The Attempted Coup of Capitol Hill: a mark on American history
Lauren Haughey comments on the recent attempted coup of Capitol Hill as a reminder of racial disparities and weak democracy
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators, and Congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,”
These were the words of President Donald Trump only a few hours before a violent mob of right-wing extremists stormed through Capitol Hill, one of the most prestigious buildings in the United States. When rioters tore down the American flag, switching it out for one which marked “Keep America Great”, the message was clear; Trump and his fans were not going to let Biden win democratically or otherwise. After Trump failed to gain enough votes to ensure a continued Republican presidency, narratives surrounding a ‘rigged election’ had charged his following to overthrow the recently elected government. Armed with guns and bombs, as incited by Trump’s call to ‘fight’, the Capitol event on 6 January 2021, can only be described as a dangerous breach to security and an attempted coup, allowing the infrastructures which house democracy to appear alarmingly fragile.
Instead, the violence was emblematic of the power of language.Lauren Haughey
Instead, the violence was emblematic of the power of language. Not only did Trump incite the coup both on and offline, his blurry response in its aftermath also highlights the political tensions in America today. While he did instruct the protesters to go home, these words were clouded with empathy and admiration, telling his supporters that “We love you, you’re very special. You’ve seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel”. Not only did this twist the knife, sparking continued turmoil within the government building, it remarkably presents a stark contrast between previous attitudes towards the 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. BLM resurged after the murder of George Floyd on 25 June, whose death marked an explicit reminder of America’s systemic racism in the form of police brutality. Last year, when peaceful protests took place in his honour outside the White House on 1 June, they were faced with a force of 5000 national guard troops, US Park Police and members of federal agencies. With that in mind, the Trump rioters of 2021 were met with only 115 guardsmen – others were on duty but were merely helping with heavy traffic.
This undeniably displays that BLM, a campaign striving for racial justice and societal awareness, was perceived as more dangerous than the vicious white supremacist and right-wing hate groups,Lauren Haughey
This undeniably displays that BLM, a campaign striving for racial justice and societal awareness, was perceived as more dangerous than the vicious white supremacist and right-wing hate groups, ranging from ordinary MAGA supporters to Christian Dominionists and neo-Nazis. The warning signs were there, insurrectionists did not shy away from publicising their plans to breach Capitol Hill, yet they still managed to break through these usually well-defended lines. This not only illustrates that white privilege is still very much alive, but also emphasises America’s lack of regard, concern, or seriousness for the terrorism and existence of its alt-right.
Although the riots are over for the time being, the repercussions are certainly not. Over 100 individuals have been arrested in connection to the siege, including the familiar faces of Olympic gold-medalist, Klete Keller, and Cogensia CEO, Brad Rukstales. Other individuals have also been removed from their employment and are begging Trump for his pardon. But Trump cannot speak right now. Soon after the event, Trump was silenced from social media, with platforms blocking his voice from spewing out the conspiracy theories which had infected the internet and spurred the realisation of hate crimes. Despite this being a valuable step in preventing any future encouragement of violence, it has raised questions regarding freedom of speech and whether the power of silencing should be in the hands of monopolies like Facebook, especially considering their previous Cambridge Analytica scandal. It also raises an eyebrow about whether Trump will turn towards alt-right online platforms, which is perhaps worse. On top of this, the Democrats introduced an impeachment article to unseat Trump as president for the ‘Incitement of Insurrection’ a week prior to his leave from office. This was carried by 232 votes, meaning that Trump will face a court proceeding and be the first president in American history to be impeached twice. Even though Trump’s time in office is over, conviction of impeachment could hinder his chances from running as president again in 2024. Yet for the time being, we may take stock and catch our breath before President Joe Biden takes on the arduous task of calming years of heightened political polarisation – we can only hope for the best.