September 25, 2021

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What Are Your Reactions to the Storming of the Capitol by a Pro-Trump Mob?

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Please keep in mind that this forum is for teenagers only. While there are many places on for adults to comment, this is the only dedicated spot for the voices of young people.

Update, Jan. 7: If you would like more background before commenting, you might also read “As House Was Breached, a Fear ‘We’d Have to Fight’ to Get Out” or listen to “An Assault on the Capitol,” the Jan. 7 episode of The Daily.

On Jan. 6, as President Trump’s allies in Congress began an effort to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, Mr. Trump gave a speech encouraging his supporters to march to the Capitol. You probably already know what happened next.

Though this news is still developing as we publish this piece, we invite you to tell us what you saw, felt, noticed and wondered as you watched or heard about this news. Did you scroll through images and videos on social media? Which ones stuck out to you? What emotions did you experience? Whom did you text? What did you say?

What do you think these events say about the strength and durability of American democracy?

In “A Mob and the Breach of Democracy: The Violent End of the Trump Era,” Peter Baker writes:

WASHINGTON — So this is how it ends. The presidency of Donald John Trump, rooted from the beginning in anger, division and conspiracy-mongering, comes to a close with a violent mob storming the Capitol at the instigation of a defeated leader trying to hang onto power as if America were just another authoritarian nation.

The scenes in Washington would have once been unimaginable: A rampage through the citadel of American democracy. Police officers brandishing guns in an armed standoff to defend the House chamber. Tear gas deployed in the Rotunda. Lawmakers in hiding. Extremists standing in the vice president’s spot on the Senate dais and sitting at the desk of the speaker of the House.

The words used to describe it were equally alarming: Coup. Insurrection. Sedition. Suddenly the United States was being compared to a “banana republic” and receiving messages of concern from other capitals. “American carnage,” it turned out, was not what President Trump would stop, as he promised upon taking office, but what he wound up delivering four years later to the very building where he took the oath.

The convulsion in Washington capped 1,448 days of Twitter storms, provocations, race-baiting, busted norms, shock-jock governance and truth-bending from the Oval Office that have left the country more polarized than in generations. Those who warned of worst-case scenarios only to be dismissed as alarmists found some of their darkest fears realized. By day’s end, even some Republicans suggested removing Mr. Trump under the 25th Amendment rather than wait two weeks for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The article continues:

While Washington has seen many protests over the years, including some that turned violent, the uprising on Wednesday was unlike anything that the capital has seen during a transition of power in modern times, literally interrupting the constitutional acceptance of Mr. Biden’s election victory. Mr. Trump all but egged them on during a “Save America March” on the Ellipse south of the White House just as Congress was convening to validate Mr. Biden’s election.

“We will never give up,” Mr. Trump had declared. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about.”

It ends with this paragraph:

With Mr. Pence unwilling and unable to stop the count, the president’s supporters made it their mission to do it themselves. And for several hours, they succeeded. But after they were finally cleared out of the Capitol, lawmakers resumed the process of ending the Trump presidency, no matter how much he resists.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What are your reactions to the storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Trump? What questions do you have?

  • What emotions did you experience as you heard about the news? If you saw images or videos, how did they make you feel? What connections, if any, did you make to other events, whether in history or more recently? Did you talk to friends or family members about what the nation was experiencing? What did you say?

  • In an Opinion piece published on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Nicholas Kristof writes:

Wednesday was a horrifying and shameful moment in American history. I’ve covered attempted coups in many countries around the world, and now I’m finally covering one in the United States.

Mr. Kristof also makes a point that has been raised by other journalists, on social media, and in this Times article: that these Trump supporters were treated less harshly by law enforcement than other groups, especially protesters who are Black or are protesting on behalf of racial justice.

The rioters encountered a minimal police response, not the kind that Black Lives Matter protesters received. Many of those pro-Trump rioters probably dispute the idea of white privilege. But the fact that they were allowed to overrun the police and invade the Senate and House chambers was evidence of that privilege.

What do you think of Mr. Kristof’s observations? Do you agree? Is there a “stark double standard” at play?

  • In your view, what role did Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the election results play in inciting this violence? Do you believe that the willingness of many Republicans in Congress to support his unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election contributed to the violence at the Capitol? What should those Republicans do now?

  • In a brief video posted to his Twitter account shortly after 4 p.m., Mr. Trump repeated his baseless claim that “the election was stolen” and spoke in sympathetic and affectionate terms to members of the mob, advising them to “go home,” adding, “We love you.” Do you think Mr. Trump should have condemned the violence at the Capitol more quickly and forcefully? Do you think that would have made a difference?

  • The 2020 election season has been a stress test for American democracy. Do you think it is holding up? Can a democracy withstand widespread distrust in the election system, even from elected officials within it? Can it withstand a violent uprising? Some are now calling for Mr. Trump to be removed and disqualified for public office to “preserve democracy.” Do you agree?

  • What do you think these events foreshadow about the coming months, or even years? What do you think elected officials and ordinary citizens can do?

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