On January 6th, 2021, a coup d’etat was attempted by Trump loyalists on Capitol Hill. In efforts to overturn the certification of the 2020 general election, the results of which Trump cast doubt on for months in advance, the loyalists arrived armed with pipe bombs for both major political national headquarters, zip ties for potential hostages, and their dedication to not wearing masks. Trying to fulfill incumbent Donald Trump’s wishes to override the will of the voters, they organized and mobilized online factions, counting down the days to January 6th, when Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress were slated to certify the results of the election, The rioters had even made merchandise emblazoned with “Civil War January 6th” to wear to the event and were attending a Trump rally at the Washington Monument where notable figures like Donald Trump Jr. said, addressing the supporters and electors alike, “You have an opportunity today. You can be a hero or you can be a zero”. Furthermore, in a now-deleted tweet from two days prior to the attacks, founder of Turning Point USA (an astroturfed conservative activist group aimed at the youth), Charlie Kirk, had bragged about sending “80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president” as well as recently hosting radio host Eric Metaxas on his show who said “we need to fight to the death, to the last drop of blood”, essentially aiding and abetting the insurrection.
Additionally, the FBI had been aware of the possibility of such an event since before September 30th, when journalist Ken Klippenstein received intel. The FBI “identifie[d] the period between the 2020 presidential election and inauguration as a ‘flashpoint’”-a hotbed for political tension and potential violence -coming on the tail of Trump infamously failing to denounce the alt-right extremist group The Proud Boys (who have since gone full neo-nazi) during his first presidential debate with Joe Biden. Reporter Arieh Kohlver hit the nail on the head weeks in advance on December 21st, writing: “On January 6, armed Trumpist militias will be rallying in DC, at Trump's orders. It's highly likely that they'll try to storm the Capitol after it certifies Joe Biden's win. I don't think this has sunk in yet.”
So what happened?
Well, the fascist insurrectionists initially waltzed through the police gate outside of the building after scaling the wall outside, and the clashing began at 1:20 p.m on the west steps. Multiple viral videos depict law enforcement opening the gates, as well as videos of the attackers taking selfies with law enforcement, proclaiming “ACAF” (all cops are friends). At 3:16 p.m., Republican Representative Paul Gosar tweeted a picture of the insurrectionists scaling the wall and captioned it “Ok. I said let’s do an audit. Let’s not get carried away here. I don’t want anyone hurt. We are protesting the violation of our laws. We are builders not destroyers. BLM burns and loots. We build. If anyone on the ground reads this and is beyond the line come back”.
What’s incredible is that at the same time, he posted to Parler, an app notorious for being a hub for the far-right (and instrumental in this attack), with the same exact image, captioned simply: “Americans are upset.” and receiving 1.3 million views on the app. It seems like Gosar wasn’t all too concerned about denouncing the insurrectionists to their faces. Whether or not one considers that ambiguity tacit approval or somehow a simple observation and commentary of the state of affairs, the buck doesn’t stop there.
At 3:17, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri greeted the insurrectionists outside the east wing, fist in the air in a symbol of solidarity with the fascists, one replicated on the dais by some of them. Both Hawley and Ted Cruz sent out text messages to supporters after the Capitol had been breached to fundraise. Cruz’ text at 3:33 reads “Ted Cruz here. I’m leading the fight to reject electors from key states unless there is an emergency audit of the election. Will you stand with me?” Hawley’s, sent at 3:31, read “Hi, I'm Josh Hawley. I am leading the charge to fight for free and fair elections.” Fundraising and pouring more doubt on the election while the mob had taken over the Capitol has made some representatives, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to request resignations from the two, and expulsion from the Senate if not.
Earlier, at 3:00, it was also reported that Derrick Evans was present and livestreaming the event, someone present, live streaming of the event, was Derrick Evans, who began his protesting at abortion clinics.
Evans was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates this past November.
According to the Hill, he and 5 other Republican state legislators, from state senate and state delegations across the country, were identified at the attack within the next day.
