On anniversary of Capitol riot, Washington – and America – are as divided as ever | US politics

They thought it couldn’t occur right here. However so did many different nations earlier than America.

Strolling the halls of the snowbound US Capitol on Thursday afternoon, a yr to the hour because it was breached by a fascist impulse, it was exhausting to think about the mob operating riot – pummeling police, flaunting the Accomplice flag and abusing a Black officer with the n-word.

However sure, it did occur right here.

The cathedral of American democracy was scarcely attended and hauntingly hushed for the anniversary, partially as a result of the coronavirus is rampant in Washington. Stroll up a staircase and you would possibly see a solitary reporter fetching espresso. Flip down a marbled hall and you would possibly spot a lone Capitol police officer – was he amongst those who fought and bled that day?


Republicans had been significantly exhausting to seek out, their absence illustrating the radically completely different interpretations of what occurred on 6 January 2021, or as one headline put it, “a national day of infamy, half remembered”. It was clear that America couldn’t determine whether or not this was a political scrap or a nationwide tragedy, a second for indignant polarisation or unified mourning. It didn’t really feel like catharsis.

The vice-president, Kamala Harris, kicked it off simply after 9am by pointing to “dates that occupy not solely a spot on our calendars, however a spot in our collective reminiscence”, citing 7 December 1941, 11 September 2001 – and 6 January 2021.

kamala harris speaks
Kamala Harris started the commemoration. {Photograph}: Rex/Shutterstock

However whereas the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor introduced People collectively to battle the second world conflict, and the terrorist strikes on New York and Washington conjured uncommon solidarity, the lethal siege of the Capitol seems to be simply one other wedge within the divided states of America.

And in contrast to these earlier calamities, the greater than 220-year-old Capitol bears few seen scars of the day that home windows had been smashed, congressional workplaces ransacked and faeces left on the ground. With out a tangible reminder, it’s simpler to disclaim actuality or neglect. As a substitute, the scars are psychological and institutional; the bleeding is inner.

Harris was adopted by Joe Biden, whose barnstorming speech supplied his most vivid critique but of his predecessor Donald Trump’s massive lie concerning the 2020 election and incitement of the mob. It was an I-don’t-negotiate-with-terrorists epiphany for the president concerning the limits of bipartisanship.

“I didn’t search this battle dropped at this Capitol one yr in the past at the moment, however I cannot shrink from it both,” stated Biden, unexpectedly at 79 discovering his interior Henry V and previewing his 2024 election campaign. “I’ll stand on this breach. I’ll defend this nation. And I’ll permit nobody to position a dagger on the throat of our democracy.”

Nevertheless it was the main points of that day – the sound of gunfire, the slim escapes, the messages to family members – that struck a chord and caught. They had been bulwarks towards the makes an attempt to rewrite historical past and supplant it with a false narrative.

These particulars had been recalled by senators talking within the chamber that had been overrun by the rioters such as Jacob Chansley who, sporting a Viking hat and carrying a six-foot spear, scaled the dais and took the seat that Mike Pence had occupied an hour earlier, proclaiming, “Mike Pence is a fucking traitor” and writing, “It’s Solely A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!”

There was Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority chief, who had solely been within the chamber for 45 minutes, watching the beginning of the counting of ballots, when an armed police officer in a giant flak jacket grabbed him firmly by the collar.”I’ll always remember that grip.” he said. “And stated to me, ‘Senator, we received to get out of right here, you’re at risk.’”

Schumer was inside 30ft of “these nasty, racist, bigoted insurrectionists”, he recounted. “Had somebody had a gun, had two of them blocked off the door, who is aware of what would have occurred. I used to be instructed later that one of them reportedly stated, ‘There’s the massive Jew. Let’s get him’. Bigotry towards one is bigotry towards all.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar also had indelible memories of being evacuated from the chamber. “I bear in mind the phrases of one employees member who yelled out, ‘Take the bins. Take the bins.’ She was speaking concerning the mahogany bins that had been full of the electoral ballots, as a result of we knew they’d be destroyed in the event that they had been left behind.”

She remembered how her employees hid in a closet with solely forks to guard themselves, subsequent to the doorways the place the insurrectionists had invaded. She remembered the cuts on the faces of cops. And she or he remembered officer Harry Dunn, who was known as the n-word a number of instances, checked out his pal as they collapsed within the rotunda and requested, “Is that this America? Is that this America?”


Over within the Home of Representatives, the place 20 members needed to take cowl within the gallery that day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over a second of silence. Tellingly, there have been solely two Republicans on the ground: the previous vice-president Dick Cheney and his daughter, congresswoman Liz Cheney, dying embers of the occasion’s anti-Trump resistance.

Members of Congress and staff participate in a prayer vigil on the East Front of the Capitol.
Members of Congress and employees take part in a prayer vigil on the East Entrance of the Capitol. {Photograph}: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Occasions/REX/Shutterstock

Dick Cheney stated in a press release that he’s “deeply disenchanted on the failure of many members of my occasion to acknowledge the grave nature of the January 6 assaults and the continued menace to our nation.”

That failure was manifest within the choice of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy to remain properly away from Washington. Minority whip Steve Scalise’s workplace did have an indication that stated, “Thanks, U. S. Capitol police heroes”, nevertheless it opened to disclose a staffer and a TV displaying replays of the riot, however no signal of the congressman himself.

Trump had cancelled a press convention however there have been two Republicans who couldn’t resist the limelight. In a tiny room (for which they inevitably blamed Pelosi), Trump acolytes Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene spun baseless conspiracy theories about FBI involvement within the lethal assault. Gaetz insisted: “We didn’t need the Republican voice to go unheard at the moment.”

Greene performed the all too acquainted whataboutism card. Don’t neglect, she stated, that Senator Bernie Sanders thinks the 2016 Democratic main was stolen from him, and Hillary Clinton thinks the 2016 common election was stolen from her. “If Democrats cared about riots, they’d have cared concerning the Antifa-BLM riots everywhere in the nation in 2020.”

When one reporter challenged Gaetz about Biden’s memorable picture of a dagger being held on the throat of democracy, the Florida congressman insisted: “We are right here to vindicate our democracy.”

That’s the twist: the mass delusion behind Trump’s massive lie is that his followers imagine they are saving democracy fairly than destroying it. Republicans are imposing voter restriction legal guidelines and looking for to place Trump loyalists in cost of operating elections. The following assault on the republic is unlikely to be as clumsy or crude as 6 January.

Thursday’s commemorations ended with a prayer vigil on the US Capitol steps. 20 years in the past on 9/11, Democrats and Republicans stood facet by facet right here and sang “God Bless America”. This time, holding candles and sporting masks as the US marine band performed, Democrats once more stood and sang “God Bless America”. This time, there have been no Republicans.

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