Author: Luiza Cavalcante (Leftist)
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On January sixth the United States Capitol building was breached by a mob hoping to stop the certification of the 2020 election. Hours of chaos ensued, ultimately leaving countless forms of photo and video evidence of the terror caused by the Trump-incited insurrectionists.
I watched live coverage of the events throughout Wednesday afternoon, stunned not by what I see as a predictable and logical outcome of this country’s framework, but instead by a common GOP talking point: this turn of events was “un-American.” These are absolvements. Not only was the rage seen on January 6th encouraged by lawmakers and the president himself, but it has also been present throughout American history when white Americans have feared the grip of white supremacy loosening or are otherwise emboldened to exercise hate-based rage under the guise of patriotism.
America does what America does
A violent mob storming the Capitol building through brute force (and in some instances, encouragement from police) in hopes of interrupting a democratic process is the natural progression of Trumpism and Trumpism is the natural progression of a colonialist, racist, police state. I’ll be the first to argue that if there was truly mass election fraud leading to a wrongfully elected President, the actions and concern of the insurrectionists would be legitimate. However, what happened on Wednesday was not a revolution (75% of Trump supporters don’t trust the 2020 election results, despite there being no proven evidence of voter fraud. This is a likely result of the election fraud lies spread by NewsMax and Fox News, top news outlets amongst post-election, conservative viewers). It is impossible to separate the misinformed, mobs that descended on the capitol from President Trump himself, who has stated since 2016 that he will not accept election results that are not in his favor. Put Simply, this insurrection reflects a blind allegiance built into the framework of how our 2 party system operates. The ideas that empowered insurrectionists seen on January 6th are not fringe theories, they are the most identifiable aspect of the GOP party.
America has a clear history of suppressing democracy (intervening in 81 foreign elections 1 and in many cases determining the winner 2). As the daughter of two immigrants from Brazil, a country whose domestic politics are upended by constant American interference, I have to say that the attack on the Capitol was an unsurprising “oh how the tables have turned” moment. This insurrection is simply a domestic edition of the destabilization American influences have caused globally.
Last summer, a violin vigil was held in memory of Elijah McClain, a violinist and the umpteenth unarmed Black man to be murdered by police. iPhone footage from the event shows musicians playing in unison while mourners gather in loose groups around them. The camera’s lens picks up a fast approaching onslaught of riot police and the solemn mood of the vigil is deflated. The music falters then stops. Mourners are dispersed by police and the person behind the camera cries out “please, please no” over and over again.
On Wednesday I watched as police officers let majority white Trump-supporting rioters into the Capitol building and helped a white woman down the steps when she left. I don’t wish that the white people who stormed the Capitol building be brutalized and murdered like Black and Brown people surely would have if they had done the same. The policing lesson learned after the riot is not that cops should be more brutal with Trump supporters. I will not be blue pilled into cheering for a stronger police state. I do wish, perhaps in vain, that police wouldn’t shoot Black and Brown people when we simply exist the way they don’t shoot white people when they violently interrupt a democratic process.
Comparisons of police response to the overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly violent January 6th riot and police response to the almost completely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that occurred during the summer of 2020 have evoked conversation about the systemic racism found in America’s policing system. While the National Guard was deployed, fully armed, to the Lincoln Memorial last June in preparation of a BLM march that was expected to be and turned out to be completely peaceful, this past Wednesday the United States Capitol police turned down help from the National Gaurd and FBI even as rioters pillaged the halls of the building and muscled into the senate floor. Only 37 rioters have been arrested for unlawful entry at the Capitol. The 147 Republicans who voted to overthrow the electoral results face no substantial consequences. I am angered, but to me this is nothing new, our country has struggled with oppression and violence since its inception. I am livid, yes, but I know my rage will not be coddled in the same way a white person’s is. At this, I am not surprised.
Vilifying insurgency is not the answer
The enemy here is not insurgency, it is not insurrection, it is not the action of storming the Capitol building. All of these things can be, in my eyes, necessary functions performed by the people against a state when the state no longer serves the people’s best interests. Calling insurgents domestic terrorists now may be tempting, especially when they are associated with a malicious President who has shown fascist tendencies, but doing so sets precedent and normalizes the vilification and prosecution of any future acts of rebellion- especially if they are in the interest of the left.
I abhor the reasons why Trump-supporting rioters stormed the capitol. I condemn misinformation, white supremacy, and bigotry- all of which have become evidently synonymous with Trump and factions of his supporters. But I will remain conscientious of not mistaking insurrection for terrorism, nor at times performative counter-insurgency laws for real counteractions against the devastating impact of right-wing extremism.
1. Levin, Dov H. (June 2016). “When the Great Power Gets a Vote: The Effects of Great Power Electoral Interventions on Election Results”. International Studies Quarterly. 60 (2): 189–202.
2. Levin, Dov (2018). “A Vote for Freedom? The Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions on Regime Type”. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 63 (4): 839–868. doi:10.1177/0022002718770507.