209 years ago, the United States saw one of its most violent attacks on what was symbolically the most significant building standing on its land- the US Capitol. The British knew the importance of the building, chose to burn it to down after looting it for that very reason.
209 years passed since the attack, and the nation protected and revered its Capitol with all of its might. It housed elected representatives that changed the course of American history, it was the venue chosen to draft documents that helped define the very essence of America, and it stood as a representation of American democracy.
209 years later, on the morning of Jan. 6’ 2021, history repeated itself.
Thousands of supporters of the now former President Donald J. Trump collected in front of the Capitol on Jan. 5 and 6 to protest the declared victory of Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
While outside the Capitol, the rioters changed “Hang Mike Pence” for the Vice President’s inability to reject the final vote of the electoral college. Eventually, the protestors broke police barricading, claimed the walls protecting the Capitol, broke its doors and windows and entered to vandalize the building, loot the votes stored within and possibly hold hostage the officials present inside since many of them were carrying handcuffs.
Pictures from the time the rioters spent inside the building prove most invaluable in depicting the dystopian reality of what has come to be called an insurrection attempt on the American democracy. They show rioters hang from the balcony of the Senate Chambers, a weapon carrying protestor sitting on the desk of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a protestor with a Trump cap carrying a lectern with the Speaker’s seal on it.
Eventually, the ordeal ended with law enforcement successfully evacuating the officials within the building, firing tear gas, and even entering an armed confrontation with the protestors which resulted in four casualties, and one critically injured individual.
However, the incident wasn’t an impulsive reaction by a mob fueled by group think and polarization.
For months now, the rhetoric that the elections are rigged, will yield an illegitimate result, Trump’s loss will simply not be accepted have made the rounds of even the most prominent right wing circles. Had the former President, and his cabinet denounced these rumors early on, the situation may very well have not escalated. While the riots went on, the President failed to denounce the rioters effectively leading to him being banned from several of the world’s biggest social networking platforms, including Twitter and Instagram.
Post what the country saw on the morning of Jan. 6, many were certain the lawmakers, even those belonging to Trump’s cabinet, would move swiftly to impeach him. However, they have been left disappointed for more reasons than one.
“To me the most disturbing thing about the capitol violence was not the assault on the capitol — although that was very troubling — but rather what happened after the assault. About two-thirds of Republicans in the House voted against certifying the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania,” said William Gorton, Associate Professor of Political Science. This signaled that they were quite possibly willing to nullify the results of a free and fair election. That’s the sort of thing that happens in failing democracies and autocratic regimes. One wonders what would have happened had the Republicans controlled the House and Senate. Would they have nullified Joe Biden’s win? Unfortunately, it’s quite imaginable that something like that might happen in future presidential races. American democracy is in a very precarious state.”