Now, one might wonder why I haven’t focused on the people on the ground as much, the actual rioters, as opposed to notable republicans. That’s because quite frankly, most of it has been covered by the mainstream media, and you’ve likely heard about it and are tired of it. Additionally, they are essentially foot soldiers and pawns who will take the brunt of the fall, as life will likely continue for the instigators. In spite of the fact that over the first two hours of the siege, the Metropolitan Police Department reported making a mere 13 total arrests, by curfew, the nation was again in widespread anxiety. By the end of the night, they had made a total of 52 arrests. 2 were journalists, and the D.C. police admitted that most were for curfew violations, and by the next afternoon, the total was at 68.
For perspective, over 230 DisruptJ20 protestors, a group aiming to protest Trump’s inauguration, were arrested, with one commander justifying the arrests because “the protest was not static”, an exception that has no legal existence. As Vanessa A. Bee of the Current Affairs publication wrote, “In this case, charging hundreds of individuals with felonies for a few smashed windows would have been unusual, if not objectively excessive. The numbers also created some impracticality to pursue each individual this aggressively. And in the background of all this lingered the high probability that the mass arrests were no more legal than the Pershing Park arrests. Nevertheless, the federal prosecutors opted to indict 217 of the arrestees with a litany of charges: conspiring to riot, inciting a riot, and actually rioting, along with several counts of property destruction. For some defendants, the charges carried over 70 years of prison time”. Furthermore, in an independent report assessing the police’s conduct on Inauguration Day, the Police Foundation was skeptical that MPD could show probable cause for each defendant’s arrest. The prosecution lacked conclusive proof that any specific defendant had either rioted and destroyed property, or conspired to do so. The case was incredibly thin. Eventually, after months or years for some, many were let off the hook after banding in solidarity, being withheld plea deals, and taken to court, where it was ruled that most were exercising their First Amendment rights and prosecutorial misconduct was exposed.
And even that due-process-violating fiasco pales in comparison to the upwards of 14,000 people mass arrested during Black Lives Matter protests from the past summer, including peaceful protestors black-bagged and kidnapped by federal agents in unmarked vehicles.
The mostly peaceful protests of Trump’s inauguration and for civil rights have clearly received starkly disparate treatment from the police compared to the January 6th attackers thus far- so why? The simple answer is in those selfies and the ACAF slogan. According to PoliceMag, in 2016, 84% of police officers voted for Donald Trump, compared to 8% for Hillary Clinton and 5% for Gary Johnson. A common misconception is that the police is a neutral institution, but the truth is that police are incredibly committed to preserving the status quo and maintaining its monopoly on violence. When there is a threat to structural change in power, whether it be Civil Rights, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, protests for water rights against the Standing Rock and Keystone pipelines, protests over healthcare bills by handicapped activists, or now in protests such as Black Lives Matter, the police are the opposition. For this iteration of the police force, this has simply been its overarching institutional role in society since its inception. But the police’s attitudes towards this potential fascist coup to overthrow democracy? AP News and NPR reported that Capitol police declined reinforcements not once, not twice, but six times. Why? Because the police are interested in maintaining power at the top, and these Trump supporters don’t threaten that structure. The putsch maintains the status quo regardless of the successes of the respective foot soldiers. The police were not simply incompetent on January 6th, they were entirely complicit. It should come as no surprise, then, that officers reportedly allowed the rioters into the Capitol and when they were lost looking to find Senator Chuck Schumer, “they asked a Capitol Police officer, who tried to direct them”.The reason that I haven’t referred to the fascist insurrectionists as revolutionaries is because they aren’t. Revolutions, by definition, challenge the power structure from the bottom-up, not aim to re-elect a billionaire already at the top, hence why the police were fine with standing back and standing by, exemplified in this clip from Insider, where law enforcement stands by, rolling out the red carpet for insurrectionists, while saying “you can’t come in, nobody can come in”.
In fact, for all the talk of the ‘Law and Order’ party over last summer, it is fascinating that white-collar crime prosecutions have dropped to their lowest in over twenty years, as well as fines on corporations, which dropped 76% from Obama’s final 20 months to Trump’s first 20. Instead of justly punishing wrongdoers, the mantra of ‘law and order’ has been redefined to overlook the ‘bad guys’ storming the Capitol on the 6th, and instead to deny, or at least delay, shifts in systemic power. Additionally, it is worth noting that the Department of Justice announced that the man who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s office and sat in her office would serve a maximum of one year in prison, in contrast to Utah Black Lives Matter protestors, who were facing the maximum of a life sentence for splashing paint. There is no actual ‘law and order’ or ‘draining the swamp’ for the billionaire president who funnels in Saudi leadership money through his hotels and resorts in exchange for arms deals to perpetuate the genocide in Yemen, that rhetoric only applies to those who address the injustices of today and try to change it.
