On August 25, 2020, people took to the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by local police officers. That evening, an Illinois teenager named Kyle Rittenhouse who, he claims, had come to Kenosha armed with an AR-15 assault rifle to help defend private property, was confronted at a car dealership and ended up shooting and killing a local man named Joseph Rosenbaum. Others, seeing the shooting, tried to confront Rittenhouse, and he shot and killed Anthony Huber, shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, and fired more shots at those seeking to intervene in the violence. Rittenhouse, seeing police cars ahead, raised his hands in surrender and walked toward them as the police drove right past him without incident. He then got in his car and drove home, before peacefully turning himself in to police in Illinois the next day.
The right-wing in America, particularly 2nd amendment absolutists and racists who denounce the movement against systemic racism in policing, immediately lept to Rittenhouse’s defense, declaring him a hero who acted in self-defense and raising money to pay for his legal costs. Rittenhouse and his family created merchandise celebrating him, selling it online to his supporters. The President of The United States, asked about the shootings, said
“He was trying to get away from them, I guess … and he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. He was in very big trouble. He probably would’ve been killed, but it’s under investigation.”
Three days after Rittenhouse surrendered, on August 29, a Trumpist coalition of right-wing extremists undertook what became one of the symbols of the summer of 2020 in America, a “Trump Cruise Rally”, creating a critical mass of cars and trucks on the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon. In the aftermath of the “cruise,” Aaron Danielson, a member of the extreme right-wing group Patriots Prayer, engaged in a confrontation with Michael Reinoehl, an anti-fascist activist. During the confrontation, Reinoehl shot and killed Danielson and escaped on foot. Reinoehl was interviewed about the confrontation, where he also claimed self-defense.
The President of The United States took to Twitter to say:
“Why aren’t the Portland Police ARRESTING the cold blooded killer of Aaron ‘Jay’ Danielson. Do your job, and do it fast. Everybody knows who this thug is. No wonder Portland is going to hell! @TheJustice Dept @FBI”
While evading arrest, Reinoehl told Vice Magazine:
“They’re out hunting me. There’s nightly posts of the hunt and where they’re going to be hunting. They made a post saying the deer are going to feel lucky this year because it’s open season on Michael right now.” He had not turned himself in, he said, because he believed right-wing protesters were collaborating with police, who will not protect him or his family.
On September 3, US Marshals and the FBI confronted Reinoehl, and he was shot and killed. Speaking about Reinoehl’s death, The President of The United States implied that law enforcement had engaged in the extrajudicial murder of Reinoehl, saying at a political rally in North Carolina:
“We sent in the US Marshals. It took 15 minutes (and) it was over. They knew who he was; they didn’t want to arrest him, and in 15 minutes that ended…The US Marshals went in to get him, and in a short period of time — they ended in a gunfight. This guy was a violent criminal, and I will tell you something: That’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.”
On April 17, 2020, The President of The United States, reportedly unhappy with the criticism he faced from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Governors of other states for not coordinating a federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic (which left states to manage the crisis in a patchwork of local regulations, shortages of equipment, and no Federal plan) wrote on Twitter:
On April 30, heavily armed activists entered the state Capitol in Lansing, to confront state Capitol police and intimidate lawmakers from enacting COVID-19 public health requirements. On May 1, The President of the United States wrote:
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
On the night of October 7, a group of men were arrested by the FBI for participating in an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer at her vacation home. Newsweek reported
“The FBI charging document said “[s]everal members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor” and they discussed overthrowing state governments “that they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution.”
In response to this terrorist plot against the Governor, The President of The United States wrote on Twitter:
“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She has locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities. The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan. My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced…today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist– while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities…”
I’ll leave it there.
Yesterday, at a political rally that sought to protest the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden, The President of The United States spent two hours wallowing in the slop of his imagined grievances, using unambiguous language to tell his supporters to march on the United States Capitol, and promising to join them there to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. He then retreated to the comfort of the White House to watch them invade and ransack the Capitol.
Capitol police then ceded the building without much resistance, with right-wing extremist seditionists given the run of the building. Questions are being asked about how this was allowed to happen– how the police, who have used overwhelming force against peaceful protests in support of black lives did not use equivalent force to defend the Congress of The United States.
At the same time, the right-wing Trumpist disinformation machine kicked into gear, with Representative Matt Gaetz taking to the floor of the House of Representatives in the aftermath of this historic, tragic day to parrot Fox News commentators, blaming the storming of the building on “left-wing agitators” and “antifa” who they claimed, in a piece of propaganda so embarrassingly, transparently, odiously false that Joesph Goebbels would likely blush, had infiltrated the protest.
