For Martin Luther King Day, we hear from an artist who makes civil rights heroes leap off the page.
During the House and Senate confirmations of the 2020 presidential election, far-right insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building. This came after thousands of President Trump’s supporters gathered in the District for a rally, where he again falsely asserted massive voter fraud during the election.
Members of Congress and other Capitol workers were evacuated out of the House and Senate chambers, halting the counting of electoral votes. President Trump addressed the mob saying, “You have to go home now.” The D.C. National Guard, along with other law enforcement agents, were deployed in response to the violence.
We’ll speak with local and regional politicians, security officials and other local voices about what happened, how it happened and what’s next.
Produced by The Kojo Nnamdi Show team
- Lisa Desjardins Correspondent, PBS Newshour; @LisaDNews
- Nee Nee Taylor Core Organizer, D.C. Chapter of Black Lives Matter; @ItsNeeTay
- Chris Van Hollen U.S. Senator, Maryland; @ChrisVanHollen
- Eleanor Holmes Norton Delegate (D-DC), U.S. House of Representatives; @EleanorNorton
- Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr
- Dana Fisher Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland; Author, "American Resistance: From the Women's March to the Blue Wave"; @Fisher_DanaR
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome.
LISA DESJARDINSThe Capitol police are now on this floor. They are now working to secure this floor.
REPORTERWe're trying to understand whether they've been able to get into the House Chambers and, of course, knowing whether the members -- go ahead, Lisa --
DESJARDINSThe police have told me to stay down and that's what I'm doing.
NNAMDIThat's what it sounded like inside the Capitol as pro-trump extremists stormed the building sparking chaos and a lockdown. One woman was shot and killed, and it was hours before the Capitol was cleared and lawmakers were able to return and certify the presidential election. So how did this happen and where do we go from here? Joining us now is Lisa Derjardins. She is a Correspondent with the PBS News Hour, who reported live from inside the Capitol building during yesterday's insurrection by pro-Trump extremists. Lisa, thank you for joining us.
DESJARDINSOh, it's a pleasure. I'm a fan, Kojo. Thank you.
NNAMDII'm also a fan of yours. What we just heard was audio from the Capitol yesterday. You were reporting live from inside the Capitol building when the pro-Trump extremists broke in. What was that moment like and how did things unfold?
DESJARDINSI think like everyone I'm still processing exactly what happened, but, you know, it is the situation that went from 0 to 100 miles per hour probably in a space of a few seconds. And I've covered the Capitol for long time. It's a building I love. I have many Capitol Police sources. And I think among the strangest things about yesterday was that I found myself kind early on standing in a balcony in the center of the Capitol overlooking the front door. Those large brass doors and seeing protestors shattering the glass of that door without any Capitol Police officers in sight just myself, maybe two other reporters and then two doorkeepers, who are unarmed. They're there to help tourists. The doorkeepers trying to stop the protestors by just yelling at them to stop.
DESJARDINSAnd so, I think that sudden surge that I saw and the sudden it seemed lack of Capitol Police at these important points throughout the building was something I didn't expect.
DESJARDINSAnd for quite -- continually kept surprising me as I walked through the building thinking I would find the point where Capitol Police were stationed. And I couldn't. That was remarkable.
NNAMDIAnd knowing how those protestors tend to feel about the so called mainstream media must not have been a comfort to you either. You've been covering politics for a long time. Is there anything that you have seen before that could possibly compare with what you witnessed yesterday?
DESJARDINSYou know, I suppose the expected answer is no, but I will say that in this experience there were strains of other experiences. There was a Tea Party rally I went to early in the Tea Party movement where I was working for CNN. We had a CNN bus that we drove up, big mistake, to the Tea Party rally. At that point, CNN was a major target and the protestors there, the ralliers, actually tried to push the bus. And I got off of the bus and surrounded by them had to talk them down.
DESJARDINSSo, it's actually a situation I've been in before where you don't have security and you only have your ability to connect with people who are trying to be confrontational. This was an extreme. This was a bit more frightening in that, you know, there were hundreds of protestors being violent in front of me.
DESJARDINSBut it was the same situation in that I had to, point to my mask, which said I was with PBS. I had to do things like say, you know, Sesame Street, to try and deescalate. But to me it was part of the spectrum -- it had the same DNA as other hostile events I've been at toward the media.
