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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Violent protests erupt in Washington

FRI. | 01-08-21 | OPINION

     Who would have thought that the simple act of counting 538 Electoral College votes would result in a violent coup? With the insanity of 2020, I doubted 2021 could be any worse. Yet, here we are, less than a week into the new year and the U.S. Capitol building has been raided and four people have died, with fifty-six law enforcement officers injured.

     In the final step before President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, both houses of Congress planned to meet on Wednesday, Jan. 6 and certify the electoral votes cast by the Electoral College on Monday, Dec. 14. In order to fully understand why this was deemed a controversy, which ultimately resulted in extremists raiding the Capitol, we need to go back a few days. 

     On Saturday, Jan. 2, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) published a joint statement indicating that he, and other Republican congresspeople, would not certify the Electoral College results unless the concerns of voter fraud were addressed. Specifically, they asked Congress to approve an Electoral Commission to investigate potential voter fraud in “disputed” states. Granted Trump has been very vocal in opposing the election results, he must have been joyous to have Congressional backing in fighting the results. 

     While I could go on and on about the issues of Cruz’ statement, an NPR article by Jason Slotkin succinctly explains it: “The statement does not mention which states the Republicans consider disputed. Nor does it provide any evidence to back up their concerns.” 

     The concept of congresspeople objecting to and challenging Electoral College votes is not a new one — and I do not think there is anything inherently problematic with that. In order to object to the counting of a state’s electoral votes, “objection must be presented in writing and must be signed by at least one Senator and one Representative” with a brief and non-argumentative explanation for the objection. If an objection meets the aforementioned criteria, the House and Senate split up and debate for two to three hours. Then, as with laws, the House and Senate members vote separately, and the objection only passes if a majority in both chambers vote in favor of the objection. 

     Having such a process laid out is good for democracy and ensuring election fairness. However, the lack of evidence of voter fraud has made it evident that Republicans just wanted to deny and delay the inevitable — a Joe Biden presidency — for as long as possible. Interestingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted to Trump’s loss on Wednesday, Dec. 15.

     Coming into the Electoral College certification, McConnell was aware of fellow Republicans that denied the results. Thus, at the beginning of the hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 6, McConnell gave a speech that epitomized what is at stake in fighting against the Electoral College votes: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” He expands to describe what the death spiral would entail, stating that “We 


Graphic by Lexi Karaivanova

would never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.”

     Never in a million years would I have expected McConnell to be the voice of reason against President Donald Trump, but that is what it has come down to. Vice President Mike Pence echoed McConnell’s sentiments in a letter: “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” Thus, on Wednesday, Jan 6, McConnell rejected Trump’s claim that he, as Vice President, had the power to overturn the electoral votes. 

     In 2017, then-Vice President Biden was in the same position, with members of his own party wanting to challenge the Electoral College votes. Biden, however, repeatedly stated “there is no debate" when necessary rules for objections had not been met. In these instances, I am glad that both Vice Presidents were literate enough to follow the electoral rules set by the Constitution/U.S. legal code and not give in to unfounded partisanship. 

     Trump, however, could not accept this; how could McConnell and Pence, two of the most powerful Republicans besides himself, go against his will of disobeying the Constitution (and basic democratic principles) to keep him in office? Excuse my bluntness — Trump has been living in a growing bubble of delusion since November, and this finally burst the bubble that has been telling Trump he would remain in office for four more years.

     Right as McConnell and Pence were in the joint session in the capitol, Trump was having a rally at the White House. While speaking to his supporters, Trump urged them to walk to “the Capitol and we're going to try and give… our Republicans, the weak ones... the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country." He rationalized that “you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” He even went on to say that today “is not the end, it's just the beginning… [I] will never give up, we will never concede.” Out of context, if you had asked me who could possibly say such a thing, I would have named any totalitarian leader in world history. For it to have come out of the mouth of the President of the United States worries me. What kind of path would the United States be headed towards if Trump was not stopped?

     It is terrifying that the sitting President of the United States instructed his supporters to storm the Capitol, simply because he refused to accept defeat to Biden. But it is even more disheartening to the intelligence of this nation that his extremist supporters listened. It was one thing for Trump and his supporters to go to multiple courts to challenge the election results — and, thankfully, get denied— but this is a new level of crazy, even for Trump and his fanbase. As far as I am concerned, it is not a good look for the United States when the leader of our democratic republic is, essentially, inciting a coup.

     At about 2 p.m. on Jan. 06 as both chambers of Congress were going into recess, the U.S. Capitol Police notified staff to shelter in place.” Trump’s ‘Proud Boys’ — the far-right, facist group Trump told to “stand back and stand by” in the past — and other pro-Trump supporters were beginning to bang on the Capitol doors. Words are insufficient to fully portray the actions these pro-Trump rioters (frankly, domestic terrorists) took; British Broadcasting Corporation site compiled varying videos and photos into this article. For more videos and photographs, the “Trending” section of Twitter, and other social media platforms, is flooded with them. As a result of the raid, four people have been confirmed dead. One of these individuals died after being shot by Capitol Police inside the building.

     As I watched the videos and gaped at the photographs, I could not help but notice a few things: 1) the majority of those raiding the Capitol were white; 2) very few individuals were wearing masks; and 3) police and security were not nearly as aggressive (or even as active) as they have shown they can be in addressing past protests this summer. White privilege was at play. 

