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January 12, 2021

America’s week of shame

Opinion

January 12, 2021

Throughout its history and certainly in modern times, the US has been through many crises – including some resulting in significant violence and unrest; from the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 60s and 70s to the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. However, through it all there has never been any doubt about the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

This started to change when following the presidential election of last November, President Trump refused to accept the results and commit to a peaceful transition. Using the vast reach of his Twitter account, he announced the election was totally rigged – without providing any evidence. All lawsuits brought by his campaign were dismissed and election results were certified by all fifty states in mid-December as required by law.

Yet Trump continued to tell millions of his followers that the results were fraudulent. He even resorted to pressuring governors of states and election officials. “you just need to find me 11,780 votes…” he told the chief election official of Georgia. Most likely an unlawful act.

He then put pressure on his VP Mike Pence to reverse the electoral votes in Trump's favor on January 6 when Congress was to meet to certify the results; something the VP doesn’t have the authority to do.

Trump had invited his followers to come to DC on January 6 and protest against Joe Biden's victory. “It's going to be wild”, the president had tweeted. Addressing them he said their country was being stolen from them and they needed to do something. Trump exhorted the crowd to go to Capitol Hill and pressure Congress to overturn the results. “You will not take your country back by being weak. You need to be strong”. His lawyer Giuliani further added let's “have trial by combat”. Trump’s supporters knew exactly what they were being asked to do.

This was an American president inciting his followers to violence in pursuit of his own political gain.

Thousands marched onto Capitol Hill and pushed their way in. Security presence at the Capitol building, often called the “heart of American democracy”, turned out to be completely inadequate. Security personnel panicked and quickly escorted members to a secure location. Some were not able to evacuate before the rioters were banging on the doors of the chambers. Rioters were looking for Speaker Pelosi and VP Pence. Even a noose was set up on the Capitol Hill grounds to hang someone. It took hours for security reinforcements to arrive. The rioters smashed windows and trashed offices.

This most powerful country in the world came within minutes of a massacre of its elected representatives. Five people were killed in the attack including one member of the Capitol Police. Still, the elected representatives returned in a few hours and certified the results making Biden's victory official.

Shockingly, as the riot was going on, Trump tweeted “…these are the things that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so viciously stripped away”, justifying violent anti-state acts of a riotous mob.

With just a few days remaining in his term, the country is wondering if Trump can be left in this powerful position even for a day. Twitter and Facebook have permanently suspended his accounts citing potential for violence. A man not fit to have a Twitter account has access to the country’s nuclear codes!

In these darkest of days for the country, one can take solace from the fact that rule of law held. Peaceful transition of power will take place on January 20. However, dealing with the evil forces unleashed by Trump may take a long time.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC.

Website: www.sqshareef.com/blogs