Rebecca Allan explores the place of the Capitol Riot in history.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
On the evening of Wednesday 6th January, I sat in shock, like so many others across the world, listening to Donald Trump declaring his love for the protestors besieging the Capitol. I was stunned by the shattering of an idea that had been built up around America of its “unbreakable” system of checks and balances. America the ‘free’, America the ‘fair’, America the ‘democratic’. These words were becoming worthless, hollow, and as the images poured onto social media of Trump flags and smashed windows, I could not help but feel that this insurrection was the boiling point of a cauldron that had been bound to bubble over since the start of one of the most malign presidencies in US history. No longer was Covid-19 the hottest topic on the news; the world’s eyes were now trained to a newer, more violent virus that was infecting the ‘Citadel of Liberty’.
Toddlers stamping their feet
While watching these affronts unfold – the desecration of the Capitol, the defiling of the Senate floor - I could not help but look back at the summer protests and the ongoing efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement. While that tide of united anguish sparked hope and vitality, as well as bellowing the frustration towards a soulless establishment, last night’s ‘storming of the barricades’, by comparison, was merely toddlers stamping their feet for not getting to blow out the candles on a birthday cake.
The differences between the diametrically opposed protests of the Proud Boys/ QAnon etc and the demonstrations of the summer were glaring. If these had been the marchers of BLM, the Capitol would never have been reached and perhaps many more casualties would have been sustained; the National Guard would have been ordered immediately, and Trump would not have been requesting them to stay peaceful, instead branding them as dangerous criminals defacing the property of the American people. His tweets labelled BLM protestors as ‘Anarchists, and Agitators,’ deserving a ‘minimum ten years in prison’ sentence. Many news anchors and late-night show hosts have highlighted the irony of this statement. Although currently 68 arrests have been made, it is debated whether Trump’s rioters will be prosecuted at all.
The storming of the Capitol was also, interestingly, both bizarre and unhinged. An extraordinary cavalcade of rioters ranging from yellow kilted Proud Boys, to camouflaged survivalists, alongside white supremacists draped in body armour and fragile masculinity, to the bizarre Independence era Minute Man traipsing through the building bickering with members of security details, and a superhero in red Morph suit capering on the entryway. A Viking helmeted, bare chested loon in leather chaps made a rambling, meaningless statement to the press in the Capitol atrium while inert security guards looked on clueless. It was the epitome of a wholly incoherent, pointless, and mendacious attack on America’s democracy which sums up the abhorrent Donald J Trump and his bile that has fuelled a manipulated group into violence.
Of course, the backlash from this incredible event has been seen across all platforms of media: journalists and television crews watched on as the steps of the Capitol were overrun and security fences became ladders.
'Charlottesville come home to roost'
Comedians such as Jordan Klepper have been brilliant throughout this tumultuous administration, but now there needs to be more done to prevent the ‘fake news’ phenomena. Podcaster Michael Barbaro of The New York Times focused on fact checking the last four years of Trump, but not always identifying the gradual tearing of American society. Now, the voices of the people storming the Capitol were heard, all ‘ready for a revolution, just waiting for the word go for the second American Revolution’, a terrifying idea in one of the most powerful countries in the world. ‘The Late Show’ host Stephen Colbert observed that ‘this was Charlottesville come home to roost, on Capitol Hill’. These chilling reflections were made only more poignant as a scaffold and noose were being erected outside the defiled People’s House.
Biden’s statement to the mob and the President as the riots continued to evolve, described how ‘unprecedented’ this assault on American democracy was. But why is it unprecedented? Trump told us what he was going to do months if not years ago. He always said he would refuse the result if he lost, and he is doing exactly what he said. For all Trump’s faults, he does not lie about his illegal intentions and activities.
Trump had been calling for January 6th to be a day of reckoning for a while. While he may not have built the bonfire that has led to this unrest, he brought the petrol and the matches. ‘Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, we are going to walk down, and I will be there with you… to the Capitol.’
What this act of domestic terrorism is showing to democratic countries and America’s allies is that it is crucial that people vote. They need to have their voices heard. Grassroots movements lead by organisers such as Stacey Abraham have been crucial in mobilising historically under-represented groups in society that were vital to the success of the Democrats in the election. It is not enough to just vote; it is paramount to the success of democracy that people step up and activate others to make their voices heard too. Abraham’s victory in gaining black voters in Georgia set an example to us all that voting across the political spectrum can only have positive impacts on society. Biden’s victory certified later that evening after Congress had readjourned, gave a glimmer of hope back to all voters that their opinions were valid, and the democratic system would prevail.
In 4 exhaustingly laborious years, the Trump administration has allowed a patchwork country to rip at the seams and there it is still questionable whether the next government will be able to stitch them back together. President- Elect Biden’s speech of Thursday night was a strong, hardliner message that refused to back down from the battle of keeping America’s democratic system valid. He stood with the BLM peaceful protests, condemned these disgraceful rioters and their pathetic leader, and declared his plan to ‘stand up to the Klan’. Maybe the US can come out of this polarised era stronger, by the will of the people and the integrity of all.
Voting for justice is now more vital than ever to stop the triumph of evil.
Although this protest may not amount to anything and the historical Biden Harris victory will go ahead, I cannot help but feel fear for what is to come afterwards. How can a country divided by more than accents and state lines piece themselves back together? Is this a wake-up call to America that there is more to fix in its socio-political environment than they are willing to admit and work on?
Rebecca Allan has the incredible gift of bring people back down to earth, but raising them up to her level. When I first met Becca she was visiting her best friend and my to-be best friend Katrina. She was on a gap year and me being fresh faced at uni felt like I had an edge over her for coming straight to uni (this was when I though gap years were futile - I now wholeheartedly encourage them). Talking to Becca completely broke this edge. I found Becca to be drivingly intimidating and still do to this day. Whenever I talk to her, I instantly want to go and campaign for something or tell someone what new things I've just learnt from Becca. She has this incredible ability to beckon passion out of me and I leave every conversation more arduous than I attended it as. It is an honour to platform this woman's voice.