The seismic political event on January 6 in the USA should have been the Democrats winning both Senate seats in Georgia. But, President Trump had urged his supporters in late December to come to Washington DC yesterday to have a ‘wild day’ as the Congress certified the Electoral College votes, normally a mundane piece of legislative formality.
Trump gave a speech late in the morning at a “Save America” rally, which ended with his urging those at the rally to “walk to the Capitol” to “cheer on” those who were due to object to some votes being counted. Rudy Guiliani (“trial by combat”) and Don Trump Jr. egged on the crowd beforehand, including saying to those who were “zeroes not heroes” they were “coming for you…and have a good time doing it”.
They listened and marched to the Capitol Building, and gradually all hell broke loose. The supporters massed on the Capitol steps and then started to breach the line of security personnel and break into the building, some climbing onto balconies and breaking windows to enter. Once in, some proceeded to break into the chambers and into the offices of politicians, parading ‘Trump 2020’, Confederate and other flags. Confrontations ensued. Live TV coverage showed protesters strolling around the hallowed halls taking selfies, lounging in chairs, taking mail and other objects. It was rioting. It was also an attempt at insurrection. It was sedition.
This happened just as Congress was beginning its business of counting Electoral College votes.
We heard that the Capitol was being evacuated and saw Secret Service officers usher out VP Pence to an undisclosed location within the Capitol. We heard that the building was in lockdown and people were told to shelter in place. The world looked on, shocked. This was supposed to be a mere formality, but it had been set up to be a litmus test by the president and his supporters took up the challenge. Congress had stopped its business, at least, temporarily.
These events soon led to reactions from all points, starting with the media and then a stream of US politicians, including Republicans who had already signalled their opposition to the president. Senator Mitt Romney was among those whose condemnation was early and unequivocal, also pointing to Trump as inciting these events:
Reactions from US allies and other countries began to flow in, shocked and condemning what they saw and urging orderly transfer of power. The country that was so often exporting democracy was watching it fly out of its window.
President-elect Biden reacted by making a speech to the nation that ended with his saying “Enough is enough!” He called on the president to “call it off”.
Later, Trump issued a tweet stating “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” He later issued a video, which opened with him saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.” He also went on to call the supporters “very special.” He also said, “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.”
Blame was pouring out, quickly.
Many also were pointing to the need to invoke the 25th amendment (removing the president as not fit) and call for new impeachment:
The president’s social media accounts had posts removed and were blocked and suspended for inciting violence:
Too little too late?
It made for an eerie calm in the stream of noise he would usually throw out late at night.
DC’s mayor asked for the National Guard to be brought into action to quell the situation (they had been used so far to help with traffic control). This was initially rebuffed by the Pentagon and president Trump, then approved by VP Pence. Virginia’s governor called out his state’s National Guard to help in DC.
The mayor had earlier announced a curfew from 6pm.
The Capitol was gradually cleared inside and out and as curfew arrived word came that Congress would resume its business, with the Senate due to restart at 8pm. The Congressional leadership made clear that the business would be finished “tonight”. They resumed with strong statements about the earlier events:
Once business resumed, in brief, the challenges (to Arizona and Pennsylvania, though some 6 States had been likely to face objections) were rejected as several Senators (eg Georgia’s Loeffler) decided to walk back their previously stated positions and not support the challenges made by House members. Still, 6 Republican Senators supported the objection against Arizona and 7 that against Pennsylvania, AFTER THE BREACH OF CONGRESS!! In short, the objections all failed, as they were due to, anyway.
Some politicians made clear their disgust for what had taken place and been abetted by their colleagues.
The counting was completed in the early hours of January 7, certifying Biden and Harris as president and vice president:
Vice President Pence concluded his ministerial task and will have to see what being “liked a little less” means to his boss.
Following this, a statement was issued by an aide that President Trump will go with an “orderly transition”:
But will he abide by this? Trump has a history of major backtracking, especially when views are expressed by aides.
Questions were being asked early yesterday and continue into the apparent security failures, including hints that the police were somewhat complicit. Despite the hours of images of people committing crimes at the Capitol and then breaking curfew, only 52 people were arrested. Some were found to be carrying weapons.
Many also saw a stark contrast in how the protesters were treated and how it had a clear racial bias:
One can understand the delicate balance of firm control and not wishing to see that turn into a major confrontation, especially if it became militarized.
The FBI is now asking for help to identify people involved:
Tragically, the incidents were marred by a woman being shot by police in the Capitol and dying after being seen stretchered away. In total, four deaths occurred, three from medical emergencies:
DC’s emergency measures have been extended for 15 days, thus covering Inauguration Day on January 20:
Some of the politicians who facilitated moves to object to the Electoral College certification are already facing harsh criticism, some from places and people who would usually be supportive:
Many political experts saw these objections to the Electoral College votes as veiled attempts at positioning for the 2024 presidential elections.
What were the reasons for this swelling of public anger? No doubt, the USA is deeply divided, 74 million voted for Trump. But, their support his been fuelled by steams of disinformation and conspiracy theories and a scary disregard for truth.
Some politicians don’t see they have any part of this, even though deep in it, such as the denialism of Senator Ron Johnson:
The next 13 days will be filled by an uneasy calm as it’s still not clear what President Trump may do. Reports have surfaced about his fragile mental and emotional state. He still does not accept the election results!
Those who support him, hang on his version of reality.
The DC protests were accompanied by smaller protests in several other state capitals:
Resignations from the White House have begun as a trickle but reports are they may accelerate.