By: Charlotte Baer and Ruth Witmer
On January 6, the House and Senate met in a joint session to certify the results of the election. Generally, these proceedings are simply a formality, but with the bombardment of misinformation about the election and rumors of countless Senate and House objections, that was not the case. At approximately 2:15pm a group of pro-Trump rioters breached Capitol security and began to try and break into chambers and damage property. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were quickly evacuated. Over the next hour, other members of Congress were taken to various secure locations, oftentimes changing directions if security believed there were protestors nearby. At the turn of every corner, Congress members feared the sight of an armed rioter. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who was included in a small group of House Republicans who announced it would not challenge the presidential election results prior to January 6, said he had “not seen anything like this since I deployed to Iraq.” The insurrectionists brandished flags of all types, including Trump flags, Confederate flags, and “Don’t tread on me” flags. Aides and other Capitol workers were left barricading doors with furniture and hiding under desks. Eventually D.C. Police and the National Guard were able to get things under control and secure the Capitol building. The attack left 5 dead and significant damage to Congress and the Capitol, both physically and emotionally. After a nearly 6-hour ordeal many questions remain. Who/what prompted this attack? How were they able to breach Capitol security? Why were there so few arrests? Immediately the public looked to President Trump. For months he has been making baseless claims that the election was rigged and that rampant voter fraud had cost him the election. These claims have been debunked repeatedly and thrown out in almost every court even going to the Supreme Court. Trump’s words after the election were not his first attempt to undermine democratic institutions. From the very start of his presidency Trump has spewed criticism towards the free press calling it the “fake news” and even eventually ended the White House daily press briefings. Because of these claims, Trump has become the first ever President to be impeached twice and is set to face a Senate trial in the upcoming weeks. The most important thing, however, is that our democracy survived. And the perfect testament to that came 14 days later, where in the same place, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America. The ceremony looked very different this year. None of the general public was able to attend the event due to safety concerns, and the seats of the people who did attend were socially distant. However, the ceremony seemed to carry the same weight, the same message of unifying the country and looking ahead to the next four years. Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman vice president and the first black and Asian vice president. Other speakers made history as well, notably Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate. She recited a powerful poem that couldn’t have summed up the occasion better. The remnants of the riot still haunted the Capitol. Emily Cochrane from The New York Times said on the matter while reporting the inauguration “There’s a pain in the door that’s still broken from January 6. You can see the spider cracks in the glass from where I am across the room.” The radicalism that led to this attack is not erased from America. There is hope for change, but unity is not as simple as a speech or an executive order. We have work to do.