For the President of the United States, several right-wing politicians and the President’s supporters, January 6, 2021 has long been a crucial day since news sources including Associated Press, CNN and Fox News projected President-Elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election on November 7, 2020.
Refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, President Donald Trump and many of his allies in Congress planned one last effort to overturn the election by submitting a congressional objection during their session held to certify President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris. However, few anticipated that rioters and domestic terrorists would force their way into the conversation.
At 11:30 am PST Noa Resnikoff, ‘22, switched on her television, “I turned [on] CNN…in shock, shaking and almost in tears.” Trump supporters had gathered together under their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble in support of a Republican challenge during the joint session of Congress yesterday. However, Wednesday afternoon in Washington D.C., the protest turned violent as they breached the Capitol building and began forcefully entering. Upon notification of such actions, the Capitol was placed in lockdown.
Mayor of D.C. Muriel Bowser took prompt steps to defend the U.S. Capitol by issuing a citywide curfew that commenced at 6pm EST. However, the lack of preparedness despite tip-offs has been a cause of controversy. Local police enforcement, Capitol specific law enforcement and the National Guard were called in to de-escalate the situation, but not until the protest had turned into a riot. “I am frustrated that the BLM peaceful protests were met with tear gas and violence whereas these hateful violent attacks are met with restraint and little to no resistance. It’s clear how the racism in our society has escalated and needs to be addressed,” said Alex Thaler, ’23.
Accountability is not an equal standard held for everyone, as is displayed from yesterday’s events in comparison to the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington D.C. this past summer. “Why are [law enforcement] treating these people so politely and so gently when they got no problem spilling black and brown blood,” said Ellie Howell, ‘22, “Where’s the national guard?? They were right there this whole f***ing summer while we were protesting for our lives but where are they now??”
As the day progressed, some rioters swarmed the building, breaking windows, drawing arms, entering the Senate floor, posing for photos and leaving notes for congressmen and women in their personal offices. With chaos ensuing and due to the fact that several protesters were armed, a stand-off between policemen and protesters took place at the door of the Capitol. Tear gas was released within the Capitol Rotunda and as a result Congress members were suggested to wear gas masks during their evacuations. One known explosive device was found inside the building and four fatalities including Ashli Babbit, 14-year Air Force veteran and Trump supporter, was fatally shot in the Capitol building with a large group of rioters.
Domestic terrorists were later escorted out of the building after violent acts while raiding the Capitol, this action by law enforcement once again raised questions of racial equality in the United States. Malia Pratt, ‘21 said, “this entire day has been one giant proof of white privilege in America, and it’s genuinely so appalling and sad.”
Aku Ammah-Tagoe, Dean of Equity and Inclusion, spent a year leading tours of the Capitol building where rules and protocols were essential. “Since then, I’ve come to understand that most American rules and norms are specifically designed to protect white, male, wealthy decision makers from anything that feels disruptive or unnerving,” Ammah-Tagoe said. “I don’t think January 6 was a surprising or newly humiliating day for American democracy. Instead, we were provided with graphic images of what has always been true.”
Following the events that took place on Capitol Hill, Urban’s Head of School, Dan Miller wrote in a letter to parents and guardians of the Urban community Wednesday night. “These are a confounding, and for many, frightening, series of events. It seems almost certain that today will be one of those ‘I remember where I was’ moments that endure for a lifetime. And so much still remains uncertain,” he said.
Similarly Mikayla Woods, ‘21, upon hearing the news said, “I was in complete shock. I was reading the prequel to “The Hunger Games” before school, and I couldn’t help but feel like we were living in a crazy dystopian society.”
With 13 days left in his presidency, President Trump released a video three hours after violent behavior began, continuing to refuse a defeat by President-Elect Joe Biden and telling rioters to go home so as to not play into the hands of Democrats. “He should have told his supporters to leave much sooner,” said Woods. “Instead of talking about how the election was stolen and how much he loves them he should have been condemning the behavior and demanding that they leave.”
However President Trump may not be the only one at fault. “Fox News and disinformation incited this,” said Cassie Eng, ‘21. “The 100+ congressmen who continued to insist that the election was stolen must be held accountable as well.” A total of 147 congressmen objected the certification of President-Elect and Vice-President-Elect. 139 members of the House of Representatives and 8 members of the Senate, including Ted Cruz (TX) and Josh Hawley (MO).
Nevertheless Congress has certified the electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris in the early hours of this morning. Several individuals involved in the Trump administration including Cabinet member Elaine Chao, have resigned in light of yesterday’s events. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has recently called for the resignation of Steven Sund, the Capitol Police Chief.
If you find yourself in need of time to process these recent events, don’t be afraid to reach out to peers or teachers. Take care of yourself!