Taking account in aftermath of a dark day
Despite warnings for weeks on social media of the intent to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, how was Washington not prepared to confront and contain the violent mob that overran the Capitol Building Jan. 6?
After President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20 and Congress reconvenes, among the first orders of business should be the creation of a special commission to investigate the origins of the protests that took place that day, the preparations in advance of the event, and the reasons for the unprecedented security failure.
The storming of the Capitol ended the nation’s long history of the peaceful transfer of power. It terrorized the elected representatives of the people and the employees who work with and for them. The “People’s House” was desecrated and damaged, desks and offices ransacked. For hours the process of certifying Biden’s election was stopped.
There were five deaths, including that of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick. Scores more were injured.
Primary responsibility rests with President Trump who, if he had any decency, would have resigned by now. Since the election, he perpetuated the lie that the outcome was rigged, inciting his supporters to come to Washington to set matters straight and return him to office.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted Dec. 19.
On Jan. 6, as Congress met to count the electoral votes, certified and delivered to Washington from all 50 states, Trump signaled his sycophants that it was now or never to stop the steal.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. And you have to be strong,” said Trump, rallying the crowd to action.
What followed was the attack on the Capitol and on self-governance.
But while Trump gathered the fuel and struck the match, Washington should have been better prepared for the fire.
Pentagon officials said later that the Capitol Police had turned down an offer for more National Guard troops in advance of the "stop-the-steal rally." Still unanswered is why that offer was rejected, given the clear signal that matters could turn violent and that the Capitol and the counting of the electoral votes was a target.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, upset with the prior heavy-handed treatment of protestors by federal enforcement agencies, made it clear she wanted Metropolitan Police to lead enforcement in the streets. This is where she chose to draw a line on federal intervention? On a day that anyone paying attention knew was going to draw white supremacists and Qanon wackos?
And why did Homeland Security not treat this as a National Special Security Event, thus placing Secret Service in a leading role? Was the stand down intentional?
After a year when the nation confronted the undeniable reality of a double standard in how the law is enforced and suspects treated — the reality that if you’re Black or another person of color your confrontations with police are likely to be more frequent and more likely to end badly — this duality again unfolded on a massive scale.
Black Lives Matter protestors have often been greeted with militarized shows of force, clearly meant to send the message, “Don’t try anything.” BLM protestors have been pushed back and apprehended for actions that in no way approached the acts of the Trump mobs seeking to stop the transfer of power to a duly elected president.
Biden acknowledged the contrast.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said.
After Trump, the Capitol Police leadership is most culpable for not protecting the building. It has ultimate responsibility. Unlike Trump, Chief Steven Sund did the right thing and resigned effective Jan. 16.
It would be naïve to think that the monster unleashed during the Trump presidency will return to its cave once he is gone and that the invasion of the Capitol was its last spasmodic act. The mass delusion of a rigged election lives on, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The potential for violence remains. It can’t be ignored.
But it can be contained by treating these domestic threats with the level of attention they deserve. And, in time, these forces and a history of unequal treatment can and will be overcome at the ballot box and through the rule of law.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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