By now, you know well what happened at our nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. While Congress had gathered to perform the ceremonial duty of counting the electoral votes and make Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory official, thousands of President Trump’s supporters gathered for a rally on the National Mall, a rally that President Trump himself spoke at, telling his angry supporters that: “We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” He then urged the attendees to march on the Capitol building to help Republicans find “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
History was, in fact made. For the first time since 1814, the Capitol was overrun.
But instead of being stormed by foreign soldiers, the Capitol was overtaken by domestic terrorists, furious insurgents determined to prevent democracy from being fulfilled. Senators and Congresspeople had to barricade themselves in the chambers and don gas masks, before being evacuated by the Capitol Police, and Vice President Mike Pence, who had been attacked by President Trump both on Twitter and at the rally had to be escorted to safety by Secret Service. Quick thinking Senate aides grabbed the boxes containing the certified electoral college votes and carried them to safety, lest they fall into the terrorists’ hands and be destroyed.
Once inside the building, the rioters roamed the halls of Congress, some armed, some waving Confederate flags — something that has never before happened in our history.
The insurgents sat on the Senate dais, roamed around the mahogany desks, they broke into the Congressional offices and trashed them, there was an armed standoff in the House chamber. They smeared their shit all over the walls and floors. They looted our Capitol.
They had zip-ties. One had “a military semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails.”
And they had plans.
Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted out encouragement to the rioters, half-hearted suggestions that they go home but “remember this day forever!”, and a video message telling them that he “loves them,” and that they’re “very special.”
After what felt like an eternity, the traitors were flushed from the building, but not without loss of life. A Trump supporter, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer, three other people died from “medical emergencies,” and Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer died as a result of injuries after he was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher during the fracas. Additionally, two live explosive devices were found in the headquarters of the RNC and the DNC, in buildings near the Capitol complex.
Once the Capitol had been secured, Congress returned to the business at hand mere hours later and certified Joe Biden’s win — but not without first entertaining challenges to it spearheaded by Senators — and traitors to this country — Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Neely Kennedy, Roger Marshall, Tommy Tuberville, and more than 130 Republican Congressmen. This AFTER the siege.
The postmortems and hand-wringing about how this could have possibly happened have begun. But those of us who wept on November 9, 2016 … we tried to tell you.
This is who Donald Trump is. He has always equated power with brute physical force and violence.
“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny,” Trump said in the interview with Breitbart published on Wednesday. “I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher.”
“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” Trump said.
And while the violent rhetoric that he has spewed into the national conversation for the past five years is repugnant to the average American — Democrats and Republicans alike — it does have an appeal to a frighteningly large swath of the population, the part of the population who loves the second amendment more than the first, who respects the Confederate flag more than the United States flag, and who assumes institutions of power like the military and the police belong wholly to them. This is also the same part of the population that has been reassured by the Republican party for decades now that their right to own as many and any kind of gun as they want would not be infringed upon because they might need those guns to protect themselves from an overreaching, dangerous government.
They identify with Donald Trump, they associate him with power and with their values. And when President Trump began lying about the election even before the first vote was cast — insisting that if he lost, it could only be because the Presidency that he was entitled to would be been stolen from him — he was suggesting that it would be their loss, too.
So when the 81 million Americans, exhausted by the constant noise, scandal, and outrage generated by this President, voted him out of office in November, Donald Trump returned to this lie that he had been planting in his supporters’ heads for months and spun vast conspiracy theories alleging that some shadowy cabal in several states ripped his rightfully won election from him and from them. They were being attacked, they were being robbed, their country was being stolen from them, they were victims and they needed to fight back. And plenty of members of the Republican party repeated this message, amplified it, and encouraged a siege mentality against a Biden presidency, democracy, and reality itself. This was it, this was the government overreach they had been expecting, this was the moment they had been preparing for.
But it’s not enough to wind up a bunch of gun-humping lunatics into a lather. For this siege to have taken place, it required a failure on the part of the people protecting the Capitol building. Many, many questions are being asked today thanks in part to some alarming video that came out of the event:
The police removing barricades for the rioters:
Taking selfies with the insurgents as they storm the building:
This rioter claiming the “cops were really cool” with them:
“A Capitol Police officer tried to reason with the crowd: ‘You guys just need to go outside,’ he pleaded with a man in a green backpack. When asked why they weren’t expelling the protesters, the officer said, ‘We’ve just got to let them do their thing now.’”
Three days before supporters of President Donald Trump rioted at the Capitol, the Pentagon asked the U.S Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. And as the mob descended on the building Wednesday, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times, according to senior defense officials and two people familiar with the matter.
And that after the Capitol police finally did request backup, the Pentagon initially hesitated:
The Capitol Police, the law enforcement force that reports to Congress and protects the House and Senate, hadn’t requested help from the Guard ahead of Wednesday’s events. But early Wednesday afternoon, its chief made an urgent plea for backup from 200 troops during a call with top Pentagon and city officials, according to officials familiar with the call.
On the call, Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund was asked whether he wanted help from the National Guard. “There was a pause,” one of the D.C. officials said. And Sund said yes. “Then there was another pause, and an official from the [office of the] secretary of the Army said that wasn’t going to be possible.”
