Letter to the Editor: January 6, 2021


“January 6th, a group of Trump supporters breached the Capitol. Framing this as a protest dangerously minimizes the situation; make no mistake, this is an attempted coup, and has been classified as such by both Republicans and Democrats. For context, Merriam-Webster defines a coup as “the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group”. Trump wanted Pence and Republicans to interfere with the certification; when that didn’t happen enough, he called on his supporters to directly interfere. This has been treated as Trump’s dangerous actions often are; as a preservation of his power, as an investment in his cause and allies, as exaggerations. If we step back and look at this clearly, though, this is a sitting president refusing to accept a democratic election result. It actively undermines belief in the democratic process. He incited a coup attempt on the government of the United States.

Trump supporters, some armed, marched towards the Capitol; they carried American, Confederate, and Trump flags, as well as Nazi and Neo-Nazi paraphernalia. They smashed their way into the Capitol, forcing Congress to take cover. This mob was not composed of protestors; calling them rioters also minimizes their true role. This was not just looting and property damage. This was the violent seizure of the United States Congress with the explicit aim to interfere with the certification of a democratically elected government. There is extensive proof that this was coordinated and planned; from posts on Twitter, Parler, 4Chan, and TheDonald.win, to T-shirts worn at the riot declaring ‘1.6.2021, Civil War’.

How was this executed? D.C. is one of the most securitized areas in the US; the Capitol is one of the most secure buildings in D.C. There were shockingly few law enforcement officers present and they showed very little use of physical force. Video footage shows officers taking pictures and having friendly interactions with insurgents while they were entering the Capitol. Only one person was shot and killed by police; while any death is a tragedy, it’s surprising the building was not protected by more lethal force. This is in unbelievably stark contrast with the treatment of BLM protesters, who were often met with state violence and swiftly arrested. The National Guard was also conspicuously absent, despite their imposing presence during protests this summer. Many have rushed to explain this: the mayor of D.C., unlike state governors, has to request the National Guard through a careful chain of command. Placing the National Guard in and around federal buildings involves even more bureaucracy. The fact that they [Trump supporters] were able to enter the Capitol has therefore been called an intelligence agency failure.

This benign explanation conceals the insidious threads that tie this together. This plan was conspicuous; Trump himself had alluded to it before the rally. The insurgents, confident in their relative power and the support of the President, made no attempts to conceal their intentions. Sophisticated intelligence mechanisms are more than capable of identifying a threat; the mayor of D.C., anticipating riots, called on 12/31 for a small National Guard presence on 1/6. The difference in response between BLM and this insurgence is shocking. But, of course, the Capitol insurgents are upholding white supremacist values intrinsic to the foundational pillars of this country. Simply put, these people –armed, storming the Capitol, openly calling for the violent demise of elected officials– were not perceived as a threat, even as they beat a police officer to death.

The police and National Guard are tools of state preservation. Because of this, the ills of the state (white supremacy) are upheld by police every day. Usually, the President embodies the state; Trump, as a self-avowed anti-establishmentarian, has at times delighted in transgressing sacred state institutions, at times wielded them bluntly for his advantage. The BLM protests were viewed as a threat to the state because they went against state interests. This insurgency was a threat to the state, but not a threat to Donald Trump; unused to this distinction, and with a perception of threat enshrined in perceiving whiteness as kinship, this insurgency was not perceived as dangerous. No adequate preparations were made. By the time the Trojan horse was let in, it was too late.

Trump posted a video saying the insurgents ought to return home, saying “we love you.” It was banned by Twitter for inciting violence, and his account was banned soon after. The insurgents were police officers, politicians, lawyers, real estate agents; their extremist views are depressingly common, perpetuated and encouraged by Trump. Now trying to walk back their actions and remarks, recorded for all to see, members of the GOP have tried to blame a group that has been framed as extremist, as fringe, and that’ll be accepted as such by white families: antifa. This claim is verifiably baseless. It nonetheless uncovers the fear of discovery that their movement has become anti-state, anti-US Government.”