By now, you’ve heard about it, and you’re probably still wondering what in the hell just happened at the U.S. Capitol. It’s absolutely insane, for lack of a better descriptor. This hasn’t happened in American history just about ever. A group this large storming the Capitol is unprecedented — the last time anything close to this occurred in 1954 when four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party walked through more minimal security and began shooting from the visitors deck. A group of civilians breaking through Capitol security has never happened. 

My stance on this is more nuanced than you may think. As a leftist LARPer, live-action role-player, the optics and aesthetics of marching in on our legislators and making them wet themselves are enviable. We must keep them on their toes, wary of their position and their responsibilities to the people. However, this isn’t a movement that warrants any kind of justification. It is an astroturfed group of disillusioned Republican Party voters who have been manipulated and convinced that they’re being oppressed by the electoral process. It is idolatry of a man who cultivated a cult of personality, a person with immense power leading them off a cliff like the Pied Piper. Their efforts didn’t even mean anything in the end. Congress voted to confirm the vote regardless. Their temper tantrum was all for nought. 

Trump’s efforts to incite violence did not go unnoticed by his followers. Trump primed his base to ignore the results of the election well before votes were put into ballot boxes. He geared them up for a refutation of our legal institutions, blathering on Twitter about it until his face turned blue. Trump, at his “Save America” rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, said, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” rallying his followers to “show strength” at the seat of the American government.

They were ready to show strength, for sure. They came armed and ready to cause destruction, even bringing bombs to federal buildings. As chaos unfurled, many representatives and senators who bolstered the baseless conspiracy theory regretted their actions as soon as their immediate safety was threatened. “Stop this bullshit right now,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. The president’s statement to his mob was equally as pitiful, calling the rioters “loved” and “very special” in a tweet. This wasn’t a movement for the people, but rather something cultivated by a megalomaniac who wants to cling to his power in any way he can. It was a fascist insurrection, with flames fanned by the insurrectionists’ leader who encouraged sedition. 

Of note during the protest is the apparent lack of law enforcement and adequate protection. Comparisons have been made to the Black Lives Matter protesters during the summer, who were met with outrageous force at the Lincoln Memorial. Dozens of heavily armed National Troopers met the protest, while the rioters in Trump’s favor daintily waltzed through the Capitol, looting and destroying. As of now, 125 people have been arrested on charges related to the insurrection, while a comparably-sized BLM protest on June 1, 2020, had 289 arrests. The police were also shown taking selfies with the Trump-supporting rioters and blatantly letting them through into the Capitol grounds. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said that they were understaffed, and called the police’s response to the insurrectionists storming the Capitol “a failure.” Sure, the reasoning is sound, but the apparent lack of staff is a concern in and of itself. 

You may have heard that the Pentagon denied the initial request to deploy the National Guard to Washington, D.C., which was true. The Maryland and Virginia National Guards were deployed instead to combat the riot. The National Guard of a state defers to the governor, but with D.C. lacking statehood, the chain of command would instead defer to the president himself. The Pentagon has its own controversies, but they had foresight in this particular situation. Eventually, the National Guard would be called to handle the situation — a concerning juxtaposition to the flippancy in which the National Guard is deployed to clear the way for a presidential photo op .

The riots on Jan. 6 were an exercise in absurdity — a show of frailty in our republic. As I’ve said prior, I really don’t have that many qualms with the base act of taking the fight to our government’s seat. The American empire, as almighty and powerful as it may be, is still beholden to the will of the people. This, however, was not the will of the people. It was the will of a man desperate to cling to his waning power. 

At every turn, this “movement” was bolstered and encouraged by powerful people in powerful positions. It’s a farcical, contrived mess of the powerful manipulating the many. As people like Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hide their tails between their legs and run from the fire they fanned, I hope they feel ashamed. The sycophantic traitors can’t even be bothered to pay penance for their sedition — for their shitshow of a Beer Hall Putsch

This was Trump’s political dying breath, utilizing his cult of personality to attack the institutions bestowed that power upon him in the first place. Good riddance, 45.

Sam Fogel can be reached at samfogel@umich.edu

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