The word “protest” is defined as “the act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval.” Historical examples include the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives, and Black Lives Matter protests, each of which were derived from a set of morals and beliefs that demonstrators valued.
This is how news outlets are describing the group of conservative extremists that stormed the Capitol Building, vandalized and stole from offices in the building with zip ties in hand, and incited violence that resulted in five deaths this past Wednesday. The term “protesters” seems rather unfit for such a display of barbarity.
This wasn’t about “objecting” or “disapproval,” it was about the inability to accept defeat, a sense of entitlement, and the thirst for power that many Trump supporters have, despite the fact that Trump lost both the electoral and popular vote last November. These are desperate and wildly misguided attempts to “Make America Great Again.”
This is perhaps one of the most appalling aspects of this situation: the blatant hypocrisy of it all. Rioters wore the phrase “Make America Great Again” on their hats and clothing, but what is American about breaking into a federal building? Replacing the American flag with a Trump flag and parading around Confederate flags? How patriotic is the destruction of what’s meant to be a sacred American space? These self proclaimed “patriots” claim to care for the well-being and dignity of this nation, but they are the very ones dismantling it. This was not a protest; this was an act of domestic terrorism.
The word terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Now this sounds like a spot-on description of the events that unfolded, doesn’t it? Let’s break it down.
“Unlawful use of violence and intimidation.” Well, these people broke into a federal building and left shattered glass, bullet holes, and a trail of destruction behind.
“Especially against civilians.” The casualties speak volumes here.
“In the pursuit of political aims.” This entire riot was held because Donald Trump will not be in power in two weeks’ time.
The magnitude and hypocrisy of this attack is being overshadowed by the media’s toned-down depiction of events and the absence of police condemnation.
Where was the tear gas? The rubber bullets? The riot gear? Let’s not forget that when people were peacefully protesting the barbaric police brutality that has stolen the lives of countless Black people this past summer, they were met with brute force and violence.
There is an obvious racial double standard here; those who broke into our sacred Capitol were calmly escorted out by police, some of whom even took selfies with the violators. Those who congregated in the streets during BLM protests were shot at and dragged away.
This hypocrisy is not surprising, nor should it be. These are the same people that continuously created fear of voter fraud during the election last November, just for it to be revealed that the candidate they supported was caught insinuating a request for fraudulent votes.
The same conservative figures who denounced BLM protests this summer for escalating to violence — primarily self-defense from the police — have now remained silent amid the mob of Trump supporters looting federal property and destroying precious artwork. So physical violence and vandalism is all right, but fighting for equal rights is where you draw the line?
Not to mention that these aggressive and intolerant sentiments have reverberated across the country, provoking a slur of hate crimes, from DC to Los Angeles. For example, in LA, a young Black woman named Chizam Berlinda Nibo was attacked, beaten, and maced by a mob of Trump supporters near the “Stop the Steal” rally last Wednesday. LAPD reportedly “stood by” along with roughly 50 bystanders, only three of whom eventually intervened and carried Nibo away from the scene. She was only trying to walk home.
This behavior is sickening, and furthermore, the very man that enabled this barbarity is still in power, practically untouched. President Donald Trump not only helped to plan this event, but once the violence had ensued he told rioters “we love you, you’re very special” after claiming for what feels like the hundredth time that the election “was stolen.” For reference, he called BLM protestors “thugs” and “terrorists” last summer.
Being a sore loser is one thing, but Trump has incited violence and unrest time and time again, to the point where social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have placed restrictions on his accounts following the events at Capitol Hill. With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden coming up on Jan. 20, it may seem as though there is nothing more to be done, but there has been talk both of impeaching Trump, for the second time, and invoking the 25th Amendment which would remove him from office.
Regardless of whether or not this comes to fruition, the takeaway here is simple. What happened at Capitol Hill was the polar opposite of “patriotic.” No matter your political leaning, the one thing that should bind us all is pride in our country. Unfortunately that has diminished in many of our eyes over the past six months, or even four years.
Understanding that violence and looting is not the answer is the first step to salvaging even an ounce of this dignity. Education, peaceful protesting, and patience have proven time and time again to carry one much further.
That’s what many Democrats did back in 2016 when they were unhappy with the results of the election. They did not riot, they did not vandalize, and they did not attack. Rather, they focused their energies on educating others, registering voters, and moving forward. Because of Trump supporters’ failure to use these methods, one of the most powerful men in the world has become one of the most dangerous.
We shouldn’t view Wednesday’s events as a warning, but rather, we should view them as a wake-up call.
Art by Ava Bayley for the UC San Diego Guardian.