January 28, 2020
On August 24th, 1814, a British army force set fire to the U.S Capitol after winning the Battle of Bladensburg. As Americans mourned their losses, they imagined that this would be the last time the Capitol would be overrun. Yet over two centuries later, we watched as the U.S Capitol was breached once again, but this time by the United States of America’s own citizens.
After several months of Donald Trump claiming that the American presidential election was a fraud and encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell”, his incitement finally showed its terrifying consequences in the beginning of this year. On December 19th, Trump tweeted “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” This caused many of his supporters, using platforms such as Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook to create a plan for a mass invasion at the Capitol building in honour of him. On January 6th, 2021, mobs of rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol to “save America”. Their goal was to maintain the presidency of Donald Trump through use of force, as well as to disrupt the counting of electoral votes. That morning, hundreds of people in support of Trump assembled around the Capitol. They then climbed over walls, fought against security, broke through entrances, and invaded the Capitol building.
Unfortunately, many officers had to protect a large amount of space by themselves and could not withhold the rioters. They either didn’t have enough reinforcement or weapons to defend themselves with when being swarmed by rioters carrying weapons and Confederate flags. Some officers were even seen taking pictures with trespassers or not making a good faith attempt to stop them. After Trump was told about the incident at the Capitol, he made several tweets telling rioters to “go home in peace” while still claiming that the election was a fraud. The way that Trump lightheartedly handled this situation led people back to his tweets during the Black Lives Matter protests where he stated “Anarchists, Agitators or Protestors who vandalize or damage our Federal Courthouse in Portland, or any Federal Buildings in any of our Cities or States, will be prosecuted under our recently re-enacted Statues & Monuments Act. MINIMUM TEN YEARS IN PRISON. Don’t do it!” Peaceful protestors fighting for human rights were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, violence, and arrests, whereas people who claimed they were “protestors”, holding weapons and invading government buildings were met with little force and consequences (so far). Instead, Trump tweeted at them saying “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” appearing to be more delighted about the situation than strict about laws.
Since this situation, at least five people have been declared dead and dozens of arrests have been made. Donald Trump’s Twitter has been permanently suspended and the r/DonaldTrump subreddit has been removed, amongst other moves taken by social media companies. The entire world seemed to divide itself through social media platforms, debating the situation. The riot was declared an act of “domestic terrorism” by many, including Joe Biden, now President. Hillary Clinton tweeted on January 6th “Today, domestic terrorists attacked a foundation of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power following free elections. We must reestablish the rule of law and hold them accountable. Democracy is fragile. Our leaders must live up to their responsibility to protect it”, challenging Donald Trump and his supporters. The event that took place at the Capitol was incredibly dangerous, putting hundreds at risk and causing significant destruction to the U.S. and its democratic institutions. Its impact shows the unfairness of the American justice system, as well as how powerful the words of someone who is in a leadership position can be. The siege of the Capitol is a powerful, teachable moment that will resonate in history classes into the foreseeable future.