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Catch 22 The Capitol

Updated: Apr 3

Guest Opinion

Image Credits: NYT/WP/LAT/GS/Twitter


On 6th January, the epitome of freedom and liberty was smacked hard when a mob incited by a demagogue violently thrashed into the building which represents the oldest democracy of the world.


December 19, 2020 was a harbinger for the unfortunate events that were to unfold in the coming days. Following the announcement of results, President of the United States, Donald Trump gave a vitriolic speech at the Ellis Park which led to the incident at the capitol. The far right-wing groups like Ku Klux Klan and Proud Boys couldn’t bear the fact of their master losing the elections. Armed with chemical irritants, pipes and other metal objects, the whole “mob” calling themselves patriots, saviours of the US’ glory and protestors of “Stop the Seal Rally”, barged into the Capitol building. Some were seen climbing the wall while others breaking the doors to secure themselves an entry into the building. The officials who tried to stop the mob were called “traitors” by them. As the events unfolded, the US with the whole world witnessed this breach which turned deadly, taking five lives and injuring many others. Ultimately, forces were called, tear gas was sprayed and a curfew was put up to disperse the crowd.


President-elect Joe Biden called it an “assault on democracy” and called the protestors a “small group of extremists dedicated to lawlessness”. He openly criticised Trump for it. According to him, a President’s words, no matter good or bad, matter. He asked him to come forward and protect the constitution and demand an end to this siege. Later on Trump was seen asking his supporters to go back home but did not budge from his claim of calling it a “fraudulent election”. With a vote of 232-197, Trump registered himself in the pages of history as the only president to be impeached twice, where the second time it was for inciting the riots leading to the storming of the capitol. In the words of Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representative Speaker, “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the US.” Many white-house officials including Stephanie Grisham (chief of staff to first lady) and Ricky Niceta (press secretary) resigned following the Capitol incident. The internal tussle within the Republican Party has also intensified with governor of Vermont, Phil Scott asking Donald Trump to resign or be impeached.


On June 1 last year Black Lives Matter protestors who had gathered a block away from the White House became the victims of the wrath of the US Security Forces while protesting peacefully against the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of three policemen. 289 protestors were arrested in one day. The forces failed to protect The Capitol from these demagogues while the whole of United States was kept under strict vigilance when protests for Black Lives Matter had come up. It was not just in 2020 that the discriminatory and inhuman behaviour of the American police was observed, rather between 1877 and 1950, 4075 blacks have been lynched either by hanging or by being burnt alive. The divisive policy based on the ideals of racism that Trump tried to lobby for by mentioning the states of Detroit and Philadelphia to be the democrat-run also shows that by targeting some of the black majority states, Trump wanted to garner the support of conservative whites.


The act of forbidding Trump from using social media accounts by the Silicon Valley giants specially twitter and Facebook is commendable. But it has to be noted that this act of deterring came up very late. Haranguer and inflammatory phrases were posted throughout his term by Donald Trump but it was only when his term was about to end that these social media companies decided to ban Trump. It also needs to be noted that this ban can only symbolically stand from preventing Donald Trump for spreading hate and destroying harmony as he has all other means like mass media and insinuating through his conduct and speeches.


It is not appropriate to blame the mob for this sinful act rather the powerful forces which motivated them to do such an act should be identified and punished. The institutional harm that this immoral act caused is much more than the material harm. The extent to which a democratic system can be disrupted due to the failure of the leadership got explicitly defined through this act, even if Trump gets impeached now but the harm that can be caused to the institution has been brought into light. The impression that a coup occurs through martial overrule as well as only in developing nations has been falsified by this attempt to siege power. From the days of death of J. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the things seemed to be getting complicated within the institutions of American democratic system but the way the Judiciary acted, courageously and valorously in these challenging times by defying almost every legal challenge posed by republican supporters even when many of the judges were appointed by Donald trump is exemplary.


The Foundation stone of the Capitol building was laid down by the then president George Washington in 1793. It is not the first time when the Capitol building has faced an attack. In 1835 President Andrew Jackson faced attempt to assassinate by a British immigrant. In 1954, a similar incident happened when some Puerto Rican militants opened fire on the US House of Representatives. In 1983 a leftist group set off a bomb under a bench in the senate chamber. These incidents remain a dent on the American democracy. But this time the attempt to take the rule of law by an incumbent president in his own hands and promoting violence is even worse than all the earlier incidents.


The sinful act of storming the capitol on the directions of a demagogical leader in the oldest democracy in the world has many analogies with the world’s largest democracy. The imposition of emergency and the atrocities that occurred in 1975-76 as well as the Ayodhya riots of 1992 are big blots on Indian democracy. The leaders had urged their followers to take up violence and harm the institutions of democracy. Though they later on vindicated themselves by critiquing the violence, it was these political forces only that provided patronage to the lawbreakers.


Now, with the fervour in international politics regarding the new president of United States of America, Joseph Robinette Biden along with playing an important role in global issues also has a duty to take in due consideration and heal the wound of this incident by strengthening people’s faith in democratic institutions. The other countries should also see this incident as a lesson, as if such an incident can happen in the world’s oldest democracy, people’s faith in democracy can also be distorted anywhere else. Therefore, each and every democratic country and their respective leaders should not forget that the rule of law is supreme of all. In our country as well the growing tensions amongst different factions of the society, be it on the basis of caste, religion or ideologies should be reduced. The bigotry and the scapegoat attitude should be replaced by making the people think more rationally and wisely. It is only the government which can, if it wants bring changes in the perspectives of the society. This not only brings peace and harmony in the society rather it brings prosperity as well as all

the people are able to devote their potential in a righteous way.

Neha Dahiya and Navjot Punia (Guest writers)

1st year, DBRANLU Sonepat

Neha Dahiya hails from Sonepat, Haryana and has been an active member of RHA NGO. Navjot Punia hails from Hisar, Haryana and recently wrote an article on Farm bills at National social and legal research journal. Both the authors are active in Dakshta-the quizzing society of DBRANLU Sonepat.


References:

  1. Donald Trump becomes first US President to be impeached twice , Livemint (14 Jan 2021, 06:10 AM IST), https://www.livemint.com/news/world/donald-trump-becomes-first-us-president-to-be-impeached-twice-11610581920968.html

  2. First lady's chief of staff and White House social secretary resign after violent protests, CNN ( January 7, 2021 0303 GMT (1103 HKT)) , https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/stephanie-grisham-white-house-resign/index.html

  3. Equal Justice Initiative, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” (3d Ed. 2017).

  4. Narayan Lakshman, U.S. Capitol | The siege of a historical power centre, The Hindu ( January 09, 2021 22:07 IST ), https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-capitol-the-siege-of-a-historical-power-centre/article33538755.ece




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