On January 6, 2021, a mob of rioters supporting United States President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol, breaching security and occupying parts of the building for several hours. The riots were incited by comments made by Trump at an earlier rally. The storming disrupted a joint session of Congress to count the vote of the Electoral College and certify Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, and led to evacuations and lockdowns of the building.
When I woke up on January 6th I checked Twitter like I normally do and saw that Trump supporters had just left Trump's "Save America March" and were making their way towards the United States Capitol building. Ever since Trump lost the election on November 3, 2020, and even before, he and his party have made extraordinarily false claims that Trump's election victory was illegally stolen from Trump by the Democratic party and anyone else who dared stand in their way. Their rhetoric and threats had been ramping up since Election Day with a nearly endless number of outlandish claims and a large number of baseless court cases. Even the United States Supreme Court rejected a so called election fraud case. Undeterred by this Trump amped up the threats even more, he personally contacted local and state election officials begging and threatening them to overturn the election. The most recent example of this was Trump calling the Georgia secretary of state on January 2nd asking him to find enough votes to overturn the Georgia election. The following day I called the Washington D.C. office of my wonderful representative, Pramila Jayapal, congratulating her on being sworn in for another term and asking about the possibility of Trump being impeached again because of the Georgia call. Even though Biden would be officially certified the president elect by Congress only a few days later I thought Trump's repeated pressuring of a state elected official was egregious.
About an hour after I woke up, basically just after my standup ended, Trump supporters broke through the woefully inadequate security line protecting the Capitol and stormed the building while the joint session of Congress certifying the vote was actively in progress. Security inside the building scrambled to ensure the safety of congressmembers using makeshift barricades to block doors giving congressmemebers on the chamber floors time to escape. Other congressmembers, including my congresswoman, who were in the gallery section were forced to take cover as they could not immediately escape. At some point during the initial attack, as Trump supporters tried to enter the Speaker's Lobby which directly leads into the House Chamber, a Trump supporter and a 14 year veteran of the US Air Force climbed through possibly the last barrier between rioters and elected congresspeople and was shot in the neck by a Capitol Police officer protecting the barrier.
While watching the events of January 6th unfold I thought about the near miss of an even greater national event. Any foreign nation or group could have easily had armed mercenaries within the crowd ready to take advantage of the chaos that unfolded. As the rioters stormed the building trained individuals could have easily overwhelmed the last line of defense and could have taken congressmembers hostage or even assassinated them. The levels of national chaos after an event like that is almost unimaginable.
Once the remaining congressmembers were evacuated Trump supporters continued to break into various parts of the Capitol building, they stole documents from congressmember offices, damage or destroyed historical items, and took pictures of it all, maskless, during a deadly, once in a lifetime, global pandemic.
Unlike every other state in the United States, the District of Columbia is not a state meaning there are weird quirks regarding how it is run. One of those quirks is that unlike in other states where the National Guard is commanded by the governor, the D.C. National Guard is commanded by the commander in chief of the United States. In this case that would be Trump. While Virginia and Maryland spun up their National Guards, Trump blocked the request to deploy the D.C. National Guard. Nearly 90 minutes after the Capitol building was stormed, other leaders including Vice President Pence went around Trump to deploy the D.C. National Guard.
Eventually the combined security response started expelling Trump supporters from the Capitol building. The first news report I saw counted only 15 arrests. The rest of the rioters were allowed to leave the building and one person was filmed being hand held down the Capitol steps by police. After about 4 hours of chaos it was announced that the Capitol had been secured.
To the naive or ignorant it would be bewildering to see the awful security response at the Capitol. We can however easily compare the January 6th response to the response during the Black Lives Matter protests in D.C. last year. The D.C. National Guard was pre-deployed in all parts of the city. Trump even used police to clear protesters in Lafayette Square in order to conduct a photo op. The fact that Black Lives Matter protests saw more police force than right wing events is also backed up by data reported on by FiveThirtyEight. We learned even more on January 7th when news outlets published that Capitol Police repeatedly rejected offers for more security both days before and during the storming of the Capitol.
