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Home   /   Op-ed: Capitol Hell

Martha Salter looks back on a momentous 24 hours in American history.

On the 6th January 2021, predominantly right wing, white, Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill following incitement from the president.  

The protesters swarmed the building following a rally in Washington D.C earlier in the day where the president made speculative claims that the election results were fake, based on dubious evidence. Trump told supporters “and after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down…to the Capitol.”

Five people were killed during the process including one woman who was shot by police on entering the Capitol.

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Two pipe bombs were said to have been confiscated on the day, highlighting the threat and intentions protesters possessed and the terrorism that could have unfolded at the Capitol.

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California stated that the protesters were an “amalgam of disaffected, right wing, Trump followers from around the United States who were called by him to assemble… he incited them to be there.”

Former governor of Mississippi, Ray Mabus, described the protesters at Capitol Hill as “thugs and criminals”, this echoes Trump’s comments on BLM protesters when he referred to them as “thugs”, “anarchists” and “terrorists”. Similarly, BLM protesters were described by Priti Patel as “thugs and criminals” and Boris Johnson’s statement regarding the issues, that they were “subverted by thuggery.” These statements were flippantly coined regarding mainly peaceful protests that spiralled across the city of London and the UK.

The Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol conducted a fallacious raid that posed threat to American state of security and breached national security.  

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The law enforcement present and their lacking resistance to the entrance of protesters into the building raises questions into white privilege and the contrast of security that were portrayed to be protecting the building during Black Lives Matter protests. Civil rights attorney, Judith Browne Dianis, stated “the police in Seattle and Portland and DC were more prepared to repress peaceful Black Lives Matter protests than people actually trying to storm the U.S Capitol.”

The protesters at Wednesday’s events have been likened to terrorists and a major backlash has ricocheted through social media. Here are some comments circulating Instagram:

“White privilege is on display like never before in the U.S Capitol. If these people were Black…well, we all know what would be happening right now to them.” – Ibram X. Kendi.

“Black people can’t even sleep in bed safely at night without getting shot and killed by police. But when white nationalists attempt a coup, suddenly cops can’t even find their handcuffs.” – Saeed Jones.

“When can we stop being surprised that white supremacists are the most violent element in America and actually address/end the violence?” – Bree Newsome Bass.

President Trump did little -in a timely fashion- to prevent or dissuade protesters from storming the Capitol building. Following allegations of “insurrection” from US president-elect Joe Biden, Trump broadcasted a video message in which he stated “I know your hurt. But you have to go home now…We love you. You’re very special.”

The contrast of language used, actions taken and the level of hypocrisy associated with the BLM protests compared to the Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol are unignorable and present a dangerously terrifying truth that must be addressed. Once again, white privilege and white supremacy come under scrutiny regarding their role in modern day America.

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