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  • UCL Diplomacy Society

Zooming into the Capital Trump, Security, BLM and the International Response. By Victoria Krüger

On 6 January 2021, the US Capital was stormed by several pro-Trump rioters, whereby five people died. In a wider context, this occurred in the midst of Trump's accusation of electoral fraud, and the "Save America" rally at the Ellipse took place, which took place immediately before the riots. President Donald Trump posted on Twitter, "I will be speaking at the SAVE AMERICA RALLY tomorrow on the Ellipse at 11 AM Eastern. Arrive early — doors open at 7 AM Eastern. BIG CROWDS!" Simultaneously, a joint session of Congress was meeting to ratify the forgoing election results and certify Joe Biden’s presidency.

First of all, let’s have a look at Donald Trump’s speech held at the "Save America" rally.

Interestingly, when researching the speech online, it is often linked to titles such as "Trump Encourages Those At His Rally To March". In a video posted by NBC News under the same title, an excerpt of the speech can be watched. Trump says, "and after this, […] we’re going to walk down to the Capitol" and later, "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard". Firstly, the latter segment of his speech had been exempted from NBC’s video publication and secondly, he used the word "march" in connection to peaceful and patriotically. Marching implies walking "in a military manner" or "determinately", whereas walking is rather neutral. So, yes, he used both words, but many media outlets choose for "marching" already in their headline. Such vaguenesses and inaccuracy in wording by the media purposely or unintentionally frame a certain Trump image. Additionally, Trump emphasised that "we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. […] And Rudy, you did a great job. […] He’s got guts, unlike a lot of people in the Republican Party, he’s got guts, he fights, he fights." Ultimately, there is a very fine line between saying Trump referred and prised fighting and strength, and endorsed walking to the Capital compared to "Trump Encourages Those At His Rally To March", but highlighting this distinction might be crucial to i.a. preserve objectivity and impartiality in the media landscape.

Furthermore, when zooming into the Capitol storming itself, its predictability needs to be examined. A 2,000-person strong Capitol Police force was ordered to secure and protect the 126-acre legislative complex and was "put […] out in regular uniforms". Steven Sund, the Capitol Police Chief, claimed that the agency "had a ‘robust plan’ to address ‘anticipated First Amendment activities’ […] these mass riots criminal riotous behaviour." First Amendment activities refer to the guarantee of freedoms - including the right to assemble peacefully. Law enforcement is thereby required to ensure the public’s safety and individual privacy.

John Sandweg described the situation as a "stunning failure", and experts focussing on online rhetoric say the storming was entirely predictable. In a report warning, the Advance Democracy Inc emphasised the eruption of violent online rhetoric among Trump followers ahead of the "Save America" rally. On "", half of the publications featured the use of violence in its comments already two days ahead of the rally. In 1,500 Twitter posts relating to QAnon, a platform with millions of followers, terms of violence were used. Drivers among the protesters were QAnon supporters and groups like the "Proud Boys", "effectively a white nationalist gang predicated on violence". Stephen Bannon, the former Chief Strategist of former President Trump, declared on his podcast, "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow". According to NBC News, a digital flyer titled "Operation Occupy the Capitol" circulated on Instagram and Facebook. Capitol Police had been passed information concerning the risk of violent eruptions in the demonstrations against the Electoral College vote count on 6 January by the FBI and NPD. Hence questionable, according to D.C. Chief Police Contee, no intelligence predicted an invasion of the Capital.

Mentioned appearances might have been scattered and relatively rare; however, it should be expected from US intelligence to take preventive measures even if the pattern is light when considering the US Capitol’s security. Moreover, between the rioters moving towards the capital and their breaking into the capitol, one hour elapsed. At 5:40 p.m., National Guard personnel arrives. Nancy Pelosi concludes that it was a failure of police leadership. The question of which dynamics operated behind this security lack is difficult to answer. One partial answer offers the double standard of law enforcement. President Joe Biden reacted upon the scenes in a video, saying, "no one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they would have been treated very, very different than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol." The law-enforcement muscle faced by BLM protesters showed more strength, leading Rep. Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge to call out a double standard. Karen J. Pita Loor (BU School of Law’s associate dean) traces white’s behaviour back because they are less afraid of police officers as they had been treated differently in the past.

Lastly, let’s have a look at the international response.

The French President said, “what happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America.” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, tweeted, "I believe in the strength of US institutions and democracy". "The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests," stated the Indian Prime Minister. The Taiwanese Ministry wanted its citizens to be more alert and "to pay attention to safety". Raoof Hasan, Special Assistant to the Pakistani Prime Minister in Islamabad tweeted, "If the United States saw what the United States is doing in the United States, the United States would invade the United States to liberate the United States from the tyranny of the United States". “This kind of behaviour can be exploited by dictatorships who want to justify their behaviour", highlighted Song Young-Gil, a senior lawmaker in the South Korean parliament. From Russia, Konstantin Kosachyov, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, analysed "the losing side has more than enough grounds to accuse the winner of falsifications — it is clear that American democracy is limping on both feet."

International responses vary in degree of criticism, targeted group and reference to democracy. Some draw the questionable inference that what seems like a security failure is a sign of America’s "limping" democracy and "un-American" behaviour. Some, like the German Chancellor, hold Donald Trump responsible for the riots. The 8,000 men strong mob is indeed representative of a segment of American society but is it representative of American Democracy and society as a whole? Pictures show how some of the protesters wandered through the Capitol, some stated they intended to watch the ongoing meeting ratifying the electoral vote, but others were intent on violence. Many of the rioters are turned in by their families, ex-lovers and colleges - the FBI received "at least 140,000 photos, videos and tips", reported the independent on 29 January. America inaugurated Joe Biden, and impeachment was initiated against Trump. Holistically seen, the tragic death of five people cannot be neglected; however, the adequacy and appropriateness of some international and national responses are debatable, and influencing interests need to be considered.


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