NNAMDIWell, I should mention that the Department of Justice this morning indicated that it intends to persecute all of the perpetrators of that insurrection yesterday. Lisa, after yesterday's events newsrooms like ours had to decide how to refer to these Trump supporters and what was happening. Our newsroom, which follows NPR guidance and so we're using the term pro-Trump extremists and calling what they did an insurrection. What was that discussion like at the PBS News Hour?
DESJARDINSI'm glad you're asking. I think we're still having that discussion. I think that, you know, I was at the Capitol until 4:00 a.m. last night covering the electoral count. And, you know, more information than you need. But woke up early to get my son to pre-school and there hasn't been a lot of time for that discussion for me. I think other people have had it. I do think I am more informed by the conversations I had with members of Congress yesterday in my own thinking. And I've been saying rioters, because that's what I personally saw, but they clearly were pro-Trump.
DESJARDINSI will say, though, my question about that term is that it's accurate and it's important to say, but it doesn't encompass everything. I think that the president doesn't have control over this group anymore. I think this group has grown beyond him, and I think that that's something people need to understand.
NNAMDIIt's no secret that President Trump and his allies in Congress are not always, well, truthful especially in continuing to make the baseless claim that the election was rigged. As a journalist, how difficult has it been for you to cover this administration?
DESJARDINSIt has been very difficult. I have the blessing of working at the U.S. Capitol, though, where sources are more forthcoming. Though, many Republicans obviously have only wanted to speak off the record about their true feelings of the President and that has been difficult, because you know that Republicans are saying one thing in public some of them while in private, they have real misgivings about this president. And that's something as a journalist you have to cover as irresponsible. And if you have concerns about someone is acting and you're not speaking up and you're in a position to do it, you should. And that has been tricky to cover.
NNAMDIWell, Bill on Capitol Hill emailed, "This morning I walked down to the Capitol building, two big changes. One many military personnel on all sides of the Capitol, and two, new taller fencing going up around the Capitol similar to the fencing put in around Lafayette Square on the White House months ago. These kinds of measures should have been taken before the insurrectionists rioted at the Capitol yesterday. The leadership of the Capitol Police failed miserably this week. It's time for new leadership for the Capitol Police, who recognized the threat that the radical, right wing, Trump supporters posed to democracy and this country." As I said, that was an email from Bill on Capitol Hill. Joining us now is Chris Van Hollen. He is a U.S. Senator representing Maryland. He is a democrat. Senator Van Hollen, thank you for joining us.
CHRIS VAN HOLLENKojo, it's good to be with you after that very, very bleak day for our democracy. At least we worked through the night to show that a violent mob wouldn't overthrow our democratic election. But the stain of this moment and the damage done will be long lasting.
NNAMDIHow did this unfold in the Senate chamber for you?
HOLLENWell, for me, I had been over in the House chamber for the convening of the joint session. We got to the State of Arizona. There was an objection. We broke. I came back to the Senate and then headed over to my office, because I was going to be making some remarks on the Senate floor. And as I was headed back to the Capitol we went on lockdown and, you know, sent to secure locations. And then I was in touch with my colleagues and the Capitol Police. But I watched a lot of this as many Americans did, you know, through the media and the images of this violent Trump inspired mob taking over the floor of the House and Senate.
NNAMDIAnd following up on the email that I just read from Bill on Capitol Hill, how could this happen and why wasn't there enough security and preparation?
HOLLENWell, let me get to the security situation in that moment, Kojo. But let's not absolve the folks, who are most responsible for what happened starting with the President of the United States who has fed these poisonous lies to millions of Americans about how he was cheated out of an election even though we know that that's not the case and accomplices, too many members of the House and Senate who have looked the other way as the president has shredded our constitution. And so that's what led this mob to come to the Capitol where I actually witnessed them taking down an American flag and putting up a Trump flag.
HOLLENAnd, of course, we saw confederate flags and seditious conduct. Now I want to thank individual members the Capitol Police for putting themselves at risk. I do think at the overall security level there was clearly a failure and that needs to be very carefully assessed. You know, we knew a big crowd might be coming. It turned out it was a violent mob, again, instigated by the President of the United States. And so, we will have a thorough review of the security situation.
NNAMDIWell, typical of the responses we're getting I suspect is Lynn in Salisbury, Maryland. Lynn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Lynn, are you there?
LYNN (CALLER0Yes, I'm here. Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we can. Go ahead, please.
