Since the afternoon of January 6th, 2021, I, like the hundreds of thousands of people who converged on Washington out of concern for this nation, and like the 74+ million Trump voters around the country, have been stunned, shell-shocked, benumbed, angered at the events that happened on the afternoon of January 6th.
I wrote about the events prior to that afternoon here. But I’ve delayed in writing my account of the 6th as I’ve tried to get to truths about what did actually happen. It’s not clear. But this I know.
1) Any offensive acts of violence, destruction, disrespect towards our institutions and those who uphold them are completely unacceptable, and those who perpetrate those acts must be held accountable. We said this during the months and months of Black Lives Matter riots, attacks, vandalism, acts of terrorism, burning our cities and roaming our residential areas, and we say it now.
2) A hallmark of conservative events of any size has always been love, friendship, courtesy, respect for each other and the space where we are. We tend to leave areas cleaner than when we arrived, we radiate joy and happiness and pride in our country, and want nothing more than to demonstrate that love and respect. All across the country, in 2020 alone, events of all kinds were held: drive-in rallies, regattas, sidewalk rallies, rallies on City Hall steps, in parks, in stadiums and in Washington, and never has there been a problem of violence from the right. Never. Not in 2020 and not in years past. And we had no reason to imagine this one would be any different.
3) That anybody was hurt, in any way, due to actions by “our side,” conservatives, freedom-loving, America-loving people, is a pain that I have never felt before and never want to again. It’s insupportable. That Ashli Babbitt was shot in cold blood by Capitol Hill police is beyond imagining. An unarmed woman posing no threat to anybody should not have had force used against her in those circumstances, let alone lethal force. The death of Officer Brian D. Sicknick is also a heartbreak. We just learned today of the suicide of Officer Howard Liebengood, another of the officers at the Capitol. And many, many others were injured. Our prayers go out to them and their families, as they did to those whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed by the riots in our cities all summer.
4) We have seen the videos of the “assault” on our Capitol, and the video of a window broken, and we are horrified at the violence, the mayhem and the destruction on the afternoon of January 6th, as we were at the arson, assault on civilians, people in cars, bullying of diners, looting of stores, defacing and destruction of statues, violence against civilians in areas of CHAZ/CHOP that all were encouraged by local governments, certainly not rebuked or punished, that went on for months as we boarded up businesses and lived under evening curfews.
5) But what are not shown by the media are the countless videos of Capitol Hill police opening barriers, waving the amassed group in, posing for photos with various of us in the halls of the Capitol building. This new CNN article (a first for me, to link to them) is remarkable regarding police “involvement” in the incursion. (Is it a “storming,” an act of “sedition,” if the police literally let you in?) We are not shown videos of “MAGA” people walking slowly and respectfully between the velvet ropes through the area, or picking up garbage that had been spilled. We are not shown video where yes, a window is broken, with the crowd shouting “DON’T BREAK THE WINDOW!” We are not shown video of calm people circulating through the building. And we are not asked to consider that many, not being part of the first wave through, felt welcome in entering the building, hardly “storming” or invading or rioting or being part of an insurrection or, for heaven’s sake, a “coup.” Preposterous to contemplate.
6) We only now are being told what those of us present were not only aware of but concerned about: an exceedingly light police presence. That had been the case in the morning at the Ellipse event, and was clearly the case at the Capitol. We are just now learning that Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund had asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup, but his request was refused. “Optics” were what were cited but one has to ask, was that in fact the reason?
7) The timeline of how the afternoon proceeded is also something only now coming out, and it certainly belies any accusations one might make about how the President’s speech “incited the riot” as the violence had taken place at least 45 minutes before the President’s speech had concluded, and it concluded with the words “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Meanwhile, we all remember how numerous Democrats in leadership positions not only didn’t disavow or chastise those burning our cities, but praised and supported them. In fact, the words BLACK LIVES MATTER, celebrating a racist, Marxist and violent organization (which donates hugely to the Democrats) are painted across our major streets in cities including, most horrifyingly, our nation’s capital.
