By Kezia Dickson
On January 6, 2021, angry supporters of President Trump stormed the United States Capitol in protest against the certification of former Vice President Joe Biden’s election victory by the United States Congress. President Trump’s supporters attacked the capital in an attempt to overturn the election results. The riot resulted in broken glass, busted doors with graffiti, and stolen federal property, one of which included Speaker Pelosi’s lectern.
As a result of the horrific actions taken by the rioters, according to a press release from the Department of Justice, 14 individuals have been federally charged and approximately 40 other individuals have been charged in Superior Court. Some of the crimes that these individuals have been charged with include destruction of federal property, unlawful entry, and firearms related crimes. However, there is potential for the charges to include murder after U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died January 7th due to injuries sustained from fighting off the rioters.
The events that occurred Wednesday afternoon could have easily been avoided. If the President of the United States accepted the election results and stopped making baseless accusations surrounding voter fraud, his supporters would be able to move on and accept the election results. The actions that were witnessed on Wednesday were fueled by the President’s rhetoric and select members of the GOP. Hours prior to the riot, President Trump spoke at the “March to Save America” rally in which he told his supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
President Trump’s words did not just damage the US Capitol, but damaged the U.S reputation on the global stage. World leaders have responded to the riots with most expressing shock, disappointment, and horror. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson remarked the day after the protest, “On the United States and the election, I want to say that all my life America has stood for some very important things — an idea of freedom and an idea of democracy. And … so far as [the President] encouraged people to storm the Capitol and insofar as the President has consistently cast doubt on the outcome of a free and fair election, I believe that that was completely wrong.” Swedish Prime Minister Löfven went a step further by directly calling out President Trump and other members of Congress. He tweeted, “This is an assault on democracy. President Trump and several members of Congress bear substantial responsibility for developments. The democractic election process must be respected.” More of the United States allies such as Prime Minister Angela Merekel, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister Naredndra Modi, and others have continued to condemn the actions of the rioters.
The international policy community’s response was not constrained to US allies, but to US adversaries who have used the riots to give ammunition to their argument on the weaknesses of western democracies. “What happened in the US shows how fragile Western democracy is,” said President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. “Despite all their scientific and industrial achievements, we see a huge influence of populism. When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates troubles for the world.” Iran was not the only country to share such sentiments. While Russian President Vladmir Putin has remained silent on the riots, his spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, stated, “The electoral system in the United States is archaic, it does not meet modern democratic standards, creating opportunities for numerous violations, and the American media have become an instrument of political struggle.”
All over social media, individuals from the international grassroots community have additionally shared tweets expressing how America is no longer seen as the beacon of democracy. In an NBC interview, individuals in France were asked about their reaction to events. One citizen expressed, “Kind of shocking when they’re the center of democracy.” One citizen from England remarked that the riots were, “outrageous, absolutely disgusting,” while another expressed, “that’s what happens when you have an idiot for president.” It becomes increasingly difficult for America to continue to occupy their position as a beacon of democracy when individuals around the world question the sanctity of its democratic institutions. Even more, images of citizens running over capitol police and occupying the capitol building projects an image of weakness.
This past summer, the US reputation stood in question as the world came together to protest the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died from having his air ciculation cut off from a white police officer’s knee on his neck. George Floyd’s death exposed America’s growing police brutality issue. For the first time in a long time, people began to question if America had not just a police brutality problem, but a racism problem. This racism problem was further substantiated to some people when contrasting the way police officers treated Black Lives Matter Protests in comparison to Trump supporters. This contrast continues to further divide an already divided nation.
The damage that has been done to the United States’s reputation is one so immense that there is no telling of how long before the country returns to its original standing. There is still the potential that as the country works to regain its respect on the world stage, its allies and adversaries will pull further in their international standing. The biggest challenge that President-elect Biden will have to face is healing a wounded country in which half of the country is not ready to heal. Rioters held signs such as “We will never concede to election treason.” This challenge will only increasingly become more difficult to solve as the US struggles to control the Covid-19 pandemic and repair a struggling US economy.
One thing that has become clear over the last couple of days is that President Trump has cemented his place in American History. Whether one despises President Trump or one adores him, he will be remembered. In American History, there are Presidents in which students skip because they either did nothing remarkable during their presidency and neither anything remarkable in history happened during their time. President Trump will not be skipped. What will be his defining legacy is hard to say for now considering the many climatic moments that he has given us. But, as an individual who is self-infatuated, President Trump has achieved what he came into the White House to do: everyone will know who he is. As a result of him achieving his mission, America is left to clean up the damage that he has left and salvage whatever there is left of its reputation.