(CALLER0Okay. I just wanted to make a comment that I went to a climate change protest with Jane Fonda, when she was doing her fire drill Fridays at the Capitol building. And there was probably a policeman per two protestors. And many more people were arrested as soon as we put our feet on the Capitol steps. And we were whisked away by the police in big police wagons, you know, to be processed. And, you know, I didn't see any of that yesterday and it was very disappointing.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for you call. To add to that, Senator Van Hollen, here is Lavern in Washington D.C. Lavern, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAVERNYeah, hi. I don't want to reiterate the obvious, and especially in response to law enforcement and how they responded to those protestors versus Black Lives movement. We saw a total de-escalation of their actions to the point of cooperation enabling and support of these terrorist. All because, in my opinion, they are part of these people. They are just like them. They are members of whatever group they are. And these are the same people I believe who as insurgents started riots and looting during the Black Lives.
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to interrupt because, Senator Van Hollen, we only have about 80 seconds left. You're hearing that a lot. How would you respond?
HOLLENWell, Kojo, I think there's no doubt that we've seen a double standard in the sort of security measures with respect to Black Lives Matter and what we witnessed yesterday at the Capitol. And that has to be, you know, part of this thorough review of the security situation. I want to thank Mayor Bowser for deploying the D.C. Police, and Maryland and Virginia for sending members of the National Guard, but none of that should have been necessary.
HOLLENThere should have been obvious preparation and, yes, I do think that we've seen a clear double standard. All of this needs to be addressed. I just want to underscore at the end here, though again, what caused this. What caused this is a lawless president and too many members of the Republican Party, who even yesterday were feeding these lies. And that's what happened and that was an attack on our democracy. And we've got to fix it as a country.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Senator Chris Van Hollen. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk with D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. And discuss the Black Lives Matter comparisons. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing yesterday's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and joining us now is Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. She's a democrat. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTONGlad to be with you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Lisa Desjardins is still with us. She's a Correspondent with the PBS News Hour. Congresswoman Norton, where were you yesterday and what did you see and hear as this unfolded?
NORTONWell, fortunately I was teleworking so that I was not caught in the midst of this the way the members -- there were some members on the floor, not all, and some members in the Senate, who actually caught in the foray. I was not.
NNAMDIYeah. I called your office to see how you were doing and then realized you were as with many members of your staff teleworking. But many are asking how did this happen, and why wasn't there enough law enforcement on hand.
NORTONThe reason there wasn't enough law enforcement on hand is because the Capitol Police did not do their job in planning and in calling for reinforcements long before the riot occurred. It's not as if, Kojo, that we didn't have notice of almost exactly what would happen. And if the president wasn't only complicit but virtually the leader of the band in calling for what happened yesterday. So, the Capitol Police could not have done this by themselves. I'm very proud of the Metropolitan Police who answered promptly. Indeed, virtually every police force did, but there was time for planning, which did not occur, and we see that now in the wreckage. And that's the only name for it that is not being cleaned up at the Capitol.
NNAMDIWell, there are more than a dozen different law enforcement bodies policing the District. How does that complicate things?
NORTONNormally they coordinate well together. That means a lot of extra safety in the District. And remember we get millions of visitors every year. So that's all right with us. But the kind of coordination that was necessary last night was so foreseeable that you would need virtually every law enforcement agency in the District as you just said, Kojo. They all work together anyway. Why wasn't there a central command making sure that the Capitol did not have rioters sitting in the Speaker's chair, for example. And literally taking over the Capitol the disgrace this has been to the United States of America and a disgrace that could have been prevented.
NNAMDIMayor Bowser has said repeatedly that she is constrained in preparing for and responding to events like this, because D.C. lacks statehood. How might things have been different were D.C. a state?
NORTONWell, the mayor is so right. Actually, we wouldn't even have to be a state if --even short of statehood and that of course is ultimately what we need. But the mayor doesn't even have control over her own National Guard. And she could get that even without statehood. I have a bill to give her control over the National Guard. And we need to repeal the president's authority to federalize the D.C. Police Department. Bear in mind that an ancient statute enables that to happen. Those are still on the books.
NORTONNow we are told -- at least the press reports that the president initially refused to deploy the D.C. National Guard to defend the Capitol. That only goes to show that we don't need this authority dispersed this way, and that's part of why we saw riots inside the Capitol itself unabated last night.
