As I am writing this, the Capitol of the United States is under siege. During the certification of the electoral college vote, thousands of ‘Proud Boys’ and Trump supporters have descended on the hill with two goals in mind: to stop the vote and cause chaos. The rioters breached the building by breaking through windows with shields and climbing through. Many of those who joined the mob were heavily armed and have reportedly pulled out their guns and fired shots.

Watching this play out is a surreal experience. The past four years of the Trump presidency has been marred with police brutality and blatant racism. The KKK has resurged incomprehensibly all the while the President himself has consistently used decisive and dangerous rhetoric which encouraged the kind of visceral we are seeing today. Joe Biden’s win in November incited a catalyst in which Trump objected to the integrity of Democracy and has used Twitter as well as his base to argue that the election was stolen from him and, in effect, America has been stolen from the people. The events that we are all currently watching are what white America does when it doesn’t get its way. It is an eleventh-hour attempt by the MAGA militia to give the election back to ‘the true winner’ and away from the “liars.”

In reality, however, this demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

What has really struck me is the lack of work and preparation from security forces, particularly in contrast with the civil rights protests from the summer. The Black Lives Matter protests were met with riot shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, and oftentimes military forces. At the time, streets were filled with tear gas to a point where a fog had descended and protestors could barely see through the smoke. Some activists even lost an eye after being severely pelted with rubber bullets.

This demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

In sharp contrast, only the Capitol Police, who in hindsight did the bare minimum, were present when unhinged terrorists stormed onto and raided a building that is meant to be a beacon of Democracy. In fact, there are live images of them watching the rioters from the balconies in minimal gear. If these were Black people, many would have been harassed and brutalized 20 minutes in with the police wearing military-grade protection. This doesn’t just show white privilege but white power. Law enforcement is certainly at fault for much of what took place today, and speaks to its level of complicity with this behavior.

Such lack of action paints a sobering picture of who those in power deem a threat. On Capitol Hill today we saw an overwhelming number of white armed bodies, mainly male, who were widely not viewed as a threat even after weeks of organizing and making their intention to be violent clear. Meanwhile, when peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors, mostly consisting of Black bodies, took to the streets over the summer to denounce white supremacy, police brutality, and the state violence, they were attacked and berated. The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society. The rioters on the Capitol are fighting a legitimate election that has been counted multiple times during which the US President consistently held that the votes were fraudulent – a claim that many courts have thrown out. They are domestic terrorists emboldened by Trump’s inflammatory, seditious and false rhetoric. This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

The biggest question I have been reflecting today is what is the result for American democracy? The US itself has openly and proudly invaded other countries which have had similar events take place, claiming the urgent need to preserve democracy. If this was any other state, the US would have surely invaded, and denounced the demonstrations as anti-democratic, vicious, or uncivilized. If the bodies ‘protesting’ weren’t white, then blood would be dripping from Capitol Hill. But the question remains, if this is the democracy the US wants to transport to the rest of the world, why should we accept it?

Thinking back again to the protests around BLM and more specifically police brutality, the call for the abolishment of the police was met with the slogan #BlueLivesMatter. Of course, the implication being that police officers are also victims, and the BLM protests failed to recognize their sacrifice. The very same people who so proudly shouted Blue Lives Matter then, are committing acts of violence against the Capitol Police today. They argued that people should ‘respect the cops and you won’t get killed’ but are now fighting, punching, and kicking those same officers. The BLM protest had nothing to do with disrespecting the police and everything to do with Black people demanding actions which would ensure human rights. This makes clear that what was seen as offensive to the white population had nothing to do with lack law and order, and everything to do with race.

The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society.

Perhaps one of the most sobering images I have seen from todays events was the Confederate flag being flown in the Senate Chambers. This horrid flag stands as a personification of white power and white control. No one who cares for racial equality looks to the Confederate flag with anything but disgust. The message the flag bearer, who was surrounded by anarchists claiming to be ‘real Americans,’ intended to send was clear: white supremacy is alive and well in the United States, and they will go to great lengths to restore dangerous ideologies they so passionately believe in.

These events aren’t new either. Coups have taken place all over the world when citizens and in some cases the military have been dissatisfied and taken over the government. The US has always flown in as the beacon of liberty and democracy and, with its military force, attempted to solve the issue. Time and time again we have heard ‘this isn’t America’ – but it IS America. When white America has been unable to get what it wants it historically responds with violence. Think of the Tulsa Race Massacre or the Massacre at Wounded Knee as examples.

After much time and convincing, and after most of the damage had taken place, the President went on TV and asked the rioters to return home. He did so while reiterating that the election was stolen, stoking more violence, and called them ‘special people’. He also told the terrorists that he ‘loved them.’ There was no denouncement of their actions nor did he oppose any future action. The statement was pathetic. Throughout the height of the violence, he sat and watched. Fascists will not stop fascist movements, however, so I am not surprised that authorities allowed this coup to continue for as long as it did.

The wrong use of language hasn’t helped either. Many news outlets and tweeters have referred to the rioters as protestors; this is intentional. When we hear protesters we automatically tend to support them because protests largely happen against oppressive regimes. Let me be clear: these are not protestors but domestic terrorists. They refuse to accept a legitimate election and have chosen to attempt a coup and to destroy the democratic system. As one would expect, BLM was referred to as a riot. This automatically painted people peacefully protesting for equal rights as criminals and vandals. Language is important in the way we interpret a cause. In this way, white people are again falsely seen as a beacon of civility against the Black criminal rioter due in large part to language.

The last time the US saw this level of attack on government was in 1776, the same year it gained independence from Britain. Not even during the Civil War has democratic buildings been attacked in such a manner as we saw today. If today’s events have shown anything it’s the extent to which white extremists will go to voice their concerns. It highlights the importance of carrying on the fight for equality. The day Biden won, people cried. It was finally over, it felt that they were no longer at war for the basic right to live. We should look at the events of today and begin to dismantle the white supremacy which infects America like a plague and start to bring justice to people who have been ignored and brutalized for so long.

 

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  • Aafiyah Shaikh

    Aafiyah is a graduate from Lancaster University with a BA in International Relations. In her spare time, she loves writing poetry, and dismantling racist and patriarchal structures


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