The storming of the US Capitol — one year afterThursday, January 06, 2022
We in this space do not take sides in American party politics. Jamaica has and must maintain keen interest in US affairs, recognising, inter alia, that they are our number one trading partner, home to a sizeable chunk of the Jamaican Diaspora, and the main source of vital remittances.
We remain vested in America being the gold standard and the staunchest defender of democracy. For that reason, we are also watching closely the investigations into the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, the seat of US Government.
Today, marks the first anniversary of the storming of the Capitol by supporters of then President Donald Trump. Rioters marched to Capitol Hill, where Congress was meeting to certify now-President Joe Biden's 2020 election win.
Thousands of rioters breached barricades and security checkpoints, forcing Vice-President Mike Pence and lawmakers to evacuate or find shelter in the building. The action also temporarily disrupted the certification. At least five police officers died and 140 others were injured. Total damage was estimated at US$1.5 million.
The world, and especially America's closest allies, which include Jamaica, has tried to make sense of that unprecedented insurrection. The comparable thing to that in US history was the 1812 War when Britain invaded the capital city and burned it to the ground. But then it was a foreign country which was the attacker.
January 6, 2021 saw one part of the US Government assaulting another, ostensibly in support of a sitting president. On the contrary, what we are accustomed to in this world are coup d'etats carried out against entire governments.
Americans remain sharply divided along party lines about the purpose and effect of the riot. News reports cite Quinnipiac poll findings that 93 per cent of Democrats considered it an attack on the Government, but only 29 per cent of Republicans agreed.
A CBS-YouGov poll said 85 per cent of Democrats called the riot an “insurrection” while only 21 per cent of GOP voters did. Fifty-six per cent of Republicans were more likely to explain the rioters as “defending freedom”, while a poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about four in 10 Republicans recall the attack as violent, while nine in 10 Democrats do.
Up to October 6, 2021, nine months after the riot, statistics available on the Capitol Breach Investigation Resource Page showed that, from the investigations into the incident, approximately 650 people had been arrested across nearly all 50 states. At least 190 defendants had been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees; more than 575 defendants had been charged with entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds; more than 65 defendants charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon; and 40 defendants had been charged with conspiracy, either to obstruct a congressional proceeding, obstruct law enforcement during a civil disorder, injure an officer, or some combination of the three.
A committee of the House of Representatives is spearheading investigations, including looking at what role the then president and even members of Congress played in the riot.
Whatever the findings, it was a frightening moment that we hope will never be repeated.