NNAMDICongresswoman Norton, you have reintroduced the statehood bill in this session. Democrats with the vice president as tie breaker will now have a majority in both houses. What does that mean for the prospects for statehood?
NORTONWell, it means almost everything. We've got two senators, of course, in the election -- that should be the talk of the day today.
NORTONGiving us control of the Senate. This puts us on an actual road to statehood. In June I got the D.C. Statehood bill passed for the first time since the District was created, and that's not even a year ago. Here we are already to the point where it looks like we are on the road to statehood. We now have more cosponsors by far than we had last time.
NORTONIn the Senate we have 90 percent of the Democrats supporting D.C. Statehood. Statehood is in very good shape. It is not an easy bill to pass. In fact, if you will note, the Republican Senate passed nothing this year except confirmation of judges. With Democrats taking over the Senate, we'll be in a much better position to move towards statehood for the District of Columbia.
NNAMDILisa Desjardins, lawmakers ultimately were able to return and finish the business of certifying the election. What are you focused on now following yesterday's extraordinary events on Capitol Hill?
DESJARDINSWell, it's definitely two separate storybooks right now that are connected. I think what the congresswoman is describing, the possibilities for a Democratic Congress and a Democratic presidency are very large and very important to cover even as we also cover the future of the Republican Party itself and the Trump supporters. But I also at this moment, I really am driven to figure out the security problems at the U.S. Capitol and follow-up on some reporting I've had about long term vacancies that have been difficult to fill some of my Capitol Police sources have been telling me for a long time and why is it that this perhaps the most visible building on Earth was not ready.
NNAMDICongresswoman Norton, there's a debate about what's best for the country at this point and whether we should just move on without prosecution or impeachment. What are your feelings about this?
NORTONWell, on the removal of the president, you can see members of his own administration resigning. Impeachment is a very long process. That puts that off the board when he has only about two more weeks in office. Also being proposed is removing the president under the 25th Amendment. Speaking as a constitutional lawyer I can understand it, but that amendment is cloaked in the notion of disability that the president is unable to perform his duties. So that could only be done by his own cabinet. So, I'm not sure that could occur in these two weeks. I wish I could say that there is no more damage he could do in the next two weeks. And what I cannot say is that we have a ready remedy to keep him from doing further damage.
NNAMDILet me have Katie in Columbia, Maryland give us the last word in this segment. Katie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATIEHi, thank you, Kojo. I really just wanted to chime in from the perspective of an MPD officer's spouse. My wife was down there all day yesterday, worked 18 hours and is back down there today with three hours of sleep in between. And the few words that I actually got to speak with her in all of this, because I've been watching like everyone else. Her sentiment was this is the single most difficult and horrific day of her career. And I just want people to try and remember that as the sound bites come out and as people are so quick to make broad judgements about the officers, who are working down there, please try to remember that these people are really trying their best with what they have, and they're putting their lives on the line.
KATIEAnd I just wanted to send appreciation to them, but also just help remind people that the officers are not in conjunction with what happened yesterday. It was a mess. I think we all saw that, but they did their best.
NNAMDIYes. Well, I can tell you, Katie, and I'm sure both Congresswoman Norton and Lisa Desjardins will agree that without the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, the insurrection that we saw yesterday would have probably lasted much longer. And I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDILisa Desjardins, always a pleasure.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll take a closer look at the comparisons between how Black Lives Matter protestors were treated and how yesterday's insurrectionists were. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the far-right insurrectionists who caused chaos at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Joining us now is Greg Carr, chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Greg, thank you for joining us.
GREG CARRAlways a pleasure, brother. Good to hear your voice.
NNAMDISame here. Dana Fisher is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of "American Resistance: From the Women's March to the Blue Wave." Dana Fisher, thank you for joining us, again.
DANA FISHERThanks for having me back.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Nee Nee Taylor, a core organizer with the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter. Nee Nee Taylor, thank you for joining us.
NEE NEE TAYLORThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDana Fisher, I'll start with you. A lot of people in the media were wrestling with how to describe these events, including what to call the people who stormed the Capitol. Were they protesters, insurrectionists, rioters? As someone who studies protests, how do you navigate the terminology, and where is that line between a protest and, well, something else, like what happened yesterday?
