WASHINGTON – Fences were re-erected around the Capitol building on Thursday. The city is on high alert for a protest scheduled for Saturday in support of the insurgent rioters arrested on January 6. The DC Metropolitan Police Department will activate its full force during the day. The Capitol Police have asked the National Guard to be ready to help.
As the fences were being erected, neighborhood resident Veronique Singh, who served in the Air Force during the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, gagged a bit when talking to a Washington Post cameraman about the January 6 riots. “It was hard to see. Yes, I think most veterans recognized the insurgents for what they were, domestic terrorists, you know. And yes, I never expected that to happen here.”
“Domestic terrorists”. The link he drew between the January 6 rioters and the foreign terrorists who for two decades have dominated US security policy was also established by former President George W. Bush in his comments on the January 11 anniversary. September in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. last Saturday.
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their contempt for human life, in their determination to desecrate national symbols, they are children of the same unclean spirit.”
As you might guess, Trump himself doesn’t see it that way. In a statement Thursday, Trump said: “Our hearts and minds go out to the people so unfairly persecuted in connection with the January 6 protest over the rigged presidential election.”
For their part, organizers of Saturday’s protest have sought to distance themselves from both Trump and the threat of violence. They have asked attendees not to wear Trump clothing or bring posters or flags that support him (or any other partisan political message), and have emphasized calls for non-violence.
Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign staff member who organized the event, says he focuses on due process concerns for what he says are the “vast majority” of those arrested who did not personally commit any kind. of violence. “They have been accused of expressing their first amendment rights in a public building in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Braynard told CNN on Wednesday.
Of course, in this case those people entered the public building trampling on police fences, breaking windows and brutalizing the police during hours of hand-to-hand combat. Their purpose inside the building was to prevent Congress from certifying the election results, and they invaded the Senate chamber and looted the Congressional offices to do so. They sang for the death of elected officials. They erected a gallows in the front yard.
But there is a strong possibility that Braynard’s promise of a peaceful demonstration on Saturday will be fulfilled: After intelligence reports raised significant fears about the protest over the past month and authorities mobilized in preparation, the talk was reported to Online in extremist groups has encouraged the most militant. to skip the event. Congress is still in summer recess, the building will be empty.
However the potential because political violence, and the memory of the recently demonstrated ability to use it, is still up in the air.
On Thursday, a Republican congressman from Ohio who voted to impeach Trump on January 6 announced that he would be retiring of politics, citing threats of violence to his family by Trump supporters as the main reason. On the same day, a the video went viral showing a New York City restaurant hostess being beaten up by tourists from Texas because she had asked to see her proof of vaccination as required by city law. During the summer there were waves of reports of school administrators attacked or threatened by masks mandates. Long before January 6 Election officials in many states were inundated with threats against themselves and their families.. Prominent COVID health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci suffered death threats. Last year, six men were arrested for a plot to kidnap the Democratic Governor of Michigan.
Some of this is explicitly related to Trump and his false claims of voter fraud (claims that about 78 percent of Republicans now believe according to a recent CNN poll). Much of this is more generally related to the conspiratorial circles on the right that a large chunk of Trump supporters reside in: those who see a tyrannical plot in every COVID-19 measure, Black Lives Matter protest, or full plane. of immigrants.
The upshot is that the threat of violence, on behalf of Trump specifically and the Republican Party in general, is now an implicit part of everyday American politics.
Some Republicans are trying to override it: Sen. Lindsay Graham said if protesters step out of line on Saturday, police should be ready to “hit” them.
Others essentially embrace it. Representative Madison Cawthorn told his supporters this month that they should be “stockpiling ammunition,” because a “bloodshed” is coming. Rep. Matt Gaetz said earlier this year that the second amendment to the US constitution was to protect the ability to “hold an armed rebellion against the government” and said “I think we have an obligation to use it.” In januaryIn the immediate aftermath of the attempted insurrection, a Wisconsin Republican Party chairman told his supporters to “prepare for war” and a California Republican Party official posted on social media “The war had begun! Citizens take up arms! “Trump has spent months portraying Ashli Babbitt, the insurgent who was shot on January 6, as a martyr.
What do you call the threat of violence for political purposes? You could call it terrorism. You could also call it a fact of contemporary American politics.
That threat feels vivid to many in Washington this week. The fences have been raised again. Even after they leave, no one is likely to let their guard down.