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Mob Crowds. Capitol Defacement. An event so unbelievable, and yet, what we see on the news today has become a nightmare come true.
On Jan. 6, hundreds of Trump supporters launched themselves into the Capitol building and began an astounding insurrection against the Biden electoral victory. Smoke grenades, smashed windows and weapons were present, along with Confederate flags and harsh screams of “Fight for Trump! We are here for democracy!” More than 90 people have been arrested so far, and five individuals have died from the storming.
However, the biggest aspect on display was not the blatant disrespect for the Capitol, a living museum. It was not the lack of necessary masks during a dangerous pandemic. The Capitol riot, at its core, was the greatest show of America at its ugliest. And what was in the spotlight? None other than white supremacy.
Ultimately, after the storming, it is clear that the legacy of white supremacists continues to plague the nation. As timeless statues and podiums were stolen, many pro-Trump extremists decided to document the moment with their own selfies, smiling in glee. Hitting the post button, they spread their joy to many of their friends, demonstrating to the world how they were taking matters of American freedom into their own hands.
This is a stark, wide contrast to the unrest that happened this past year. When the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, protestors were met with violence and police brutality on the streets. They were, in a very literal sense, risking their lives to fight for their cause, as police used extreme, unnecessary force to punish individuals for fighting against racial injustice.
Flash forward to now: scattered across the news, images of police encouraging Pro-Trump supporters and even holding a female protestor’s hand to guide her, actions that essentially invite these extremist groups to vandalize the Capitol. The lack of police presence at the Capitol that day compared to that during Black Lives Matter protests was astounding, clearly demonstrating white supremacy at its finest.
How could this happen? The answer lies within incorrect judgment calls from leaders that eventually permitted the storming of the Capitol.
Immediately after Biden’s win, many Pro-Trump supporters began conspiring to storm the Capitol, communicating mainly through private Facebook groups. If any user disagreed with their actions and plans, they were immediately removed. After two days, Facebook shut down the groups and users were banned, but this was enough to get the ball rolling. Pro-Trump extremists continued communicating on budding social media sites that didn’t have much censure, discussing their meal plans for the day, finding routes and highways to meet up, and even deliberating on the weapons they should bring.
If Facebook had this issue brought to the company, it’s almost certain the government also had known about a future protest from extremist groups. Yet, on Jan. 6, there was an underwhelming amount of police protection at the Capitol. Why would the government be so hesitant to provide additional security, when they did so in the blink of an eye at Portland?
Due to the scrutiny from the public after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was reluctant to have a national police force present on Jan. 6. Rejecting federal aid in a public letter to the Department of Justice, Bowser told the National Review that “the Metropolitan Police Department is prepared for this week’s First Amendment activities.” On Jan. 6, only local police were present, who were not federal reinforcements.
Now, Bowser reflects on the events at the Capitol as “textbook terrorism” and that “a more robust presence on the ground [would have maintained order].” In addition, U.S Capitol Chief Police Steven Sund has resigned after the public criticized his response to the storming, which will be effective on Jan. 16.
In regards to irresponsible leadership, it seems as if the (former) President of the United States (POTUS) is on his last strike. At the speech before the riot, New York Times caught Trump egging on his supporters: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong.”
Throughout his term, Trump has made headline news relentlessly time after time, attempting to see how much ridicule he can put this country through. From racist tweets to underestimating the extent of the coronavirus, Trump has been a president that does not set by example. Those who have lauded his behavior began to form their own idea of American freedom: one where others unlike them become potentially hurt. Eventually, this negative leadership in our country resulted in a horrific incident while we are still recovering from political unrest in 2020 as well as facing an uncertain future.
In response, the House of Representatives Democrats have formally introduced their impeachment resolution. On Jan. 13, the House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection. Making history, he is the first president to be impeached twice. However, the Senate trial will be held after Biden’s inauguration, so it is unclear whether Trump will be prohibited from holding office in the future.
While Trump’s impeachment may seem contradictory as he only has a few days left before he leaves office, the House’s actions demonstrate that it is unacceptable to lead a country through malevolence, which has ripped and polarized our country. There are reparations for Trump’s behavior, and even he cannot hide behind money and lawyers.
As a country, it is difficult to recover from such an outrageous event. Nevertheless, change comes from empathy, respect and kindness. When we shut out opinions contrasting to others and continue to deem ourselves superior, this results in harmful rhetoric and a torn country. While the Capitol storming will stay an infamous occurrence, we must move on with dignity for the future of America.