Simultaneously, longtime right-wing extremists proved this to be a lie, using social media to crow about their actions, posting photos and videos, and threatening police on camera that they will be back, they will be armed, and that “traitors get the rope.” They proved their seriousness by erecting a gallows on Federal property.
Perhaps not surprisingly, not only were these traitors allowed to terrorize Congress and debase the security of our nation while police were unable to contain them (even taking selfies with the criminals who were in the act of terrorizing our elected officials), they were allowed— like Kyle Rittenhouse before them, like the heavily armed Michigan extremists who stormed the state Capitol in April– they were allowed to walk away.
52 arrests yesterday despite thousands of Trumpists overwhelming Congressional security at the behest of the President of The United States. Congressmen like Matt Gaetz using this criminal action to dunk on legitimate concerns of police violence (to a round of applause from his collaborators) and spread disinformation, people like Senator Josh Hawley so smitten with themselves and their own, smug misunderstanding of the law, they refuse to stand down when their baseless objections (and raised fist of support) have inspired violent insurrection. Over 100 Congressmen returned to the chamber after it had been sacked, and doubled down on the President’s lies. And The President of The United States, in the relentless, bottomless service of his psychopathic ego, writing on Twitter
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever.”
It is impossible not to look across the past few months– at the disproportionate violence elevated against the left, against peaceful protestors denouncing police violence, at evidence of police collaboration with right-wing extremists, at the President leveraging the power of Federal law enforcement to extrajudicially kill a wanted man and calling it “retribution”, to his inspiration of an armed insurrection at the Michigan State Capitol and the plot to kidnap and potentially murder a sitting Democratic Governor, to his constant defense of white supremacist terrorists (from Charlottesville to his debate comment to the Proud Boys to “stand by and stand back”) to his direct instructions, after weeks of planning and promotion, that his supporters attack the Capitol– and not see the philosophical consistency behind these injustices.
Yesterday, lawmakers, the leaders of our nation, were forced to huddle under their desks, call their loved ones to tell them goodbye, and were terrorized by the President’s supporters. Guns were drawn by security forces, doors were barricaded. Confederate flags were waved in the nation’s Capitol. Offices were raided by men and women who, their smiles underscoring their absolute awareness of the impunity they had been given after months of direct support from the most powerful man in the world, taunted the Speaker of The House, pillaged the symbols of our Democracy, and they were allowed to walk away.
Much has been made about the judgements that have been passed on Trumpists, with hand-wringing and self-reflection an absolute one-way street by those who have tried to understand it. But now, are there really any questions? We’ve known it all along. Those that embrace the disinformation of the right, be it an avowed right-wing extremist or your parents or the neighbors next door, have embraced and made common cause with fascism. Reasons do not matter; you don’t get to stand alongside fascists, apologize for fascism and terror, argue the finer points of fascist disinformation or vandalize the seat of our Democracy arm in arm with a dude wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt and still get to pretend you’re a decent, freedom loving, mom and pop yokel who just wants lower taxes and the brown people to quiet down.
Our collective democratic power and institutions– from local law enforcement and extremist police unions to the Department of Justice to the office of the President– has been bent to the service of a radical, white nationalist mob. Yesterday, acting on and making common cause with the psychopathic delusions of a failed President, they were allowed to vandalize that democracy, mock us, and they walked away from the scene of the crime because law enforcement refused to enforce the law.
There is a double system in America now, one for you and me, and one for white nationalists. One for people of color and their allies, and one for Roger Stone and Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn. Trumpists are cleared for criminal service of the fascist President’s will, and the rest of us get to eat shit as justice is leveraged as a political weapon.
Yesterday, members of Congress were forced to live in the reality that we have all been living in for four years while they enabled this enduring nightmare. They got to experience their own police force allowing them to be terrorized, they got to see their property destroyed, their workplaces torn apart by insanity. The flags of Trumpism waving in their faces, the shit eating grins of those who want only to see their humiliation. And yet, despite a few reversals, many of them chose, in the aftermath of the worst day at the Capitol in centuries, to continue to make common cause with the man who unleashed this humiliation. To object to the obviously free and fair election of Joe Biden, to continue to divide the nation through disinformation about a non-existent conspiracy.
Congress and the incoming Department of Justice must stand up for the nation, remove the President, and see that every last one of the people who set foot in the Capitol yesterday is held to account. We aren’t facing down the beginning of a years long battle against white supremacist terror– we’re in the middle of one. And we must prevail.