And of course, he also holds the title of the most prominent instigator of this violence. Rather than referring to his most rabid base of supporters as “thugs”, as he did for violent actors in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Trump decided to essentially congratulate them. His calls supposedly meant to end the violence began by positing that the fascists were right, and that the election was stolen from him. He later tweeted saying that we should “remember this day forever” because “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away.” As if his continuous validation of them wasn’t enough, Trump even said that he “loves” these “very special people”/“patriots”. After praising them and empowering their cause, he asks them to nicely go home, well after the damage had been done.
After the mob was finally dispersed from our nation’s Capitol building, with one casualty from a gunshot, three more due to medical emergencies, and one officer who collapsed and died later that night after being beaten by MAGA supporters while another committed suicide days later, all balance was restored. Democrats and Republicans came together, put aside their differences, and sent the corrupt Trump out of politics after learning their lessons about democracy. The end.
That’s likely how movies that need a Deus Ex Machina to this story will produce the ending of it, but that isn’t anywhere near the truth. Afterward, during the election certification, many members of Congress, such as Kelly Loeffler - who had once objected to the election on grounds of fraud- now certified it, after actually experiencing what baseless conspiracies concerning the election can do to them and their place of work.
Even more unconscionable were those like Matt Gaetz of Florida, who still refused to certify the vote, false-flagging the idea that Antifa were the ones behind the attack. In an act incredibly reminiscent of the Reichstag fire in proto-Nazi Germany, Gaetz blatantly lied and blamed leftists for extreme right-wing violence. He cited the Washington Times, a source with a very poor reputation, which has since pulled the story for being a lie. In fact, the article initially stated that the supposed Antifa members were of Philadelphia Antifa, as one was mentioned on the site, and another was spotted at a Black Lives Matter protest. What the article failed to mention was that the link between the supposed antifa member and their appearance on the Philadelphia Antifascist webpage, was that the page was dedicated to outing and identifying them as a neo-nazi and white nationalist. They also neglected to mention that the second supposed Antifa member was counter-protesting a Black Lives Matter rally and holding up a sign that implied that QAnon had sent him. The New York Post has kept the headline but issued a correction on the article since publication, but unsurprisingly, Gaetz has yet to retract the tweet as of the time of writing this, over 75 hours since the article was pulled, and his claim of Antifascist instigation debunked by the FBI . After his speech, Gaetz also received applause from fellow Republicans like Mo Brooks (Brooks would later double down on the Antifascist myth on Twitter).
In the aftermath, Democrats and Republicans alike made dramatic speeches about how this ‘wasn’t America’ and that the day didn’t reflect the greatness or respect of the country. But is it really not? The YouGov poll following the events of the night found that 45% of Republicans were in favor of the siege of the Capitol. During just the past few weeks, we’ve had an attempt at a fascist coup d’etat, a bombing in Nashville, and record-setting numbers in the COVID pandemic, breaking 4,000 daily deaths for the first time on the 7th. Whatever mythologized view of America some of our elected officials have is incredibly misguided. The beauty of the American people, of the solidarity, of the peace, has long been eroded and suppressed by the power apparatuses these officials run. And now, the very officials that began all of this, who pushed the narrative that this election was irredeemably fraudulent and someone needed to be a “hero” or “patriot”, despite the remarkable 1-61 record in legally challenged federal and state court cases for the Trump campaign concerning the election (in which Trump campaign lawyers have confessed there is no fraud), will likely get off scot-free. No expulsion, no prosecution, nothing. Since outspoken conservatives like Kirk, Hawley, Gaetz, Cruz, Gosar, Trump, and many, many more have performatively condemned the very consequences of their actions, they will not be held accountable, and urge others to simply move on for the sake of faux-unity. They relished the sowing, but hated the reaping when it came to their doorstep.The arsonists praise the firefighters, only to go out for another light.
*The author does not claim to represent all the opinions of all the members of the Postpartisan in this essay.