Pro-Trump Rioters Storm Capitol Building: Explained
How to get the facts, practice self-care, and protect our democracy.
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Date Published: January 7, 2021, 3 p.m. EST


What Happened

As Congress met to certify President-elect Biden’s election win on Wednesday, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC in an attempted coup meant to undermine democracy by overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. As a result of the violence, four people are dead, at least 52 people have been arrested, and more than a dozen officers have been injured.

This unprecedented attack began just one hour after President Trump, at a rally just blocks away from the Capitol Building, told supporters “you will never take back our country with weakness.”

While Trump supporters scaled walls, vandalized offices, and pounded on doors, members of Congress were eventually evacuated from the chamber to undisclosed locations. Meanwhile, the President released a pre-taped video in which he repeated unfounded claims of election fraud while telling the mob that they should go home, but “we love you, you’re very special.”

In order to curb further violence, DC Mayor Bowser declared a 15-day state of emergency, while the National Guard has been deployed to support local law enforcement for the next 30 days. In addition, various social networks suspended President Trump’s social media accounts, including Facebook for at least 2 weeks and Twitter for 12 hours.

Elected officials on both sides of the aisle condemned the actions of the pro-Trump mob, as well as Trump’s role in inciting the violence. This includes some Republican lawmakers who had previously cooperated with the President’s attempt to undermine the integrity of the election.

In spite of the day’s events, members of Congress returned later in the night to complete the electoral count and certify President-elect Biden’s election victory.

While this assault on democracy ultimately failed, let’s call it what it was: domestic terrorism rooted in blatant misinformation and white supremacy.

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How We Got Here

Since losing the presidential election in early November, President Trump has continued to make baseless claims of election fraud, even as numerous courts across the country dismissed his team’s lawsuits due to lack of evidence. Most recently, Trump has ramped up his efforts by convincing some Republican lawmakers to dispute the election results and telling Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s results. His message is clearly resonating with his base, as a recent poll found that 77% of Republicans believe the claims of widespread fraud.

Fast forward to this week where, ahead of multiple days of planned protests in DC, calls for violence began to make waves across far-right social media. Largely organized by members of various white supremacist groups, these plots manifested into violence the day before the siege. After Tuesday’s protest, violence broke out between police and a pro-Trump white supremacist group called the Proud Boys, whom you may recall as the group that the President told to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate. This group would continue to have a heavy presence the following day.

Why This Is Such A Big Deal

This is the first time that the Capitol Building has been under siege since the British burned it down during the War of 1812. However, this situation is completely unprecedented in a couple ways. Firstly, this the first time a major US government institution has been stormed by its own citizens. Secondly, this threat to democracy was essentially created due to the President’s promotion of conspiracy theories to the American people.

In an age where technology allows more misinformation to travel faster than ever (even faster than actual facts), promoting the truth and avoiding lies has never been more important. Arguably nobody has more of a responsibility to uphold the truth than the President of the United States (or really, any world leader). What happened on Wednesday is a big deal because it shows just how dangerous misinformation can be.

What the Siege Has To Do With White Supremacy

Notably, activists are calling out the “double standard” in policing responses to yesterday’s events versus last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. When BLM protestors spoke out against police brutality, they were met with more police brutality. Yesterday’s meek police response to the storming of a major federal building by predominantly white rioters only emphasizes why the Black Lives Matter movement is so necessary in the first place.

Meanwhile, others are discouraging comparisons of the pro-Trump siege to BLM protests and other Black freedom movements. Instead the accurate comparison would be likening Wednesday's white supremacist insurrection to other instances of white rage and violence. These include when white mobs rioted against Black children attending school with white children, fought violently for the right to enslave people, lynched Black people for registering to vote, and so on. Unfortunately, yesterday’s events were horrific, but they were not unforeseeable.

If anything, we’re reminded yet again that there is still so much more work to be done in the fight for anti-racism. For example, overshadowed by this story is the fact that in the previous two days, it was announced that the officer who paralyzed Jacob Blake and the officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice would not face charges.

What You Can Do

Get the facts and avoid misinformation.

Practice self-care. It’s natural to feel stressed, scared, or overwhelmed in light of yesterday’s events. Here’s how you can practice self-care when the news is terrifying.

Fight racism online & IRL.

  • Using one of our personalized guides for Black, non-Black POC, and white young people, disrupt racism by having anti-racist conversations with friends and loved ones.
  • Learn how to flag hate online using this guide.
  • Sign Color of Change’s petition to demand that Facebook stop fueling white nationalist hate groups.

Make a difference in your community and add your vision to the future of our democracy