FISHERWell, I think that the big line that was crossed yesterday was that these were Americans who were challenging the legitimacy of the U.S. government. And I've studied protests of all sorts, peaceful to more confrontational protests. But when people are taking arms against the police, the National Guard, elected officials, you know, threatening to hang people on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, which literally was happening yesterday, these are insurrectionists. These are no longer protesters.
FISHERThey're certainly not peaceful protesters, and therefore, thinking about the freedom of speech and the freedoms afforded to people who are expressing their will -- you know, their opinions in a peaceful manner, should not apply anymore.
NNAMDIGreg Carr, Angel from Houston, Texas emailed us: If we have learned one thing from all of this, it's that words matter. We need to stop calling them protesters and call them domestic terrorists. Calling them protesters shields them from what they truly represent and gives them legitimacy. Greg, there's been a hesitancy to use the terms domestic terrorism to describe what happened. As we said at NPR and WAMU, we're using the term insurrection, but what are some of the issues in naming something like this for you, Greg Carr?
CARRWell, at the center of it, I think, is the ultimate evasion, when you're dealing with a white settler state that was founded in original violence. We're still grappling over the question of who's a human being and who's not in this country.
CARREarly this morning, when Conor Lamb was speaking in Congress and things almost came to fisticuffs -- like we're back in the 19th century, with people throwing hands in Congress -- he said, we all know why the protesters, the insurrectionists, the domestic terrorists, whatever you want to call them, we all know why they were allowed to do what they did and go home. Which then sparked this great outcry from the other side of the aisle. Next thing you know, people were standing up and Nancy Pelosi was banging the gavel.
CARRThe evasion is the evasion of race. It's the evasion of whiteness. It's the unspeakable thing. Many people in this country are not grappling with what to call these folks, but, unfortunately, we live in a country, and not really a nation -- we talk about common culture, common memory, common history. So, when Joe Biden says, we are better than this, when Senator Cory Booker says, we brought this upon ourselves, my question is: Who is we?
CARRMany people are very clear about the fact that whiteness dictated what happened yesterday. So, every question that comes after not dealing with that evasion becomes a question that, frankly, is not very honest. Things like, how did this happen? What do you mean, how did it happen? If folks could tell you from BWI and Dulles and National that these folks were coming in on airplanes on Monday and Tuesday and taking up places to stay, you knew what was going to happen.
CARRThe man said he was going down there to meet them, just about. He told them to go, and you couldn't get the place secure? No, this happened because of the evasion of the central, formative kind of structural logic of this country. And until we deal with that, everything else is going to just kind of feed that evasion.
NNAMDII'd like to piggyback on what you said about we, because you wrote on Twitter yesterday: Joe Biden says this is not who we are. That depends on what you mean by we -- which you just said -- because this is exactly who they are. Tell us, Greg, who are they?
CARRThey are people who have been promised a country that they feel is slipping away. They are folks who feel that they're defending their birthright, in their mind. And by they, I mean those who feel that there's an entitlement that is deeply informed by race, the cultural logic of race. In their mind, they were not storming the Capitol as much as they were occupying their country. And so, when people say, oh, there's a Confederate flag in the Capitol dome, understand that that is symbolic of the lost cause. It's the same mentality that the Confederates felt, that led the Confederates to believe they were actually defending the country. It is the logic of the filibuster.
CARRJohn C. Calhoun of South Carolina was the architect of the filibuster in the 19th century, to protect the slave power, because he said, "This is the birthright of America." So, you know, as we now finally go into this new cycle with two new senators from Georgia, who, if they blow up the filibuster and move forward, can get some of this stuff passed -- like D.C. statehood, perhaps, as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said -- there's going to be a white lash from the they who think that America means a white country. And I don't know how we disabuse folk of that notion, at least not in the critical mass enough for us to be able to go forward as a nation.
NNAMDINee Nee Taylor, allow me to read an email we got from Christine from Derwood, Maryland: As a mother of young adults who were shot at and gassed in Lafayette Square during Black Lives Matter for simply standing in the street, I'm amazed and disgusted that white terrorists were simply allowed to walk around private property after illegally breaking in. Anyone who can say there is not systematic racism in America isn't looking very carefully.
NNAMDINee Nee Taylor, the people who stormed the Capitol were predominantly white. How would you respond to what Christine from Derwood, Maryland just emailed?
