On January 6th, 2021, Donald Trump supporters rioted in Washington, D.C. and breached the Capitol, attempting to stop the electoral vote count that would solidify Joe Biden’s presidency. Their riots caused members of Congress and Capitol staff to hide within the building and use safety measures implemented after 9/11, measures that had not been needed, until yesterday. Their acts of violence, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism went essentially unresponded to by Capitol police and members of the national guard, as only 60 rioters were arrested out of the thousands who participated in this event. However, when Black Lives Matter peaceful protests were held in D.C. in June, hundreds of armed policemen lined the Capitol Building steps, awaiting any excuse to invoke their white privilege over protestors.
Below are three stories from our interns of the events that took place.
Yesterday, hope swelled within me as I looked at the senate runoff in Georgia. I could see the skies begin to break open and feel that our voices of justice had been heard. I was feeling that change is possible when we rise together.
Yesterday could have been a day to rejoice in America. A certification of presidency for Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. A celebration for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in Georgia. A victory for environmental and social justice.
Yesterday, could have been the beginning of the healing process as a nation.
Yesterday, I wish we were celebrating together in the streets.
However, yesterday the dark clouds loomed across America and upon my heart. I viewed scenes from Capitol Hill of our own citizens inciting violence and hate. It is disheartening: the images, videos, and audio clips that remind me that there is still so much work to be done. That our system is still broken. That we as a nation have a lot of healing to do.
This sits heavy in my heart. Even with political leaders that dream to uphold values of justice, health, equity, and resilience, there are thousands of people in our country that uphold values of racism, white supremacy, and violence. The insurrection that happened yesterday clearly demonstrates that injustice still lives in our communities.
The work to create a just, healthy, and resilient nation is NOT done. Events of yesterday, was a culmination of antisemitism, white supremacy, racism, and violence that has been encouraged and justified over the last 4 years. I am left with wonder at the double standard between yesterday’s breach on American democracy and the peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. I want to hope for change. I want to believe that we can come together as a nation. I want to trust that our government system will be accountable and just. As we look to the past, there is a history in America of those who stand for justice and those who uphold injustice – which side of history do we want to be a part of in 2021? How do we want to tell the stories in textbooks? What can we each do as individuals in this nation?
I’ve lived in Alexandria, Virginia my entire life, just minutes away from our nation’s capital. Growing up near D.C., you learn to respect the buildings, the people, and the business that takes place in the city. We learned that there are serious consequences for those who attempt to obstruct any governmental process. However, these rioters were able to walk up the inaugural steps and break into the Capitol building with little pushback from police. D.C. is a sacred city – a centerpiece of our nation’s history that is now forever tarnished.
As I checked my phone throughout the day, my friends wished everyone to be safe, to stay inside their homes. Alexandria was placed under a curfew, but we were all too terrified to leave our homes, regardless. We were afraid the rioters would make their way into our communities, back to the hotels in my city where the rioters slept peacefully, and back to the streets they walked unmasked, unapologetic, and unafraid.
2021 we all hoped would be a better year. 2020 was filled with so much heartache and suffering, and we thought maybe this would be a “normal” year. This is nowhere near normal. As I sit at my computer, trying to take my mind off of everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours, I can’t help but question if what I’m doing is enough to change this country. But I look at the people near me, both physically and in spirit, and I’m reminded of the good. I’m reminded of how much our world accomplished this past year, not how far we were pushed back.
As I watched the violence unfold yesterday, I was in disbelief. This is modern day America, I thought – a bastion of equality, peace, and democracy. This doesn’t happen here. But after a moment, I realized that this is America – a history of racism, ignorance, and hatred. From the very beginning when white settlers instituted a mass genocide of indigenous peoples, to slavery and a legacy of racism and bigotry that has continued into present day, to the past four years of the horrific leadership of President Trump. Some days, I am ashamed to be an American.
But as I constantly checked the news yesterday, I was also struck by a lot of good. We finally have in place an administration with the potential to shift national focus towards solutions – putting climate policy at the forefront, confronting our legacy of race based violence, supporting marginalized communities, and more. I got to work with an incredible, passionate team building programs designed to educate, empower, and mobilize youth around social and environmental justice issues.
While there will always be people who let senseless ignorance and hatred overwhelm them, I know that there are more of us who believe in justice, who refuse to accept inequity and who relentlessly push for a better world. I have hope that one day soon, we will win and create an equitable, sustainable world for all.