Agadir – Pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building while a session of Congress was held to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday. The result was unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of US “democracy.”
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress and the seat of one of two chambers of the legislative branch of the US federal government.
For months, President Donald Trump has turned to social media to question and disparage the results of the US elections, claiming voter fraud and an early victory. Now as violence unravels, the Associate Press headlined how “Trump’s false claims,” provided “fuel on a day of chaos.”
Amidst the chaos, uncertainty and misinformation, the media appears to not be sure what to frame current events that diverge from the expected norm. Some reporters are calling it a coup attempt, while some say that the “siege on US Capitol [is the result] of a fragile democracy.”
Whatever might be the best description of events, all eyes are on the United States right now.
Behind the scenes
Trump is known for his incendiary rhetoric. A former reality-television-star-turned-president, he is no stranger to controversy. Given a free reign over social media over the past four years, it came as a surprise when both Twitter and Facebook locked the US president out of his account for 24 hours.
Twitter said it required the removal of three tweets for “severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy.”
Both in his speeches, and the since-deleted tweets, President Trump encouraged the protesters, claiming that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The protesters descending upon the Capitol Building posed for photos in the halls, the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as the seat that Vice President Mike Pence had occupied only moments earlier.
Trump’s presidency has been marred in controversy, and Joe Biden’s election victory has been received with mixed feelings, with many observers citing potential corruption, and the end of “America first” policy. Some fear that this a return to a more traditional and aggressive form of diplomacy, masked by a milder public appearance as seen in the eight years of the administration of Barack Obama.
Are these the signs of diminishing trust in the Western conception of Democracy? The US is not the only Western nation to experience growing tensions between the government and the people. In August 2020, angry protesters stormed the German parliament in Berlin, during anti-COVID-19 demonstrations.
Violence in the Capitol
The elected US representatives present in the capitol building had to hide under desks and wear gas masks, as the police attempted to barricade the building.
The assault on the government building left four people dead, one woman was shot by Capitol Police while three other people died of medical emergencies during the protest.
Robert Contee, the acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. said that the police had made at least 52 arrests. Four of the arrests were for possession of firearms without a license. The chief also confirmed the seizure of pipe bombs and molotov cocktails on the Capitol grounds.
Heavily armed officers and their reinforcements used tear gas, flash-bangs, and percussion grenades to control and disperse the crowds.
In the aftermath of the violence President-elect Joe Biden announced that “our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times… an assault on the rule of law.”
The United States, a self-styled bastion of democracy, now appears to have become a victim of the same type of corrosive violence and unrest that it has attempted to export world-wide in nations that it disagrees with, such as Venezuela and Iran.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has long been seen as a regime change arm of the US government. Acting openly in the name of “democracy”, the NED funds various organizations and initiatives in Ukraine, Belarus, Hong Kong, and other centers of “revolutionary” unrest. Now the US government faces the same type of unrest that it encourages and protects as part of its foreign policy.
The US is under ever increasing scrutiny for its human rights violations. Between their drone program, punitive unilateral sanctions, their aggressive foreign policy, and their inhumane treatment of irregular migrants, the “freedom and democracy” offered by the US appears to be rapidly losing its appeal.
According to a study, the United States performed at least 81 known interventions in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. In a more global and historic context the violence that that came down upon the US Capitol Building on Wednesday is insignificant. Yet after one evening of violent clashes, US politicians from both sides are in shock.
Muriel E. Bowser, Mayor of Washington, a Democratic representative said that this was “an unprecedented attack on our American democracy incited by the United States president.”
Ben Sasse, a Republican representative for Nebraska said that “today, the United States Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of self-government was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard.”
The chaos in the 2020 US election and the current standoff regarding its results appear to have removed much of the mystique about American democracy. Many observers have succinctly pointed out that the US cannot point fingers at others, when their own backyard is a mess. Chaos on the streets of Washington further exemplifies that the US has lost much of its authority as some sort of “world police”, as its history shows that the US often instigates more conflict than it resolves.