By Amy Enberg
Many students recall the anxiety of attending classes on Election Day. The fidgeting during a lecture, watching the clock, and waiting for the chance to check Twitter or news notifications – those behaviors presented themselves again on Jan. 6, the first day of the Spring 2021 semester, and the day that rioters stormed the Capitol building.
After two months of lawsuits, appeals, and fraud claims, Congress began to count the Electoral College votes to finalize the 2020 Presidential Election results. Then, at 2:20 PM EST, AP reported that police were forced to lock down the Capitol, causing the Senate to suspend debate and later evacuate after protestors breached the building.
At 5:50 PM, after four tense hours during which officers fatally shot a female rioter and an explosive device was found nearby, the U.S. Capitol was deemed secure. Most of the protestors gathered outside of the Capitol building had dispersed, likely due to the 6 PM curfew declared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier in the afternoon.
For many Americans, the level of violence seen at the Capitol was something they could have never imagined, met with terror and disbelief. Alicia Longo, an FSW student, stated, “I knew there would be some backlash over the election, but this was something else. I did not think they would take it this far.”
Hours after the riots began, President Donald Trump finally released a statement stating, “we had an election that was stolen from us,” before telling the rioters to “go home in peace.” This caused both Facebook and Twitter to lock his account for violating civil integrity policies. These claims of a stolen election, repeated numerous times in the past few months, served as a rallying cry for the rioters.
Another FSW student, Soraly Uzcategui, said that Wednesday’s events were “definitely a turning point. I lost a lot of faith in our country and what it stood for when I heard about it because we were normalizing this outrageous behavior.”
Students contacted from all over the political spectrum believe that this turning point will not be a positive change. Layla Sauter said, “I think it’s going to be in a negative way… I am more worried now for the future of America.”
One student, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that they believe the turning point will be “negative if no legal action is pursued against Donald Trump, anyone who assisted him in this attempted coup, and every single insurrectionist who entered the capitol building,” or “positive if all involved are prosecuted and jailed accordingly, and if it acts as a moment of sobriety and reformation to Americans who still supported Trump.”
Their statement reflects one made by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in an NBC News interview during the riots, “I don’t think that this can be passed off as just another day… A line was crossed today, and that line represents whether or not our democracy will function in the future or whether it’s going to be held under siege in the future. And the leadership of this country will determine the answer to that question.”
Only time will tell whether or not the historic events on Wednesday prompt more division or bring about unity. We can do our part by promoting civil discussion based on facts and compassion.
By Amy Enberg