     We have seen what occurs when the races are reversed; at any sign of aggression, police have been shown to meet Black protesters with violence and tear gas almost immediately. Black protesters across the country that attended Black Lives Matter protests this summer can and have attested to this. Where was this force when the house of U.S. democracy was steadily being infiltrated by an extremist mob? Even with my personal reservation towards police force, law enforcement and the National Guard needed to be at the Capitol sooner. It is their job to ensure the safety of our nation and to enforce laws, such as anti-sedition and treason laws. 

     Around 2:30 p.m., as the pro-Trump rioters were breaching into the Capitol, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a 6 p.m. curfew that would extend for 12 hours, with the primary goal of evacuating the Capitol and ensuring the safety of elected officials and D.C. residents. Since then, however, Bowser has extended the curfew “until 3:00p.m. on Tuesday, January 21, 2021” in order to avoid further violent protests from pro-Trump rioters. 

     It is worth noting that the inauguration of Biden will occur the day prior to the curfew being lifted, meaning that Trump will undeniably no longer be President. However, I do not think simply inaugurating Biden will prevent the pro-Trump rioters from continuing to riot. They may very well repurpose the phrase “not my president” and continue their mob behavior the moment the curfew is lifted. There is no telling. Regardless of what is to come, the curfew did achieve its intended purpose of dispersing the mob. Many of those involved in the riot or that broke the curfew are being identified and arrested. 

     As the Capitol began to regain some security, and the country faced the aftermath of the pro-Trump rioters becoming violent and violating the First Amendment, many Republican politicians took to Twitter around 3 p.m.: Pence tweeted “Peaceful protest is the right of every American but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”; and Cruz similarly tweeted “Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The Constitution protects peaceful protest, but violence—from Left or Right— is ALWAYS wrong. And those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support.” 

     Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) took it a step further and released a very impassioned press release. Romney begins the strongly-worded speech by saying “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning.” He goes on to assert “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.” He ends his speech by urging his congressional colleagues “to move forward with completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.”

     Thus, there is overwhelming bipartisan consensus — except among the pro-Trump extremists — that the raid on the Capitol was a horrific display. Leaders across the globe are speaking about it. Shockingly enough, even United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson — the British Donald Trump — tweeted “Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.” As ironic as it may be for him — of all people — to tweet this, he does make a valid point. The next two weeks leading up to Biden’s inauguration will make history; the entire world is watching the aftermath of Trump’s failed coup.

     Trump, however, is still deluded. In a now deleted tweet, President Trump wrote “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” In this unnecessarily long sentence, Trump manages to be oblivious to the damage he has done and yet again spread lies about winning the election. 

     What is more concerning, though, is how he ended the tweet: “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” I agree — I will remember this day forever. But the difference between Trump/his fanbase and the rest of the U.S. is that the U.S. will remember this as a national embarrassment and act of treason as opposed to some victory. It is quite paradoxical that Trump can begin the day by telling his supporters to go to the Capitol to “show strength” and “never give up,” yet end the day by saying “Go home with love & in peace.” Where was the love and peace towards even the notion of a Biden presidency? Where was the love and peace towards every single elected official in the Capitol? Where was the love and peace towards law enforcement officers the right-wing rioters fought (the same law enforcers they claimed to care about during the Black Lives Matter movement)?

     I have never been a fan of President Trump. I know, what a shocker. Admittedly, I did my best to publicly respect him even as I have been critical of him these last few years — but enough is enough. Trump is pathologically delusional and shamelessly attempted to become a dictator, all while being the most hypocritical elected official out there. There is plenty of competition for hypocritical politicians, but the aforementioned paradoxical nature of his words blew him out of the water, making him the clear winner for most hypocritical. He rightfully wins that. I wonder if Trump has somehow confused the race for hypocrite with the presidency.

     Regardless of Trump and his fanbase’s attempt to prevent the Electoral College certification, Congress and democracy reigned victorious. Around 7 p.m., U.S. House Representative John Katko (R-NY 24th District) tweeted “Congress will reconvene tonight to certify the Electoral College results. The attacks today demonstrate that now, more than ever, we must unify as a nation. I urge my Republican colleagues to drop their planned opposition to certifying the results. McConnell commented, saying that “We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th District) issued similar remarks by saying, despite the attack on the Capitol, it would not “deter us from our responsibility to validate the election” and “we will stay as long as it takes.  Our purpose will be accomplished.”

     Even as some Republicans, such as Katko and Romney, urged their colleagues to not fight against the election certification in light of the Capitol attack, a few Republicans did still object to a couple states’ results. U.S. House Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ 4th District) and Senator Cruz challenged Arizona’s results, while U.S. House Representative Scott Perry (R-PA 10th District) and Senator Joshua Hawley (R-MO) challenged Pennsylvania's results. 

     Even with these attempts, the Senate and House overwhelmingly rejected the objections and certified the Electoral College results. By 4 a.m. the next morning, Thursday, Jan. 7, Congress had certified Biden winning the Electoral College with 306 votes, and Trump even somewhat admitted to defeat in the election. Via his social media director Dan Scavio, Trump tweeted “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.” 

     When D.C. reopens on Thursday, Jan. 21, the President of the United States will be Joe Biden. With the chaos and tragedy that ensued on Wednesday, Jan. 6, it is imperative for the United States — politicians and citizens alike — to unify. Not just for the next two weeks, but hopefully the next few presidencies, or even decades.

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