8) One question I have had, that has not yet been answered, is, where on Earth were the event organizers and why were they not there at the Capitol? The March came from the Ellipse and went to the west side of the Capitol, but the stage for the afternoon rally event was on the east side of the building, and it seems that nobody from any of the organizing entities was there on the west side, either directing people to the east side, or making any effort to calm the crowd. Since much of the crowd had been there, as we know, well before the afternoon’s program began, and before the President had finished his speech, why were there no greeters, organizers, anybody from the Stop the Steal organization or other affiliated groups? This was either an egregious oversight, or something much worse. But together with the very light security, the ill-prepared Capitol Police force, the complicity at best of the police, one has to ask, what was really going on here?
9) Finally this. However the violence erupted, whoever incited it, either a handful of overzealous Trump supporters, some Antifa agents provocateurs, the Capitol Police deciding to let some in then it getting out of hand, whatever actually happened, this was the worst possible thing for us, for election integrity and for the country, and the best possible thing for Democrats, and it came at exactly the worst possible time for us, and the absolute best possible time for the Democrats. What we were hoping would happen was about to happen: the counting and certification of the electoral ballots had just begun and Arizona had just been objected to, with those discussions now underway. What 99% of us wanted, following of the constitutionally-laid out process to debate the legitimacy of the states’ votes, was now, finally happening. That’s not to say that everyone would have accepted the outcome, but this was a crucial step in the process. Strategically, for this process to be derailed, hijacked, in this way, was a nightmare of proportions we still can’t wrap our heads around, and for it to have been undertaken by a handful of people from “our side” would have been quite literally about the dumbest thing we could have done, and, in contrast, quite literally about the most cunningly brilliant chess move the Democrats could have done, or anybody wanting to besmirch (at best) Trump supporters.
The events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021, were akin to the 1933 Reichstag Fire, where a fire at the Reichstag building in Berlin (set either by Hitler’s henchmen or a lone Communist) was used as a pretext for the consolidation of power and limitless purges of “the enemy,” for the sake of national security and so on and so forth. I am convinced that the event attendees were set up, one way or another, by agents provocateurs, that between the encouragements of a handful of people and the complicity of the police, with no intervention by event organizers, great numbers of attendees were enticed into the building and thus the narrative of a “seditious coup” was born.
And from that moment on, all hell has broken loose and we are now “domestic terrorists” in a way that the literal terrorists from the summer never were. We are thrown off of planes (not out of), being deplatformed, fired, de-banked, de-Olive Gardened, de-personed in exactly the manner of the early days of Hitler’s consolidation of power and the shutting down of all civic life, and the dehumanizing of one sector of the citizenry.
What has transpired since Wednesday January 6th has been a travesty, and the language, actions, purges against us have been swift and breathtakingly broad, and all out of proportion of the events, as awful as they were.
Whoever wanted to damage us could hardly have done better. Any efforts to ensure election integrity from that moment on were thrown out the window; questioning the results now brings deplatforming at best, demands for firing at worse, and we are going downhill from here. Free speech feels at the moment like a quaint relic. And it’s only beginning.
When we went to Washington we knew it would be historic. We had no idea just how.
That said, we are in an extraordinary moment in time. You know as well as I do the hazards ahead, but we also have been discovering who is pro-freedom, pro-America, pro-Constitution, who is a more political animal, and who simply wants to bow out now that things have gotten uglier and promise to get uglier still.
Know this: this is also a moment of tremendous opportunity for creativity, for new voices, for a rebirth and renewal of those fundamental principals on which this country rests. Each of us can find an avenue in the strengthening of civic life, religious life, political life or cultural life, and play a role in supporting those principles we hold dear.
And many things are under discussion here at AFA for how best to move the cause of freedom forward during this surreal time. Stay tuned as many interesting things are in the works.
And take heart. We are entering a new chapter to be sure. The Old America died around 3PM January 6th but we have a chance to be part of the crafting of this new chapter.
** SAY HER NAME Ashli Babbitt poster by SABO
Dr. Karen Siegemund is the president of the American Freedom Alliance
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.