How could this have happened?


Today, Wednesday, January 6, many Americans turned on their televisions and were met with a shocking scene seemingly taken from a dystopian novel.  However, this scene turned out to be the United States’ own Capitol building, stormed by violent protestors. 

Before being evacuated into a secure room protected by Capitol police, lawmakers were in the middle of certifying the electoral college ballots that would confirm the results of the 2020 presidential election.  Protestors managed to break into the building, smashing through windows, breaking through doors, and overwhelming Capitol police.  A majority of these protestors were clad in Trump merch, waving a variety of different flags, the most grim being the large presence of Confederate flags.

The main question that seems to be occupying the minds of so many is how this could ever happen?  Anyone who has ever been to the Capitol building can attest to the fact that there are armed military guards with AK-47s around nearly every corner.  How could these people have broken into the Capitol so easily?  

There are two likely reasons, both of which are utterly frightening, the first being that there were several sympathizers amongst the Capitol police who allowed these people in.  Many officers did step in and risk their lives to protect the Capitol, but they did not have nearly enough support.  Their sole job is to protect our democracy, and if we have some law enforcement officers who genuinely agree with those attacking that democracy, then the system is even more broken than we previously thought.  

The second possible explanation is that the Capitol police, who are supposedly trained to handle situations like this, are not actually equipped to stop people from breaking into the Capitol and potentially harming the people and the important processes that take place inside.  This is perhaps an even scarier prospect, because now that we know that the system we have in place to protect our government isn’t strong enough to keep an unarmed, unorganized mob out of the Capitol, what’s to stop heavily armed organized militias from showing up and breaking in?

Many news outlets attribute these events to a failure of the government to properly handle this situation, but failure implies that there was a solid attempt.  If there was any genuine effort by the president to stop the madness that occurred, it was extremely subtle.  The governor of Virginia announced that it was mobilizing their National Guard before Washington D.C. could get its act together and mobilize its own National Guard. 

The simplest thing that the president could have done was to get on television and urge his supporters to stop and allow the processes of democracy to continue, but he was suspiciously absent from the public for a large portion of the afternoon.  President-elect Joe Biden was first to make a statement, calling on President Trump, whose silence for so long spoke louder than any words or any tweet, to call for peace.  The president later made a statement, telling protestors to “go home,” but not without throwing in yet another round of baseless claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, which drowned out his ever so brief request for peace.  

While he now has a soundbite that could be used to argue that he tried to stop the protestors, there is no denying that he incited this violence.  He has been denying the results of the election and encouraging his supporters to fight against them for months now.  It would be unfair to place all of the blame on him though, not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because there are so many other people in Washington who also deserve it.  

Every single lawmaker in Washington D.C. who made no attempt to condemn or discredit the blatant calls for insurrection by Donald Trump is responsible for what happened.  Every single senator or representative who did not speak up to assure the American people that this election was legitimate is a guilty party.  The lawmakers who have supported him up until now that were calling him from the Capitol out of fear for their lives, begging him to tell the protesters to leave, are no different than Dr. Frankenstein fleeing in terror from his own monster.

These events were a clear representation of white privilege when compared to the Black Lives Matter protests at Lafayette Square last summer.  While peaceful protestors for the movement were quickly met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and the National Guard, there seemed to be little to no law enforcement stopping these protestors, a majority of whom were white.  We must also ask ourselves: were these not the same people who argued that we needed to protect and obey the police when people dared to protest the systemic murder of innocent Black people?  Were these not the same people who claimed that if Black people had “just obeyed the law” that there would be no issue?  If anything, these events serve as proof that objections to the BLM protests were never about respect for the police, but were fueled by the dark cloud of white supremacy that continues to loom over this country.

While law enforcement was eventually able to clear the Capitol building of the protestors, one thing is certain: this was a dark day in American history which will likely come to mark a sharp turn towards even more division in this country. This event was horrifying, but what’s more horrifying is the thought that this may only be a beginning to something far worse.  The U.S. has always been quick to respond to terrorism from outside our borders, but the biggest threat by far to this country are the terrorists who were born and raised here, and who operate under the guise of “patriotism.”  

We can only hope that this will serve as a wake-up call, that the people in power and all Americans will realize that their words can, as Biden put it, either inspire or incite.