While Trump supporters launched an attack on the United States Capitol other Trump supporters around the country protested and rioted at other state Capitol buildings. In Washington some Trump supporters entered the grounds of the Governor's Mansion. A nationwide uprising of Trump supporters violently contesting the fair election of the next president.
What happened on January 6th and the events leading up to it was not just Trump supporters protesting an unfair election. It was not just a riot. It was an attempted coup d'état. Just before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, elected members of the Republican party were contesting the electoral votes of certain states. Before January 6th, numerous Republican officials throughout the country attempted to overturn the election. It was a coup led by Trump. supported by national Republican leaders, administered by local Trump officials, and backed by millions of Trump supporters. In a poll conducted on January 6th, 45% of Republicans approved of the storming of the Capitol building. Even after the raid, while a few congressional Republicans reversed their previous plans to formally object to the counting of certain state electors, other Republicans carried on with their plan. 121 House Republicans and 6 Senate Republicans voted to object to the Arizona count. 138 House Republicans and 7 Senate Republicans voted to object to the Pennsylvania count. Unknown members of Capitol Police, Trump, or high level Trump officials left rank and file members of Capitol Police incredibly unprepared for the attack. Members of Capitol Police let rioters onto Capitol grounds and took selfies with rioters. Off duty police officers and members of the military were reportedly seen flashing their official badges and ID cards as they started to storm the Capitol. In a brief statement during the insurrection Trump released a video on his Twitter account telling his supporters "We love you. You're very special."
There are many threads leading up to the coup that happened yesterday. One that I'm familiar with is Gamergate. All the way back in 2013 Anita Sarkeesian released Damsel in Distress: Part 1, the first video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. As a freshman game design major in college I watched the video, probably a little upset at someone criticizing classic video games but also learning more about the negative tropes against women in video games. In 2014 under the guise of "ethics in gaming journalism" the Gamergate movement started with people harassing, doxing, and violently threatening its initial target Zoë Quinn but also Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu and other women related to the games industry. Harassment occurred on 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit with figures like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos supporting the harassment campaign. From there the alt-right started to emerge more broadly with key figures such as white nationalist Richard Spencer along with Steve Bannon. In 2016 Steve Bannon became the chief executive of the Trump campaign and once Trump was in office he worked in the executive branch. In 2017 the Unite the Right rally, organized by Richard Spencer and members of the alt-right, happened in Charlottesville, Virginia where 1 counterprotester was killed in a vehicle-ramming attack. Members of the Proud Boys were also in attendance at the rally. Proud Boys repeatedly antagonized Black Lives Matter protests in 2018 and onward and also were responsible for 2019 events in Seattle around a Sounders soccer game. The boogaloo movement started in late 2019 with various alt-right groups including the Proud Boys. The movement is responsible for the killings of at least 2 people at the beginning of the George Floyd protests in 2020. In late 2020 a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan was revealed and the suspects were linked to the boogaloo movement. Now in 2021 members and supporters of all of these movements and groups participated in the storming of the Capitol. You can identify them with their flags, one such example being the flag of Kekistan, styled after the Nazi flag. First created in 2016 on 4chan, seen in other protests and rallies like the Unite the Right rally, eventually ending up at the storming of the Capitol.
The thread I described is not an original thought. This Twitter thread also gives a perspective on the thread I described above.
It's incredibly hard to completely describe all that went into the attempted coup that culminated on January 6th, 2021. In the coming days, weeks, months, and possibly years after the insurrection we will hopefully come to learn much more about what happened. As someone who believes in the ideals of the United States, that all people are created equal and that our leaders should not be kings determined by birth or by wealth but democratic vote January 6th elicited a number of emotions from me. As I continue to process the event I will always continue to help the United States be the best that it can be.