An Attack on Democracy

The Capitol riots, compared with Black Lives Matter protests and Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision


Martin Luther King Jr. stood for peaceful protesting. The riots in the Capitol differ sharply from his view. “There is for sure a lot to compare about the BLM summer protests to the riot in the Capitol,” Avery White said. “It’s horrible that the rioters were called protesters for so long instead of terrorists.” Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

As a result of the Capitol riots, many Americans are appalled at the current state of our democracy. On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, a violent mob attacked the Capitol on a scale that has never been seen before from American forces. The right wing rioters, according to a Washington Post article published on Jan. 7, 2021, climbed up the stairs to the Capitol building waving flags and Trump signs, and forced their way in. They smashed windows and flooded into the chambers of Congress and the offices of staff. There had been a session of Congress going on that was in the middle of affirming Joe Biden’s election victory. They later finished and affirmed it. The senators took off their IDs and fled into secret rooms. 

“What happened was a horrible tragedy,” sophomore Avery White said. “I truly think that this wouldn’t have happened without Donald Trump’s inciting tweets.”

The president repeatedly disclaimed the election results, which was the reason that the rioters stormed the Capitol. He then tweeted to the rioters, “Go home, we love you, you are very special,” which was not the response many Americans wanted. Twitter permanently banned the president, along with many other social media platforms.

“Everyone has the right to say what they want, however, we should be aware of how people can abuse this to ignite anger in others and spark hatred for groups of people,” White said.

The police’s response to the right-wing rioters has been compared to the Black Lives Matter(BLM) protests from the past year.

Most protests for BLM were to raise awareness for the violence that Black people face from cops, including hundreds of murders in recent years. Even peaceful protests for BLM were met with hostile police officers, tear gas, and rubber bullets. However, the recent riot on the capitol was met with a completely different response. There was no tear gas, and no rubber bullets. Police officers and guards were seen taking selfies with the people storming in, despite them also attacking cops,” White said.

In the Capitol riots, five people died. One of them was a police officer, and another was a woman of the mob shot by the police. 

While I don’t agree with the riots that did happen with BLM, the media seemed to only portray them as violent, focusing on the few riots compared to the multitude of peaceful protests that also received brutality. It raises the question: if the people at the recent riot were mainly minorities, would there have been the same response? I truly don’t think so,” White said.

Martin Luther King Day soon followed these riots. Dr. King is iconic for peaceful protests, a stark contrast to what happened at the Capitol. 

“People have the right to peacefully protest in hopes of raising awareness for injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. led many peaceful protests that we should all look up to and use as examples,” White said. 

According to the BBC on Jan. 12, 2021, 70 people have been charged for storming the Capitol. Further investigations are going on, including finding the person who brought the Confederate flag into the building, its first presence ever.

“It’s difficult to say how we can prevent this from happening again, but I think we should look into regulating false statements more accurately. I think that if we ever have another president who refuses to acknowledge his loss and keeps encouraging things like this, there should be tighter regulations on what he’s allowed to say online and to the public about that specific matter, while also trying to preserve the country’s right of free speech,” White said. 

Many are shaken by these events, but Martin Luther King Day may be a convenient time to remember the true ideals of American democracy. As Dr. King said in his book Strength to Love, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”