On January 6, 2020, thousands of American citizens attended a rally in Washington DC to protest the results of the presidential election, to “Stop the Steal “as it was called. This was their right as American citizens and in keeping with the long tradition of political dissent in our country. A much smaller number subsequently pushed their way through police lines and were involved in an attempted coup to over-throw the government of the United States. Racism was a uniting factor for these groups. By some white supremacist accounts this was to be the “storm” predicted to trigger insurrection and uprisings across the country. As the Capitol was cleared it was plain to viewers that while the police had long standing techniques for handling Black demonstrators there was little understanding of how to cope with White violence.
A direct line in history leads from the aftermath of the Civil War and the United States v Cruikshank Supreme Court decision of 1876 to what recently happened in Washington DC. This decision was a major blow to the power of the federal government to protect the voting rights of Black Americans. The Court put the responsibility for this in the hands of hostile state governments. This decision protected lynch mobs, the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws that have suppressed Black voters and plagued our nation’s claim to equality ever since. It was votes from urban areas with large Black populations that were at the crux of many of the challenges to the election results made by Trump supporters.
Free and fair elections that are transparent and can be challenged in court, as warranted, are the cornerstone of our democracy. Once challenges are exhausted, all patriots must respect the results expressed at the ballot box for a peaceful transfer of power. What happened on January 6 cannot be allowed to happen again. We must end this second uncivil war and move toward unification with shared agreements and an understanding of basic values if our country is to survive as a democracy.
Any genuine process of reconciliation and unity demands accountability.
Those who unlawfully stormed through police lines and entered the capitol building broke the law. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent under our legal system. Those who came prepared with tools, gear and communication equipment had obviously planned ahead and were intent on implementing a coup. They are guilty of sedition and must be tried as traitors to the United States.
Those elected officials who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and nonetheless participated in the attempted coup by encouraging and inciting rioters and giving them aid and support while inside the building or by refusing to accept the results of a duly certified election prior to and even after the riot are guilty of sedition. They must be removed from office. They have broken their oath and are not fit to serve this country and continue to undermine it from within.
The former president of the United States and all who are found guilty can never again be trusted to uphold the oath they must take to defend and protect our Constitution. They must be forever barred from holding and public office in service to the United States of America. Any who are subsequently elected holding these same seditious views must be quickly expelled from elected office should they act on them.
Some people continue to believe that the election of 2020 was “stolen.” Having trials and open hearings to lay out what has been discovered and verified could be instrumental in addressing this concern and understanding the misinformation campaign that surrounded the election.
What are the next steps that ordinary citizens can take? Contact your elected officials and demand that they speak out for trials for all who engaged in seditious activity. Ask any group of which you are a member to post a statement calling for the same thing. As a nation we must speak out to require that our elected officials at all levels of government demand that trials be held and that those found guilty of sedition be permanently barred from office. All legislative bodies, organizations, unions, especially police chiefs and police unions around the country must call for expulsion of those found guilty of sedition from inside their ranks and from the halls of government and disavow the position of white supremacy that is a driving factor in those groups that planned the coup. No matter how much they deny it, the public record speaks for itself and the call to “take back our country” is clearly a call to return to a position of white privilege that disenfranchises all others.
This is not a time to remain silent. A loud voice for democracy must be heard across the land as we all work to strengthen our institutions so that something like this can never happen again. Speak out now!
Cortlandt Manor, NY
Marilyn Elie, a long time advocate for clean energy, felt compelled to turn her attention to what happened on January 6 because of the threat it presents to our democracy. This essay is the result.