A nation divided: Students reflect on the Capitol attack

The January attack on the Capitol was one like never before. West students share their input on this new piece of history.

Students+share+their+opinions+of+the+attack+on+the+Capitol.

Creative Commons

Students share their opinions of the attack on the Capitol.

By Bess Frerichs, Tosh Klever, Paige Albright, and Gwen Watson

Recap


Following a rally for former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump supporters formed a mob and made their way to the Capitol to protest Congress’ certification of the presidential election. It is believed by many politicians, some of whom later voted to adopt an article of impeachment, that Trump incited this riot by telling the rally to march to the Capitol. Much of the organization of the protest was organized on far-right social media platforms including Parler and Gab.

Capitol police were quickly outnumbered, and rioters climbed scaffolding to reach the door of the building. The first barrier was breached around 1 p.m. Congress members were still being escorted out of the building when the first rioters made their way into the Capitol at around 2:15 p.m. Members of Congress were given gas masks and led down into the tunnels below the Capitol as police barricaded doors to keep rioters out. During the protest, one woman was shot and later passed away. Three other protestors died of medical emergencies, and one police officer died from sustained injuries.

Once inside the building, rioters ransacked the premises, breaking into offices and waving confederate flags. Several protesters made their way into Nancy Pelosi’s office and one stole a sign from her room. Police officers stood by, asking rioters to leave but not attempting to physically expel them.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a citywide curfew starting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6 and continuing until 6 a.m. on Jan. 7. Bowser later extended this emergency until Jan. 21. Many lawmakers called on Trump to call off the riot, and around 3 p.m., he tweeted and urged his followers to remain peaceful, but made no attempt to call them off. Former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted shortly after, saying that everyone at the Capitol must leave. President Joe Biden also urged Trump to tell the rioters to leave during a news conference in Delaware.

The chaos continued until Pence activated the National Guard, who arrived at the Capitol around 5:30 p.m. and began to force the protesters out. Finally, Trump tweeted out a video where he urged the mob to go home—amidst claims that the election was rigged. His video was flagged on Twitter and taken down. His account was locked and later on completely suspended. Following this, Trump was also banned from Facebook and Instagram.

Lawmakers began to call on Pence to remove Trump from the office using the 25th amendment. The 25th amendment states that if the current president is unable to perform his duties, the vice president can take his place. Eventually, Congress reconvened and continued the certification process. Only four Republicans who were originally going to oppose the certification changed their minds due to the events of the day. 147 Republicans still voted to oppose the results. Eventually, the certification was approved, and Biden was set to become the next president.

Pence did not invoke the 25th amendment, but Trump was impeached 232 to 197 on Jan. 13 for inciting violence, making him the first president to be impeached twice. The Senate impeachment trial began on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Student Reactions


James Dickens ’23 and Elizabeth Genkinger ’21 share their thoughts on the events and consequences of the Jan 6 attack.


Students were asked about their initial reactions while either watching the event live or when they had learned about what happened. Following this, they shared their thoughts on how former President Trump could have prevented the attack through his encouragement on social media. Finally, students compare the actions of the National Guard to those during previous BLM protests.

Significance


WSS reporter Paige Albright ’23 shares her opinion on the Capitol attack and the future of the United States.


 

The actions taken by those at the Capitol have left the nation astonished and divided. As a result of the attack, a series of firsts in our nation’s history have occurred: the first time the Capitol has been attacked or breached since the 1800s; the first time a confederate flag has been flown on Capitol Hill, a clear showing of support of white supremacy by the attackers. Most of the responses by figures in places of power and influence have been to condemn the actions at the Capitol. However, the refusal to denounce the message of the attackers by some key politicians has severely damaged the integrity of the Republican party in many moderates’ eyes. The Hill reports that tens of thousands of Republicans are changing their registration from Republican to Independent. The actions at the Capitol have highlighted the division in our nation and exposed the damage that must be repaired to move forward.

Although the attack has left many in disbelief, the rhetoric that has been spread on far-right platforms, and by many Republican leaders, the attack was honestly sadly predictable. As the group of “Trumpian” Republicans have grown increasingly angry with the government, and it’s supposed corruption by left wing politicians and lobbyists. They gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the outcome of the election in a  “Rally to Save America,” when in reality what they would do shattered our country even more. The rally turned into an attack within hours, with legislatures, press and others fearing for their lives as the attackers breached the congressional building. As citizens all across America and the globe, watched as something they never thought would happen unfolded at our capitol. Former President Trump had just delivered a speech which had only further fanned the flames of the mod. “Fight much harder,” and “Very different rules apply to you,” are both statements of his speech. Many protesters claimed the former president was planning on joining the attack. The fallout from Jan. 6th has been swift and catastrophic.

The immediate effects of the insurrection caused more than seventy cabinet members to resign, many stating that they could no longer ignore Former president’s Trump’s attack on their safety and democracy. All the while the Republican party has grown more fractured, many Republicans who denounce the actions are receiving threats from the Trumpian Republicans, like former Vice-President Pence. The crowd could be heard yelling “hang Mike Pence,” as they were enraged with his certification of the ballots declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. This niche group of Republicans has caused tens of thousands of more moderate Republicans to switch their party affiliation. Swing states are reporting up to 10,000 Republicans switching, this could affect elections big and small in our nation for generations.

Long term effects of the events from the capitol could lead to a reshaping of the Republican party we see today. As leaders think the party is fractured beyond repair, we could see a possible emergence of a reborn party or a drastic shift in leadership of the existing party. As those who participated in the attacks are being arrested, Former President Trump is facing a legal battle of his own. If found guilty at his second impeachment trial, his ability to run again could be stripped. Jan. 6th will forever be remembered in America, now we must work to repair the damage the attack left behind.

This story was originally published on West Side Story on February 8, 2021.