The Company They Keep

The storming of the Capitol on Wednesday was years in the making.

Trump+supporters+amassed+in+front+of+the+Capitol+building+on+Wednesday%2C+shortly+before+chaos+ensued.

Bill Clark/Getty Images

Trump supporters amassed in front of the Capitol building on Wednesday, shortly before chaos ensued.

By Quinn Volpe, North Allegheny Senior High School

I spent more time in quarantine than I would like to admit scrolling through far-right media sources such as PragerU and Breitbart, knowing full well that they are a desecration of journalistic integrity.  But I also knew that those media outlets are a large part of what Donald Trump fanatics read, watch, and listen to on a daily basis.

After it became clear that Joe Biden would likely be the country’s next president, as all major news outlets projected a win for him when Pennsylvania flipped from red to blue, far-right news outlets boiled over with rage. They spewed false claims of voter fraud, despite a clear lack of evidence, and continued with full momentum even when Trump’s colleagues began to speak against the allegations.

“Just you wait” and “He [Joe Biden] hasn’t won yet” were common refrains. At some points, these sources even cited January 6th when they warned whoever would listen about the power of the silent majority (who is neither silent nor a majority of anything).

photo courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images

Then it happened. And no matter how frustrating, concerning, and frightening it was, it didn’t come as any surprise to me or to anyone else who was paying attention to far-right propaganda. Trump incited unnecessary violence and then sat back and watched. He inspired his loyal supporters to threaten America’s democracy on all levels, and it worked.

Trump’s supporters, maskless and full of false hope, gathered to hear a speech from the president himself earlier that day, in which he called the election, “an egregious assault on our democracy,” and urged his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol.”

He went on to say an even more disturbing line: “…You will never take back our country with weakness.”

What he meant by “take back our country” is unclear, but the line evidently inspired the behavior of his audience later in the day.

His supporters went on to march towards the Capitol, as he recommended, and some broke into the building. Windows were broken and American flags were ripped down. It seemed like protecting property and respecting the flag were no longer the values that so many people in the group had actually practiced as they preached.

Many on the right, during and after the event, took to social media to compare it to the Black Lives Matter protests that panned out during 2020. Anyone who is simply writing off the January 6th attempted coup as the same thing as BLM protests need to take a step back and understand what this correlation is intended to mean.

Although outrage became more widespread following the death of George Floyd, the protests were about racism and white supremacy that is deeply rooted in the systems and institutions of the United States. After all other methods had been tried and had failed, this was the last resort.

Despite the shame that came with living in a country that pushed people to need to do this, I was not embarrassed. I was not embarrassed because the protests showed that there are millions of people who are willing to come together to fight for the common good and to fight against a system that has necessitated the brutality and death of Black people for hundreds of years.

It’s almost as if the opposition to BLM was never truly about respecting the police — rather, it was always about disrespecting Black people and their anger at the violence that has been inflicted upon them by police.”

More than anything, these protests brought people in the United States and the entire world together. People in every US state took to the streets to say that Black lives matter, and the world came out in solidarity with us while they protested their own countries’ racism as well.

Now, the world is laughing at us.

What went down in DC was an attempted coup– not a protest, not even a riot– that was ultimately caused by a narcissist who has failed to accept defeat and is willing to take anyone down if they get in his way. Unlike the Black Lives Matter protests that served as a last resort after years of fighting for basic rights, this event was an immediate reaction by people disappointed in the fact that their candidate didn’t win two months ago.

Congresspeople were forced to hide under their desks and fear for their lives as Trump’s supporters carried guns through the building. A man walked around carrying zip ties that were ready to be used against hostages that would likely be congresspeople or others in the building. Two pipe bombs and a cooler of Molotov cocktails, otherwise known as gasoline bombs, were found near the Capitol building amid the chaos.

It’s hard to see how such events are even remotely close to the BLM protests over the summer.  The breach of the Capitol demonstrated an utter lack of acceptance for democracy as well as free and fair elections in the United States.

I won’t say that riots don’t work, or that riots are never necessary, as those claims would go directly against my beliefs and American history as a whole. The Boston Tea Party and Stonewall Riots are just two examples of this– they both were riots that caused long-lasting change. They were caused by years of oppression and mistreatment.

But there is an important comparison to be made between the occurrence that we saw at the Capitol building on Wednesday and the BLM protests in 2020.

Despite their knowledge of a possible threat, Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies failed to stop this from happening. At Black Lives Matter protests across the country, police turned to unleashing tear gas, shooting rubber bullets, and making arrests without a second thought while their lack of immediate action at the pro-Trump event cost five lives, a number that could possibly grow, and that includes a Capitol police officer.

At BLM protests, police used force even when it was unnecessary. While they eventually turned to methods like tear gas and arrests at the Capitol, their hesitation was lethal.

Months ago, instead of feeling any sympathy for protestors fighting for their rights, conservatives, led by Trump, firmly stood with police and law enforcement. “Blue lives matter,” they intoned. But the police officers on the scene at the Capitol on Wednesday were hardly respected, some even subjected to violence by the self-proclaimed patriots who pushed past them.

It’s almost as if the opposition to BLM was never truly about respecting the police — rather, it was always about disrespecting Black people and their anger at the violence that has been inflicted upon them by police.

photo courtesy of Mike Theiler/Reuters

Trump called BLM protestors “thugs” but on Wednesday said that he loves the perpetrators of the storming of the Capitol building.

Even now, the far-right media is blaming  the ransacking of the Capitol on “ANTIFA in disguise.”

After an unprecedented event such as this, I don’t see how anyone can continue to feed into baseless conspiracy theories that can only be confirmed by alt-right sources, but I suppose that this was part of the reason so many Trump supporters felt compelled to take a stand against the country’s electoral process in the first place.

No one who contributed to this happening, whether it be Donald Trump, Republican politicians that have been terrifyingly loyal to him throughout his presidency, or his supporters, is innocent. The system that allowed Trump to come to power in the first place made this inevitable, but he set it into full swing with his careless and hurtful rhetoric and behavior over the past four years.

In light of such ugliness, can anyone truly be surprised that the presidency, House, and Senate will all be Democrat-controlled?

If you are a conservative, and if you’re disgusted by what has happened and thinking, “We’re not all like this,” reflect on the company you keep. Wednesday’s events were not simply caused by a few radical individuals. They were the culmination of years of support for Trump and politicians that bowed to him with no regard for decency and the well-being of the American people as a whole.

If it wasn’t already obvious, Trump is one of the most dangerous politicians that America has ever seen. The unnecessary and hateful violence that he inspired in his supporters will not soon be forgotten. It is too late for apologies, and unless everyone that contributed to this mess is held accountable, it will only get worse.

This story was originally published on The Uproar on January 8, 2021.