TAYLORFirst, I want to, like -- I really want to drop the mic after Greg spoke, but I will address her and I tell her, absolutely. And what I will state is what happened yesterday and what happened at Lafayette Square is what the system was built to do: enslave patrol. At Lafayette Square, we were black people. We were black people who used our voice and our message, which is a threat to white supremacy. And the system is not built for us.
TAYLORAnd so, therefore, the enslave patrol was to enslave us and to keep us silent. So, therefore, what happened at Lafayette Square, Lafayette Park was exactly -- it was planned to happen that way. It's unfortunate, but when we go out there, we know that we are going against the enslave patrol.
TAYLORAnd so, therefore, the people at the Capitol, that's theirs, that's their land, that's their -- they came here knowing that that Capitol belonged to them and not the people who work there or not the taxpaying people of the United States of America. And so, they had the privilege and the right to go into their Capitol.
NNAMDINee Nee Taylor, we heard this debate last summer. Do you feel observers were quicker to label Black Lives Matter protests riots and to describe protesters as violent even when the vast majority were peaceful?
TAYLORWhat I would say is -- I'm the direct action coordinator for Black Lives Matter D.C. And when I do direct action training, I literally say, from the start, there's no such thing as a nonviolent direct action if you are black. You are automatically target violence because of the color of your skin. And so, therefore, because of the way that America is built, we are a threat because of the color of our skin. We are a threat because we are resilient people. We are a threat because we are powerful people.
TAYLORAnd because of that, we are target thugs, rioters, looters in the sense of white supremacy America. So, it doesn't shock me that they say that, because they fear for what's to come, because we're not going nowhere and we're going to get free.
NNAMDIHere's Leona in Alexandria, Virginia. Leona, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LEONAHi, Kojo, and thanks so much for everything that you for us here in the Metro D.C. area. When I called about 40 minutes ago, I was in tears, because of how appalling it was to see these white supremacists storming into the people's chambers. And I also teach at Howard University, so to see just how these white domestic terrorists were treated compared to all of the protests around the country, if these folks had been Black Lives Matter or just nonwhites, you better believe they would've been beaten and handcuffed and thrown into vans. So, I'm just appalled that, of course, that it happened, and then that there's been virtually no repercussion.
NNAMDIWell, as I said, the Justice Department says that they will be prosecuting those who are identifiable as a part of yesterday's insurrection invasion of the U.S. Capitol. So, we'll have to see how that rolls out. Here is -- and thank you for your call, Leona. Here is Monica, in Annapolis. Monica, your turn.
MONICAOh, hi, Kojo. Thank you so much for all that you do, and thank you for having this important discussion. I just want to echo what your panelists have said already. This is a matter of white supremacy and domestic terrorism, and it can't be called anything else.
MONICAThe fact that the terrorists were allowed to breach the Capitol, the officers virtually stood back. And no disrespect to the officers. I get it, you have a hard job, but this is about white supremacy, and its rampant grip on our nation. And so, when we have our elected officials saying this isn't America, that's just highly true. This is America, and until we deal with it, we're never going to move past it.
NNAMDIEssentially what Greg Carr has been saying for, I guess, decades. Dana Fisher, Michigan State House was stormed by an armed mob last spring, and yesterday, Trump supporters protested at state capitols across the country in Utah, Oregon, California, Kansas, to name a few. Are you concerned that this tactic of directly threatening lawmakers is gaining traction among radical rightwing groups?
FISHERIt absolutely is, Kojo. And what's worse is that, well, basically, anybody who was thinking about this kind of activism learned from Michigan this past summer is there are very limited repercussions for storming well-armed into state houses across our country. And you know what's even worse is we saw images of many of these activists, after being released yesterday, or escorted out of the Capitol, having drinks at the Trump Hotel and other places around D.C. And it's absolutely unacceptable. I just would build off of what Greg said here and say this is not about dealing with the future white lash. This is the white lash right now. We're experiencing it.
NNAMDIGreg Carr, many noted that there were very few arrests yesterday, in contrast to hundreds of protesters arrested or detained during protests last summer. And I just mentioned a couple of times, the Justice Department says -- some people will say the Justice Department claims it will be seeking to prosecute people who can be identified as being responsible for yesterday's violence at the Capitol. What is your feeling about that? Should they be prosecuted, and are you confident they will be?
