The details are scary, but not surprising to some of us.
Capitol Police intelligence officers had warnings as early as Dec. 21 of what was going to happen on Jan. 6 at the Capitol: Pro-Trump protesters were planning to “bring guns” and other weapons to confront the police — the “blue” that conservatives swear they “back.” Lawmakers were in danger of being trapped and harmed while doing the job they were elected to do, certifying the election of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (though quite a few Republicans shamefully failed even that routine task post-insurrection). Conspirators giddily shared maps and discussed entry points.
A few Capitol Police command officers did get some information, which they failed to share widely. According to the department’s statement: “Neither the USCP, nor the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Metropolitan Police or our other law enforcement partners knew thousands of rioters were planning to attack the U.S. Capitol. The known intelligence simply didn’t support that conclusion.”
Known intelligence? Anyone paying attention to the social media bragging of self-styled “militia” members, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, red-state secession groupies, white supremacists and their ilk could have figured it out. Those swept up in QAnon delusions and Donald Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen election excitedly posted travel plans and loving photos of weaponry, all shiny and ready for action. The dry run of a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a woman was killed, happened in 2017 — and that was over a statue. And just last year, armed Michigan militia members swarmed a state capital and plotted to kidnap a governor.
In preparation for the insurrection, Trump himself issued a pretty vivid invitation, one of several: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” he tweeted on Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!”
No wonder rank-and-file officers felt betrayed.
An appalling failure
Any patriotic American, one who believes in democracy and sane leadership and the U.S. Constitution, should read the joint report from the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees and be appalled at the intelligence and communications failures that led to loss of life, more than a hundred serious injuries and lasting trauma, and at the Confederate flags and racial slurs hurled at law enforcement putting their own lives on the line.
For an American who happens to be a minority, too much looks familiar — the lack of serious accountability for too many perpetrators, the encouragement by irresponsible leaders who see political advantage in stoking resentment, the effort to say, “Nothing to see here,” which means a repeat as sure as night follows day.
Sadly predictable was the planning revealed in a Jan. 5 internal document obtained by CQ Roll Call. Despite all the evidence that members of a mob would be, at Trump’s urging, marching on the Capitol to prevent electoral votes from being counted, despite a Jan. 3 warning that “Congress itself is the target,” the Civil Disturbance Unit of the Capitol Police viewed counterprotesters as the major threat.
It recalls the civil rights protests of the 1960s, when peaceful protesters were considered the “agitators” and were treated accordingly and brutally, while the jeering and violent white crowds got a pass from law enforcement. Heck, my brother was arrested — twice — for sitting in at whites-only diners. Back then, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was the protesters’ enemy. Today’s FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified this year that his agency had not seen “any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th” and has warned that white supremacist violence is the top domestic terror threat.
But old habits die hard. Envisioning and preparing for the dangers of a predominantly white crowd carrying weapons while seeking to “cancel” Black and brown voters from Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia by any means necessary is still a reach for a lot of people in power, especially those who agree with the rioters’ cause.
We know what the mob can do.
And still, not much. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the leaders of the Rules Committee, are expected to propose legislation to give Capitol Police the power to summon the National Guard and to increase the department’s funding.
But Republicans in Congress have blocked a bipartisan commission to answer the questions that remain, paralyzed by the fact that Trump, and more than a few of their own members, might be implicated on paper. The word “insurrection” is nowhere to be seen in the report, which showed little interest in the role of white supremacist groups, many of whose members see Jan. 6 not as a loss but as an opening salvo.
Doing the mob’s work
Using the “big lie” to do in state legislatures what the pro-Trump mob could not, Republicans are using their clout to make it harder for certain Americans to vote — minorities, the poor, students, the disabled, those who work long shifts and can’t wait for hours in line, those who depend on same-day registration and drop boxes. And when those American voters do manage to overcome every obstacle, a partisan observer can harass them, and an appointed official can declare their ballots null and void.
For those arrested for taking part in an insurrection, let’s just say the loudest proponents of taking personal responsibility are spewing excuses that make “the dog ate my homework” look credible. They were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or brainwashed by internet conspiracies. Or they were just following the orders of “Dear Leader.”
Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, prominently pictured roaming the Capitol on Jan. 6, had his mommy defending him and repeating election fraud lies. Does she also cut up the organic food he insisted on being served in jail into little pieces before feeding him by hand?
They feel protected, and why not? They have American history and a political party on their side, ready to put a treasonous insurrection in the rearview mirror. So many don’t think what happened on Jan. 6 will touch them. Worse, many sympathize with those who see a more inclusive America as a threat.
With Trump on his vengeance tour spreading that message, aided and abetted by GOP politicians willing to look the other way, expect the worst.
Minorities and their civil rights may be the first in jeopardy. But don’t be fooled. Those bent on violently undermining democracy won’t stop there. They never do.
Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.