Before last Wednesday, the Capitol had not been breached since the burning of Washington by the British Army in 1814Flikr/Ted Eyton

Before the 6th January, I had assumed that the Capitol was one of the most secure buildings in the world. Before last Wednesday, that building – the pride and prestige of America and the symbol of its vibrant democracy – had not been breached since the burning of Washington by the British Army in 1814. Before then, the Confederate flag had never been within the walls of the Capitol, not even during the darkest days of the Civil War. But on the 6th of January, America faced probably its biggest security crisis since 9/11. It was, in every sense, unprecedented.

Why was the Capitol not protected from a known threat? How could such a monumental breach have been allowed to occur? This was hardly unexpected; it was foreseeable and foreseen. Large groups of Trump supporters had been vocal about their intentions to descend on the Capitol on the 6th of January in order to prevent the certification of the electoral college, fuelled by debunked conspiracy theories about Vice President Pence’s ability to overturn the results. During Black Lives Matter protests last summer, the Capitol was surrounded by armed guards for its protection, ready to deploy any degree of violence necessary. Yet, on the 6th of January, in the face of such an egregious and planned act of domestic terrorism, mistake after mistake was made.

“Why was the Capitol not protected from a known threat?”

No comparison can be drawn between the acts of terrorism that occurred on Wednesday and the protests of last summer. However, an acknowledgement of the racial double standards at play must be made. Nothing embodies ‘white privilege’ more than the entitlement and audacity to waltz into the Capitol building, to sit in Nancy Pelosi’s chair, and to steal her property. Biden himself acknowledged this, commenting that “no one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol”. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that law enforcement officials in the District of Columbia were more willing to use force in order to secure a photo op for Trump outside St John’s Church than they were to protect the very symbol of American democracy from attack.

Alongside hypocrisy from American law enforcement, there is a similar double standard implicit in the behaviour of the Trump supporters who marched upon the Capitol. Last summer, fanatical support of the police was a defining characteristic of Trumpism. Slogans like ‘Back the Blue’ and ‘Blue Lives Matter’ were utilised in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump supporters fought to defend America’s police force from accusations of racism and brutality. They rallied around images of police officers injured in the line of duty and proclaimed a deep affinity with America’s police.

“It was never ‘Blue Lives’ that mattered to Trump’s base. It was the preservation of white supremacy.”

The least orderly episode in recent decades of American history was initiated by Trump and the Republican Party. Five people were killed in the insurrection by seditionists, and one of them was a police officer; Brian Sicknick was struck over the head with a fire extinguisher by Trump’s most fervent supporters. ‘Blue Lives Matter’ was, for the most part, a dog-whistle. It was never ‘Blue Lives’ that mattered to Trump’s base. It was the preservation of white supremacy.

In his inaugural address four years ago, Trump described the state of the nation, after eight years of Obama, as “American carnage”. George W. Bush, sitting in the audience, allegedly watched the speech in horror; “that was some weird shit”, he whispered to Hillary Clinton. Far from making America great again, Trump has brought about his vision of American carnage; the shit that Bush saw in 2017 has only become weirder. Trump incited his supporters to sack the Capitol, to put right the “theft” of the election. Rudy Giuliani urged for “trial by combat”. Trump told them – the killers of Brian Sicknick – that they were “very special” and, according to those present, was “borderline enthusiastic” as he watched events unfold.


Mountain View

Storming the Capitol: the view from Ancient Rome

Much of the Republican Party – Trump’s supine enablers for four years – was complicit in the violence. If the likes of Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Kevin McCarthy had been upfront with the American public about the fact that Trump lost the election, this never would have happened. None of this was unpredictable; none of this should come as a surprise. What the world witnessed in horror on the 6th of January – the disintegration of ‘law and order’ and the killing of a police officer – was the natural conclusion of Trumpism.