Protests and Democracy

Featured Image: Protest 9

On a Wednesday on January 6th 2021 a group of protestors who had been protesting outside of the Capitol in Washington breached security and stormed the building as they rioted. 2021. Dozens of protesters broke into the Building and walked through the halls as hundreds gathered outside. They had turned out to support Donald Trump and interrupt the electoral college vote count in an attempt to stop his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. People believed that there been vote rigging and that the result was unfair, although little evidence of this had been produced from the Trump campaign. The protestors were attempting to stop confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Breaching police barriers, rioters then occupied, destroyed and looted parts of the building for several hours. The riot led to the evacuation and lockdown of Washington. Five people died, including a police officer and at least 60 people were arrested. A number of issues had drawn attention of the media and the wider public. Firstly, would the protestors have been treated differently if this had been a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest, secondly did Donald Trump incite the mob and encourage the riots and if so is he guilty of an attack on the democratic structures of the United States. The right to protest is something that seperates democracies from non-democratic states, but can protests be abused by people who want to hold onto power?

On the 29th May 2020, around 1,000 people marched through Washington protesting against police brutality that had led to a series of deaths of black people by police. When protesters reached the White House some pushed down the barriers that separated them from the police before the march continued through the city. At 11:30 p.m. protests took place outside the White House, and the police used tear gas on the demonstrators. When the crowd split apart police went forward through the Park, holding shields and firing more tear gas. In the BLM protests people were getting knocked over, police officers were shooting and firing tear gas bombs, using batons. The majority of people in this protest where not even rioting and they were getting shot by police with rubber bullets. While in the Trump protest police officers were letting them pass or ignoring them. Many of them were armed with guns, axes and bombs and had racist t-shirts or flags. Were these protestors treated different because most of them where white? Is that why police let them pass and did not shoot them. I think this is unfair because you cannot just shoot someone just because of the colour of their skin, police should have the right to defend themselves but this should be right for the situation and police brutality should never be accepted. I also have seen reports of individual officers who stood up to the mob and were brave, protecting others at their own risk. So I’m not saying that all of the police involved failed in their duty, but that their leaders should be held accountable for their inaction and lack of leadership on the day of the Capitol riot.

I was surprised to see the footage of Trump protesters rioting and looked back at the reporting of the BLM protestors back in May/June of last year. Many of the BLM protestors were taking part in silent protests in the capital and police still shot rubber bullets at them or hand cuffed them. You would think that many of the Trump protestors who were rioting would have been arrested but there were only 60 arrests, this compares with 316 BLM protestors arrested on the 1st of June 2020. I think there would have been greater security at the Capitol in thousands of angry black people had turned to protest on the 6 of January 2021. I think race impacts how the police and politicians respond and whether they see a particular group as more a threat than another.

I believe President Trump encouraged people to reject a democratic vote. Since the election he told people that he had won and when the counts came back in favour of Joe Biden he changed his story telling people there had been election fraud. On Twitter Donald Trump had people telling people to turn up for a “big protest” on the 6th of January. On the 4th of January he told supporters in Georgia that “we’re going to take what they did to us on Nov. 3. We’re going to take it back.”, he also said "If the liberal Democrats take the Senate and the White House — and they’re not taking this White House — we’re going to fight like hell, I’ll tell you right now,". I ask myself is this encouraging violence and what exactly does he think people should take back, is it power? It sounds to me like he thinks some people votes shouldn’t count, for example anyone who didn’t vote for him.

Here are some recent tweets by trump

12 December 2020: "Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA."

12 December 2020: "WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!"

19 December 2020: "A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

26 December 2020: "The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th."

That’s not all, before the protestors marched on the Capitol building in January 6th, Trump told them "We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women,". He was encouraging his supporters to believe that if they turned out they could overturn the election result. However, he was more direct when he said "We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong." These words encouraged people to “take back our country”, but from who?

People like Rudy Giuliani (Donald Trumps lawyer) didn’t help things at the protest when they said "Let’s have trial by combat". The law doesn’t define guilt or innocence by how good you are at fighting, that’s why we have courts, judges and juries to agree if someone is innocent or guilty of a crime. My view is that if you challenge the result of a vote you should have proof of the things you claim, or be able to show evidence that would allow an investigation. However, from what I have read whenever Donald Trump’s campaign started a legal case (50+) about the election they have generally lost. I think Donald Trump tried to bully people so that he could stay president and that’s why he encouraged the protestors to “take it back”!

By jovial_eel

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