They came with blood in their eyes and rage in their hearts. They came armed with zip-ties and mace and bombs and firearms, and they came carrying maps of the tunnels under the U.S. Capitol. They came, some of them in T-shirts championing Hitler and the Holocaust, others in full paramilitary gear and still others flashing their hometown police badges at the too few Capitol Police officers who were trying to keep them from getting inside. They came to Washington, D.C. with the encouragement of President Donald Trump, who on Dec. 19 tweeted at his base – “Big protest on Jan. 6… Be there. Will be wild!” and with his crowing approval, as he told attendees of his “Save America” rally, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” They came championed by Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, both of whom maintain Trump is being denied a second term due to widespread voter fraud, all evidence to the contrary. They came cheered on by presidential adviser Rudy Giuliani, who told the rally the election should be decided via “trial by combat” and who said both he and Trump were willing to stake their reputations – as if they had any such thing any more – on finding criminality in the election process.
They broke through barricades. They erected a gallows on the lawn and chanted their intention to hunt down Vice President Mike Pence and hang him. And once they were inside, chanting “stop the steal,” they raided congressional offices, put dirty boots on desks, stole items that include laptops with classified information – and took selfies while they did it. They ran through the halls carrying the racist symbol of the South, the Confederate flag, marking the first time in history that particular flag made it into the Capitol.
And so much for “backing the blue,” and for the deep affiliation Donald Trump has forged with supporters of law enforcement: They murdered a U.S. Capitol police officer, a military veteran and Trump supporter named Brian Sicknick, bludgeoning him with a fire extinguisher. They nearly crushed another Capitol police officer to death. They chased a Black officer through the halls of the Capitol, one who had the foresight and bravery to lead them away from the Senate chamber. They were captured on video beating other police officers, with flagpoles bearing the American flag and the Black the Blue flag and hockey sticks and fists and feet. Meanwhile, four died – one domestic terrorist was shot by a Capitol Police officer, who issued a verbal warning before he fired as the doors were breached – and three died from other nebulously described medical emergencies.
It’s just one week since that first wave – first, because there’s little doubt it will be the last – of violence hit Washington, D.C., and the number of people leaping to Trump’s defense is demoralizing. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said Trump shouldn’t resign or be impeached, contending the president realizes he “touched a hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to do it again.” Can you imagine? Less than two weeks into a new year and a sitting U.S. senator just compared the lame-duck president’s seditionist behavior to that of a wayward toddler. And while Trump is in fact an emotional toddler, he’s far more dangerous than one.
As reported in The Nation, one rioter in the crowd told her small group, “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.” A man told her, “Don’t worry… we showed them today. We showed them what we’re all about.”
Yes, they sure did. Had this been a Black Lives Matter protest, they wouldn’t have been allowed on the stairs of the Capitol, much less inside. They wouldn’t have been allowed to roam the halls, to assault police with near impunity, to steal, to carry zip-ties. There would have been no hesitation in calling out the National Guard. They would have been tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets and arrested on the spot.
But maybe BLM protesters and those who entered the Capitol building to damage, destroy and harm have more in common than one might realize: In the end, Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about either group.