CARROh, yeah, I'm pretty confident they will be, certainly, after January 20th. I think that what we're engaged in at this moment is Donald Trump -- who is a symptom of the structural problem, not the cause -- has provided folk with a perfect point of departure for their fictive absolution. This is what all these mass resignations is about. People are now trying to fade back into the structure as if they, oh, oh, it's like that scene in "Casablanca" where I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on. (laugh)
CARRSo, this is a fictive absolution. So, of course, they're going to -- as Dana said, after they had their drinks, came back to their hotels. And so, you know, when I hear people like Sister Taylor, who has put her body on the line and all the people around the country who have done that, people say, well, you know, these folks are trying to help make America better.
CARRNo, we're engaged in acts of self-defense, because what we find ourselves confronted with is a system that engages in kind of a theater, a theater to address what appear to be symptoms and momentary problems rather than address the structural problems. So, yeah, I'm pretty confident that there will be people who will be held up as isolated examples of white terrorism, allowing the structural issues to persist.
NNAMDIA lot of people who want to weigh in on this, so I'll go to Christina in Gaithersburg. Christina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISTINAHey, there, Kojo. Thank you so much for all you do for us every day. But I guess my thing was, I felt so violated. And I know people across the country and across the world felt so incredibly violated. And, you know, not just from a perspective of national security, you know, the picture of people dancing in Kremlin, but like as somebody who grew up in the DMV, you know, I'm a redline girl, I'm a first generation immigrant. And my parents came to this country and grew up in D.C., this is home, you know. Like it just -- it felt -- I felt so incredibly violated.
CHRISTINAI kept thinking to myself, people come to this country and look at this country and they think, you know, granted, we have our issues, but you don't have to go to the grocery store with armed guards with an AK47. This is the United States of America. You know, it just -- I just -- it was terrifying. It was absolutely terrifying. And to see the terror in the black officer running up the stairs, you know, the fear in his eyes as he's overwhelmed by people attempting to do him harm. I mean, this is -- this is -- this is just -- this is insane. And the trauma that we all got to watch, you know, play out on TV, I'm a social worker.
NNAMDIWell, Christina, you point out something that a few reporters did yesterday. And those of us who live here, who've been receiving phone calls from relatives and friends all over the country, understand that this is a city where there are 700,000 or so residents who live in the neighborhoods in the city who all saw what was going on yesterday, and it felt like an invasion, not just of the U.S. Capitol, but an invasion of our city. So, that feeling of violation was widely shared. But thank you very much for your call. Here's Tom in Silver Spring, Maryland. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMHi. Thank you, Kojo, and thank you to all the guests. I'm a white person who grew up in South Texas. And I can say that everything that we've been seeing yesterday and over the last several years with what seemed like radicalized, you know, crazy terrorists, they're the edge of a spear, but it's a big spear. White racism goes very deep. There were a lot of Confederate flags in windshields on cars in my high school parking lot. There were a lot of discussions.
TOMAnd it's not just, you know, folks that didn't graduate from high school. This goes up to very educated people, professionals all across the country. We should not underestimate how much sympathy there probably is for the folks who did what they did yesterday, which, obviously, I think all of them should've been arrested, all of them should've been arrested. And we should take very, very seriously the fact that the police officers -- many of whom were very brave and all of whom were in danger -- there is video available on Twitter, it's real, of police officers who were not being pushed or attacked, moving barricades to let protesters onto the Capitol grounds.
TOMI've also seen at least one photograph of a police officer taking a selfie with one of these insurrectionists inside the Capitol building. So, there is also, and I think this is really important, there's racism in the police force, not just here, but everywhere. And that needs to be addressed. Thank you.
NNAMDIWell, in terms of what Tom has just pointed out, Greg Carr, Malcolm X was fond of saying that the study of history is the most rewarding of all. What does history tell us about what we saw yesterday?
CARRWell, history tells us, I think, simply put, that this country was founded on the coddling of enslavement and on the dispossession of Native Americans and their land. And since then, it has been struggling to overcome that birth defect. So, what we saw yesterday, and to Tom's point, what we saw yesterday is an extension of that struggle. Until we expand the definition of human in this country -- beyond even the legal definition of citizen -- we're going to see these kinds of things repeated.
