Chaos Agents in the U.S. Capitol

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8 mins read
Chaos at the US Capitol

“Officer Brian Sicknick was a hero who died in the line of duty defending our democracy and the citadel of liberty itself. To his family and loved ones, I know no words can dull the pain of this moment, but know Jill and I and the entire nation join you in mourning his loss.” — President Joe Biden

The horrors of January 6, 2021, will impact this nation for years to come. Given Donald Trump’s role as the ringleader of the events that unfolded that day, the Senate has no choice but to convict him in his upcoming second impeachment trial. Each day, we learn more about the crimes committed by Trump-inspired goons and thugs, as they stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to wreak chaos, hunt down elected officials, and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and instead install Trump. 

In their crime spree, these Republicans, despite preaching “Blue Lives Matter,” caused the death of one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, and harmed 140 others. Brain injuries, cracked ribs, a lost fingertip, and a crushed spinal disc were some of the grisly results of the assault by Trump’s militia. One agent may end up losing an eye from an attempted gouging. Acting Metropolitan Police Chief, Robert Contee, told House members that both D.C. Police Officer Jeffrey Smith and Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood “took their own lives in the aftermath of that battle.” And on top of these outrages, at least 38 Capitol Police officers and 150 National Guard troops contracted COVID while trying to protect the nation from domestic terrorists. 

And how did Trump respond to the violence that his supporters perpetrated in his name? He dangerously egged them on at his rally even after many rioters had already arrived at the Capitol at around 1:00 p.m.  According to this damning timeline assembled by Steven Harper at Moyers on Democracy, he riled up and encouraged them continuously throughout the day:

“1:11 p.m.: Trump ends his speech by urging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue: ‘We fight like hell. If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore… Our exciting adventures and boldest endeavors have not yet begun… We’re going to the Capitol. ...to take back our country.’ ... 

As the attack unfolds, Trump is initially pleased and disregards aides pleading with him to intercede. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) later says that, according to Trump aides, he is ‘delighted,’ while ‘walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team [are]n’t as excited.’ 

1:49 p.m.: Trump retweets a video … “our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you came up with, we will stop the steal. . . You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

4:17 p.m.: Trump tweets a video telling rioters, ‘I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side… It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. …’”

He loves them? 

In a moment when the country desperately needed leadership, Trump failed. For some time, he refused all pleas from his staff and officials to protect the people who work in the Capitol. He did not send help for the lawmakers barricaded in the House chamber; nor the staffers and janitors; nor for the young people who have grown up with active shooter drills. People who were trapped in their own workplace, not knowing if they would escape with their lives. As the rioters, like rabid dogs, searched the building for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, our elected leaders hid, terrified, unaware if they would be shot to death or trampled by the rage-filled mob.

And why were the police so vulnerable? Leading up to the event, intelligence had indicated that an armed mob was heading to Washington, D.C., that day to “Stop the Steal.” But, as former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, pointed out: “You didn’t need intelligence. You just needed to read the newspaper. They were advertising, ‘Let’s go wild. Bring your guns.’”

Yet instead of planning for an assault ahead of time, Capitol Police officers were caught completely off guard. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo wondered if the Capitol Police’s underwhelming response was because the vast majority of the mob were white. “But, hey, these people have their blue lives matter flags all over the place … And that bias and that false sense of security bit them,” said Acevedo. Because of this lack of preparation, on the day of the attack 700 police officers faced somewhere between 3,000 and 20,000 rioters who completely overwhelmed their defenses. Those who serve and protect became open targets; Trump failed in his sworn duty to protect them.

And although he is no longer in the White House, Trump remains a clear and present danger to the republic. From his self-proclaimed “office of the former president” in Florida, he continues to push his agenda through the newly elected GOP foot soldiers and the die-hard party faithful. Congress, as a coequal branch of government, must act now to secure the safety of our elected officials and everyone else who works in the Capitol. They need to do their duty and convict Trump for setting off the chaos that shattered the lives of so many. It would be reckless to allow this cruel, pent-up snake of a man to ever run for public office again. He was emboldened after the failure to convict him at his first impeachment trial and people got killed. God help us if we let him have another chance.


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Joanne Oyer is a freelance copyeditor based in Chicago and formerly worked as a server engineer for an international marketing research corporation. She currently serves as secretary for the Heart of Lincoln Square Neighbors Association and vice chair of the Atrium School Board of Trustees in MA. Joanne grew up in a family of labor union leaders in Chicago where she learned the value of organizing to bring people together to achieve common goals. With its vision of improving people’s lives through grassroots digital activism and harnessing the impact of social media for good, DemCast appeals to Joanne’s love of writing and her background in technology.

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