USA: Insurrection at the Capitol a warning that American democracy is under siege

 By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

They traveled from 36 states, the District of Columbia and even Canada, the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, causing five deaths and traumatizing the nation. They represented “nearly every facet of American society: lawyers, local lawmakers, real estate agents, law enforcement officers, military veterans, construction workers, hair stylists and nurses,” The Washington Post reported.

They were “devout Christians who highlighted Bible verses, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory and members of documented hate groups, including white nationalist organizations and militant right-wing organizations, such as the Proud Boys.” They were, a Post headline said, “A raging collection of grievances and disillusionment.”       

But the outrage came at the end of a presidency which they embraced totally but whose biggest achievement, for them, were multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts mostly benefiting the rich. The victims included police officers, although all but one of the police unions endorsed the president.

The Post reported that “one man in a white hat and backpack grabbed a police officer by the helmet, dragging the officer down the stairs. Soon, other rioters kicked and punched the officer, and one man even bashed the prone figure repeatedly with a pole flying an American flag.”  Then, “after the man grabbed the police officer, yanking him down the stairs, others kicked and beat the officer on the ground. As the crowd attacked, people chanted ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ and a man shouted, ‘Take him out.’”

They shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!”, the Associated Press reported, about the vice-president who faithfully supported the president except this time. They searched for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers. “Outside, makeshift gallows stood, complete with sturdy wooden steps and the noose. Guns and pipe bombs had been stashed in the vicinity.” Two men carried plastic twist ties often used to handcuff people. One of them, Larry Rendell Brock, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who was subsequently arrested in Texas, The Post reported. Eric Gavelek Munchel, was arrested in Tennessee.

And thus did Donald Trump’s followers express what The Post ascribed curiously to “long-standing grievances and distrust” although he had four years to do something about it. This day, though, they were driven by another consideration. Goaded by their leader and others, they tried to force Congress to reverse the outcome of the Nov. 3 election or at least abandon verification of Joe Biden’s victory while showcasing white power. They succeeded, at least temporarily, in forcing a recess as lawmakers ran for their lives. But Congress resumed meeting after about six hours and declared Biden the next president.

How could this happen in the United States of America? Where was the overwhelming federal force deployed on June 1 to disperse demonstrators near the White House peacefully protesting George Floyd’s killing and endemic racism?

Members of the Democratic-controlled House filed an article of impeachment against Trump on Tuesday and approved it on Wednesday January 13, 2021.  It says, “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” The bill will probably stall in the Republican-controlled Senate, as happened in the Ukraine affair. Still, Trump could become the first president to be impeached twice.

The House will probably also hold hearings on the insurrection, including the failure to protect the Capitol against an attack that was known for weeks to be coming. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who has resigned, told The Post that he appealed unsuccessfully to House and Senate security officials two days before the insurrection for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby. He said he called in vain for reinforcements five times as the rioting unfolded.

Then there are the lawmakers who objected to the verification of Biden’s win prior to the insurrection and after it. They had the right to do so but, like the president, they knew that all the states, the Electoral College and the courts had rejected the allegation of a “stolen” election. In exercising that right in such circumstances, they threw gasoline on the fire. A few of them changed their minds after the rioting but most refused and none will be held accountable.

The New York Times published the names and photos of all 147 of them, all Republicans. They include eight Senators, among them Florida’s Rick Scott, and 139 House members, among them 12 Representatives from Florida, the most after Texas with 16: Carlos Gimenez and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, Kat Cammack (Gainesville), Byron Donalds (Naples), Neal Dunn (Panama City), Scott Franklin (Lakeland), Matt Gaetz (Fort Walton Beach), Brian Mast (Palm City), Bill Posey (Rockledge), John Rutherford (Jacksonville), Greg Steube (Sarasota) and Daniel Webster (Clermont).

Cynics might well ask, “Who cares?”, and dismiss the insurrection as just part of an ongoing struggle by two dated political parties vying for control of a corrupt system and now led by two aged European American men. Many African Americans are probably  among them, especially after the rioters were allowed to run wild, including taking the white supremacist flag into the Capitol for the first time.

But there is cause for all Americans to worry. Europe’s experience has shown that the rise of what once were fringe groups started with incremental acts and grew into almost unstoppable movements. This has been the pattern over the years in the U.S., with the insurrection was the biggest so far. “What was this desperado putsch supposed to achieve?” The Guardian’s Richard Seymour wrote. “The mob of face-painted LARPers [fantasy role players], QAnon conspiracists, militiamen, neo-Nazis, Christian supremacists and endtimes preppers who invaded the Capitol building in Washington DC were never going to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And yet they are far from a few isolated cranks.” Their actions, Seymour noted, “are supported by 45 percent of Republican voters.”

America cannot say that it has not been warned.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s