4 a.m.
What came of all this?
- The insurrectionists wanted to stop the Electoral College votes from being counted. They failed.
- They wanted to destroy the certificates of the Electoral College votes. Thanks to some quick work from some interns, they failed.
- They wanted to pressure Congress to overturn the election of President Joe Biden. They failed.
Legally, at least 170 FBI investigations have been opened into the events of Jan. 6, with more likely to come. Several Capitol Police officers have been suspended on suspicion of involvement. A new security fence has been placed around the Capitol, and more security measures were put in place for Inauguration Day. Trump also was impeached a second time by the House of Representatives for incitement of insurrection.
Socially, a number of politicians, celebrities, and social media platforms have taken this event, out of all of the terrible things that have happened over the last four years, as the “final straw” worth cutting ties with Trump over. Admittedly, this is baffling to me. Yes, inciting an attack on the nation’s capital is bad, but it’s certainly not the only bad thing Trump has done during his presidency.
Why are we only just now banning him from Twitter? Why is Mitch McConnell suddenly having a change of heart? Why was this the thing that needed to happen to make people #DumpTrump? Is it because the event happened so close to Trump being removed from power? If so, I’d say that’s a sadly transparent reason. Is it because, in the midst of everything, Trump’s response was to release a video on his Twitter telling his followers that they were “very special” but should “go home in peace” despite doubling down about the election being stolen? If so, what he said in those tweets was no different from what he’s been saying on Twitter for the last few months.
With Trump leaving office, we should not let the events that happened during his presidency slip our minds so quickly. The conspiracy theorists, Proud Boys, QAnon Users, racists, and bigots that stormed the Capitol did not come out of nowhere — they were cultivated, indoctrinated over several years of misinformation and brainwashing.
If we as a country are to go anywhere in the next four years, we must not insist that “we’re better than this,” as Biden claimed on the night of the riot. We’re not. We never have been. We should focus our sights on looking at the events that led us to where we are now, the systemic injustices that have brought us harm, and we should work on dismantling them, rather than ignoring them until they break down our doorstep and trample on our House floor again.