CARRAnd, you know, just very quickly, that image of that black police officer, Capitol officer -- which, of course, is a rare thing to see a nonwhite officer in that rank -- climbing those steps. Am I going to use my baton now? No, I better stop. And then when he gets to the three other white officers on that higher floor, you watch him. He hesitates, because he has now got to determine, are you all with them or are you with me? And only when they advance toward the people chasing him, does he join them. But there is a moment when he even passes them, like, wait a minute. And I think that is probably as powerful a metaphor for what happened yesterday as anything that I've seen so far.
NNAMDINee Nee Taylor, local officials asked residents and counter-protesters to stay away and, indeed, we didn't see many, if any, counter-protesters yesterday. Was there any discussion among local Black Lives Matter activists and if pro-Trump extremists continue to take to the streets, do you think more counter-protesters might feel compelled to come out?
TAYLORFirst, I want to be clear that Black Lives Matter D.C. made the statement and demand first to Mayor Bowser and city officials, hotels and businesses to have black and brown people stay home. And we gave them receipts (sounds like) of what is being said. And so, then Mayor Bowser made the statement of asking people to stay home.
TAYLORSo, I want to clarify that first, that before Mayor Bowser made that statement, Black Lives Matter D.C. had put out a press statement on December the 30th, before the mayor, that could've kept D.C. safe, and she could've defended D.C. If those forcible demands would have been met, D.C. would've been safer than what it was yesterday.
TAYLORAnd then I would say that this work is continuous. These white supremacists and terrorists, which you all want to call, are not going nowhere, because their American pie has been dismantled. And so, therefore, after October -- after January the 20th, we have to do the work, because they're going to come back to D.C., which is not a state. And then, therefore, now you're talking about you are invading our city, and you're invading and threatening our residents. So, therefore, we will, we will still organize to keep D.C. safe.
TAYLORSo, yes, after the 20th it won't stop with Biden, not for black people, period. So, be clear that, yeah, we will be organizing, but we're not organizing before inauguration. That's not going to save black and brown people. We're organizing to build black liberation and empowerment of black people.
NNAMDIDana Fisher, Twitter didn't allow users to retweet or like Trump's tweet of support for the rioters. And Twitter has since forced the president to delete those tweets. And now it's my understanding that Facebook has banned Donald Trump entirely. What responsibility do social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have in instances like this? And how, more broadly, have protesters used social media as a tool over the years?
FISHERWell, protesters originally took to social media because it was a way of distributing a narrative and messages in frames about events, which was unmediated and would go out to supporters, and you could reach a broader audience. Unfortunately, what we're seeing is that the president has chosen to go through these more direct channels to reach, you know, his followers, many of whom are white supremacists, many of whom he spoke directly to via social media yesterday, as well as before that.
FISHERWe saw that during, you know, the debates, when he told the Proud Boys to stand by. So, social media plays a very big role in defusing this kind of information and amplifying misinformation, which we've seen through the entirety of the Trump administration, all four years. So, I imagine that these companies are going to need to think about the role that they're playing in the kinds of echo chambers that are being developed and the ways that these unacceptable behaviors are being supported and, you know, encouraged through their media.
NNAMDII think I'll give Nasheva in Southwest D.C. the last word, because Nasheva wants to talk about some people we haven't heard a lot about during these events. Nasheva, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NASHEVAThank you for taking my call. Huge fan. I just wanted to talk about what would've happened if these terrorist insurrectionists were even more successful and did make contact with, not just members of Congress or congressional staff, but Capitol staff, people who were just going in there to do their job? And what would they have gained besides overturning the results? Because we think about the fact that D.C. wasn't the only city to see action from Trump supporters, and that we have incidents of the past couple months of congressional elected officials having their lives endangered is something that I think should be on everyone's mind.
NASHEVAAnd lastly, how will folks be protected, moving forward? And by folks, I mean, mostly the nonwhite people who work in the Capitol and they're just trying to get their jobs done. And most of them are not direct hires. Many of them are contractors, so they may not have as much protection. And how they're thinking about this moving forward.
NNAMDI(overlapping) The people who clean the buildings, the people who provide food service, all of those people who are residents, if not of the city, of this region. Thank you for mentioning them, but I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Greg Carr, Dana Fisher and Nee Nee Taylor, thank you all for joining us.
NNAMDIToday's segment on events at the Capitol had production help from the entire Kojo Show team. Coming up tomorrow on The Politics Hour, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joins us to talk about the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol and what he's expecting between now and when President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation's next president. Plus, we'll discuss local and federal law enforcement's response to yesterday's events. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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