To be fair, there were many Capitol police officers who defended the Congresspeople and put their lives in direct fire, and as noted above, Officer Brian Sicknick lost his life as a result of this violence. But it’s also fair to ask how this failure occurred, how hundreds of people were able to storm a building that should be one of the most secure locations in this country. Was it mere incompetence or was there some coordination taking place with the rioters? I am concerned that it was a mix of both, and that it’s also something else, something much deeper and much more profoundly disturbing about our society and culture in general.
There is one simple explanation for these disparities: the rot of White supremacy at the core of our culture. Whether or not we can admit it, whether or not we are capable of admitting it, our society associates Black and Brown people with crime and violence and associates White people with “law and order” and authority. In the mindset of our government and the authorities in charge of securing our Capitol, a BLM protest has the potential to become violent and devolve into chaos, whereas a bunch of Trump supporters and 3%ers and Proud Boys and Qanoners, they are primarily White, and therefore are American patriots just peacefully practicing their first amendment rights. The Capitol Police didn’t prepare for violence because they didn’t believe they needed to, despite the fact that time and time again, these groups have proven themselves to be violent.
And let’s not pretend that looking the other way when it comes to right-wing White supremacist violence is a new problem that has only emerged since Donald Trump came to power. The 1990s were a hotbed of right-wing extremism which culminated in the Ruby Ridge siege, Waco, and, of course, the horrific Oklahoma City bombing. But the threat of right-wing extremism didn’t burn itself out after 1995 — it was just covered up by Republican lawmakers who, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, preferred to believe that it wasn’t an actual concern and that Islamic terrorism was the only real threat.
In 2009, the Obama Department of Homeland Security issued a report to law enforcement across the country, warning that right-wing extremism was spiking as a result of the recession, the election of a Black president, and the never-ending wars in the Middle East. The report warned specifically that returning military veterans could be targeted for radicalization, a warning that was accurate, but which insulted and enraged the Right. As a result, the report was recalled, apologies were made to veterans groups, law-enforcement training related to right-wing extremism was halted, and the unit on right-wing extremism was disbanded at Homeland Security.
Five years later, Cliven Bundy staged a stand-off with federal agents for 41 days and was labeled a “patriot” by Republicans, and in 2016, an armed group of far-right extremists led by Cliven’s son Ammon seized and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for 40 days. In both cases, there were no real legal consequences paid by the participants. This only served to embolden right-wing extremists and create new recruitment and radicalization opportunities.
Donald Trump was elected in 2016, and his White House made it clear that it would not take seriously any discussions of “right-wing extremism” or “domestic terrorism.” Soon, Jewish cemeteries were being desecrated and Muslims were being violently attacked; in 2017, the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally saw emboldened White supremacists marching through the streets chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and ended with one counterprotester murdered, while the President of the United States insisted that there are “very fine people on both sides”; in 2018, the Tree of Life synagogue was attacked by a gunman who shot and killed eleven worshipers and injured six more; and in 2019 a gunman who wrote a manifesto about the United States being invaded by Mexicans, shot and murdered 23 people in an El Paso Walmart, marking the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history.
I could go on and on, but just let’s fast-forward to this year when numerous right-wingers all over the country copied the Charlottesville murderer and drove their cars into protests this summer; the right lionized a 17-year-old child who crossed state lines and shot and murdered two BLM protestors; a right-wing kidnapping plot against the governor of Michigan was uncovered; and the Michigan statehouse was stormed by armed right-wing extremists.
And these attacks have been not just silently condoned by one side of the political spectrum, they have been openly encouraged by the President of the United States.
Unlike the events of 9/11 which could not have been imagined by the average American, what happened on January 6 was not just predictable, it was actually predicted again and again. This is a thread from December 21:
Extremists no longer hide anymore. They number in the hundreds of thousands and are extremely well-armed. The political apparatus and the news media appears confused in their reporting of the scope of the domestic terrorist threat — some ignoring it completely. When 9/11 happened, the government made an effort to connect the dots beforehand, but failed because of a lack of communication among agencies. In this case, the government isn’t even trying — and worse, it appears to be enabling the threat to flourish.
The Islamist militants who brought down the World Trade Center’s twin towers 16 years ago (or the ones who rammed their vehicles into pedestrians in London, Paris and Barcelona recently) had no domestic constituency. Their acts weren’t enshrined instantly on social media or obliquely heralded by the president, duly elected representatives or rationalized by media ideologues dead set on preventing a political backlash. The terrorists I have dedicated my life to stopping have had all that going in their favor. This is more than a formula for disaster. It virtually invites the disaster upon us.
And all the way back to 2009, conservative writer John Perry threatened in a Newsmax article that there would be a coup to “resolve” the “radical left…Obama problem.” Newsmax retracted the article after an outcry, but on a right-wing radio program discussing the article, “Jim from Oklahoma,” called in promising that plans for a coup were already in the works:
Pulling our government down, pulling our President out, and putting him back where he should be […] [using] the right to bear arms, it’s in the Constitution. […] We need a coup, there needs to be a coup and if the United States military won’t do it, we’ll do it.
So do not be surprised by any of this. Our country has been a tinderbox for decades, and we have chosen to ignore and downplay it as some sort of polite gesture to our more right-leaning fellow Americans. For decades, the right and the Republican party have embraced White supremacy, a culture of violence, and a distrust of government in general, celebrating the likes of Cliven Bundy and Kyle Rittenhouse and Robert E. Lee as patriotic heroes. It was only a matter of time before they would finally find an arsonist they could lift up so he could burn it all down.