Supporters of President Donald Trump, spurred on by his claims that his loss in the Nov. 3 election was based on fraudulent votes, stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
The breach of the congressional building came as Vice President Mike Pence was overseeing the certification of Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Trump had called on Pence to overturn the election, but the vice president made it clear that wasn’t his role. Just before the protesters stormed the building, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a strong rebuke of President Trump and his claims of election fraud, saying that overturning the election would “damage our republic forever.”
The incredible scene, which included protesters reaching the Senate floor and tear gas being deployed inside the building, played out on television screens and on social media.
President-elect Joseph Biden called it “insurrection,” and called on Trump to “step up” and go on national TV to ask his supporters to stand down and stop “stoking the flames.”
Trump called on his supporters to “go home,” but again doubled down on the election being fraudulent. “You have to go home now. We have to have peace,” he said. “We have to have law and order.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, who represents the Island in Congress, was at the Capitol building at the time, according to his spokesperson Lauren Amendolara McDermott. She wrote that Keating and the staff are safe.
“These domestic terrorists have one goal: to grind our democracy to a halt,” Keating wrote. “They will not be successful. Congress will reconvene to do our jobs.”
Keating, in a followup tweet, called the situation in Washington “embarrassing” and “shameful.”
Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted, “I join with Americans from every corner of the country to condemn the violence unfolding at the Capitol, and President Trump and his supporters must do the same immediately.”
He was joined by other political leaders.
“This unprecedented attack on America is fueled by a Republican Party & President driven by a complete disregard for democracy & a right-wing media fueled by hate,” state Rep. Dylan Fernandes wrote in a tweet. “To save our country, the rest of us must condemn this assault & charge those responsible for this coup attempt.”
Andrew Engelman, a frequent defender of the president in The Times online comments, wrote in an email that he believes there was election fraud, but not enough to overturn the election. He criticized the extent of the protests.
“I am a Trump supporter. There was fraud in the election count, but likely not enough to give a win to Trump. Some states did not follow their own rules as to timing of ballots, signatures and envelopes, and some other rules that have been historically followed. I think Trump should step aside and say no more,” he wrote. “I do not have a problem with Josh Hawley questioning the Electoral College process — this has been done before, famously by Barbara Boxer. No matter which side, voters need to trust the integrity of the system, and the entire voting procedure has degraded. As for the Capitol and lockdown of Congress, I deplore it. There is nothing American about this anarchy. People are frustrated and angry, just as they were for much of the summer, and it was not peaceful protests then, and likely not now. I am against all of it. Trump has told them to be peaceful, but it is obviously not enough. Anarchy on either side is unacceptable. We are a nation of laws.”
In a follow-up email, Engelman wrote that his family knows this kind of terror. “I was in Beirut in 1974 with my wife, and we were stormed in the hotel and in the streets by anarchy. I was in Bangkok in 1976, with rioting in the streets, and my 4-year-old daughter taken from us for about 30 minutes. I was in Czechoslovakia in 1969, right after the Soviets took over that country, and the anarchy was manifest and scary,” he wrote. “I believe we have passed the point of any order in this country due to ideological differences. I even see ‘soft totalitarianism’ when it comes to people’s views of others due to COVID. People no longer can agree to disagree.”
Laurence Tribe, a frequent Island visitor and Harvard professor, tweeted, “Memo to Donald Trump: You were right when you called yourself a ‘schmuck.’ Your ‘remain peaceful’ words ring hollow. At this point, only a full-throated concession can even begin to settle things down. You sowed the wind. Now you must reap the whirlwind. Better still: RESIGN NOW!”
It was several hours into the protest before Trump tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
Jack Fruchtman, a retired constitutional law professor and Aquinnah resident, wrote that Trump is responsible: “The fact is that the situation was self-fulfilling by the president. He has continued to spew lies about voter fraud, and his followers believed him. And now we have this dreadful spectacle. The blame goes to the top.”
Dukes County Commissioner and political activist Keith Chatinover told The Times folks should not be surprised by the actions of protestors who are storming the Capitol. “White supremacist terrorism is a big deal, and it’s very real. It’s nothing new that when white conservatives don’t get what they want as far as electoral politics, they do this,” Chatinover said.
He added that protestors involved in the Black Lives Matter movement were largely demonstrating peacefully, and their objective is based on more than 400 years of systematic oppression, whereas the protestors at the Capitol are “whining about an election they didn’t win, because their choice wasn’t picked.”
The county commission, which was scheduled to meet, canceled the session as a result of the ongoing drama.
Carla Cooper, founder of Indivisible MV and member of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard, said, “Anyone who is shocked by this hasn’t been paying attention.”
“We had a congresswoman, newly elected, at a Trump rally, quoting Adolph Hitler,” she said, referring to a statement made by Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller at a Trump rally in which she attributed a quote to Hitler.
“If we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle,” Miller is heard saying in the footage. “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”
Meanwhile, on Islanders Talk, a number of posts about protestors breaching the Capitol have generated dozens of comments from local residents.
One comment from Steve Pothier read, “Wait, didn’t the MSM [mainstream media] applaud this type of ‘protesting’ not long ago? Wonder why the change?”
Brad Parker responded to the comment, saying “Right, because BLM stormed the U.S. Capitol. Fantastic analogy.”