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Riot on Capitol Hill

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

By Liz Calvo

On Jan. 6, 2021, a group of rioters stormed the United States Capitol to protest the defeat of Donald J. Trump in the 2020 presidential election. This was a reaction to Trump and his supporters claiming the election victory was “stolen” from him. After the event was broadcast, many people took their stance on the matter. Barry's students had many different reactions to the situation.

Breno Sily, a freshman international business major, called the riot “an absurd occurrence in American history.” Sily believes there should have been more security initially, and more consequences afterward.

Sily believes the actions taken by the U.S. in response to the riots were hypocritical. As an international student from Brazil, Sily has seen how the United States uses force on other countries.

“By invading countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and many others, the United States would find ways to make profit [by] invading countries and use guns and ammunition as threats of war,” said Sily.

He notes that these actions were taken in claims of “restoring democracy,” yet there was no attempt to restore democracy during the riot.

Former President Trump refused to send the National Guard to the Capitol. Following the report of five deaths and about 140 injuries because of the riot, Trump responded by telling protestors they were “very special” and to “go home in peace.”

Sophomore advertising and public relations major Barisha Cranstoun believes the lack of action taken toward rioters is the reason minorities protest to begin with. Cranstoun was emotionally affected by the police response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

“White supremacists are being protected by our nation's Capitol while minorities protesting for safety and equality are treated like criminals,” said Cranstoun.

Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Cranstoun adds that the rioters were “practically invited to cause violence by our former president.” This statement comes after Trump’s Save America rally, where he repeatedly spoke of a “need to fight.”

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” said Trump.

These words are believed to have instigated the riot at the Capitol. Rioters made their way to the Capitol, where Congress was beginning the process of counting the Electoral College votes to confirm President Joe Biden’s victory.

For Andres Guillen, a Barry alumnus who majored in television and digital media, the riot was an example of Republicans "cultivating hatred and embracing white supremacy and fascism.”

However, Guillen, who considers himself a socialist, was frustrated with Democrats during the situation. He says they “equated the Capitol riot to the police brutality protests of 2020.”

Guillen does not agree with this comparison because the police brutality protests were “demonstrations against racial discrimination, police brutality, and fascism.” The riot was nothing of this sort, so Guillen believes the two should not be compared.

During the riot, participants occupied, vandalized, and looted parts of the Capitol building. They also became violent, assaulting Capitol police officers and reporters and planting explosive devices, which were later found near the building. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), some rioters claimed intent to find lawmakers and hold them hostage.

For example, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., a retired Air Force officer, was arrested after the riot, when officers discovered that he had zip ties.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official.

After the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that occurred in the summer, many Americans disapproved of the way the riot was handled. They believed that it was unfair that the police responded violently to some of the BLM protests, but there was such a lack of response to the riot.

Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons

“If the rioters were Black, they wouldn’t even have a chance to enter the Capitol because the police would have been hostile,” said Cranstoun.

According to the FBI, there have been at least 223 rioters charged since the incident. Many rioters have been listed in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, most as suspected white supremacists.

Dr. Sean Foreman, chair of the history and political science department at Barry, believed these events were expectable after reactions from Trump and his supporters to Biden’s victory. However, he adds that this was not an exercise of First Amendment rights.

“The right to peaceably assemble and protest against the government is a fundamental right of free people,” said Dr. Foreman.

“What occurred at the Capitol was not peaceful assembly. It was a mob riot.”

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