One day after supporters of President Donald Trump rioted in the U.S. Capitol, terrorizing representatives and employees inside, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School officials sent out a brief statement to staff to guide them in talking to students both online and in the classroom.
“Yesterday, political misinformation from President Donald Trump incited lawlessness and violence carried out by protesters in Washington, D.C,” the statement reads. “Fortunately, democracy and the rule of law appear to have prevailed.”
A large part of an educator’s job, according to the statement, is to help students transition into the world as thoughtful and responsible citizens that are capable of making fact-based decisions.
“Although we have deeply-held respect for differing beliefs, the MVRHS school community will continue to affirm peace and condemn violence in all forms,” the statement reads. “We ask that as you go about your day today, you approach your coursework with a seriousness of purpose that befits the occasion. We have all received a harsh reminder not to take our democracy for granted.”
The conversation in the school surrounding the recent events will be ongoing, according to the statement, with a Zoom conversation scheduled for teachers and peers next week.
Island activist and organizer for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations at Beetlebung Corner, Dana Nunes, said she was holding a different kind of sign the day after the riots.
Her sign read “1/6/21. Was that what ‘great’ looks like?”
“I had always been aware that I am lucky to live in this country, but I had not realized how much I valued our democractic principles until I saw those people storming that building,” Nunes said. “I am absolutely heartbroken.”
Apart from the violence and destruction seen during the riots, Nunes said she was angry (but not surprised) to see the blatant disparity between how law enforcement treated armed white rioters influenced by the false claims of Trump, versus unarmed black protestors pushing against centuries of systematic oppression.
“I was watching these police handle this mob with kid gloves. Did you see one baton raised there? Yes, they used them to push back, but they were pushing back nicely,” Nunes said. “If this was a mob of black people, they would have run out of bullets, and they would have run out early.”
Island activist Eugene Langston-Jemison told The Times that the events of Jan. 6 do not define Americans as a people, and suggested unity as the only logical solution to bridging the divide in our nation.
“Four people died yesterday in our nation’s capital. That is not what we are about here in the United States,” Langston-Jemison said. “People have grievances, they have complaints every day. But there is a right and a wrong way to express those things.”
Langston-Jemison insisted that the time for hateful rhetoric and violence is over, and a new era must dawn where Americans make decisions to come together as a people not defined by blue or red, or by the color of their skin.
“There is no throwing a rock and hiding your hands anymore. Let’s sit back and watch our country do what’s right. Let’s level the playing field, then sit down and talk with each other — reason with each other,” he said. “I know they say you are either the left wing or the right wing, but at the end of the day it’s still the same bird.”
He added that the influence of one man’s words should not mean that American people die, and said “as a nation, we are better than this.”
“I don’t care whose color they were flying or what agenda they are pushing, human beings shouldn’t have to die just because of an idea that is born from words,” he said. “We must heal and unite our country, but also not disregard the mistakes of our past.”
Remove Trump from office
In an interview broadcast on WGBH, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating shared his views on the events that took place. He said that, even after seeing the violence and destruction that sought to usurp the electoral proceedings which lie at the core of American democracy, over half of Republicans still voted to object to the certification of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.
“It continues, and I do think it’s significant. There was an insurrection going on outside the building on Wednesday into Thursday, but there was another type of insurrection going on inside the building,” Keating said.
He said that despite an overwhelming absence of evidence throughout 60 court cases that attempted to subvert the election, Republicans still chose to perpetuate the “myth” that the process was fraudulent.
“It struck me as someone decrying the flame, and still holding the match,” he added.
Following the events of Jan. 6, the question was raised amongst lawmakers and cabinet members whether invoking the 25th amendment would be an apt next step.
The 25th amendment says that if a sitting president becomes unfit to do his job, the vice president acting with the cabinet becomes the president.
Keating suggested that removing Trump from office as soon as possible would be “the right thing to do,” but noted that he doesn’t think this development would be likely.
“I think he is clearly a threat at this point, to our democracy, and he should be removed from office,” Keating said
Keating shared his concern regarding the “enormous damage” done to the image of our nation as a result of these events, and said that the Capitol building is supposed to be “the most secure place in our country.”
“It was always looked at as the hardest of the hard targets. This was revealed to be a soft target,” he said. “And If that’s a soft target, then the inauguration could be a soft target.”
In the future, Keating stressed the importance of being prepared for domestic threats, like the one encountered at the Capitol.
Speaking candidly to reporters Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker condemned Wednesday’s riots.
“Yesterday’s events were appalling, disgraceful, and depressing,” Baker said. “But it’s important to remember that they were the culmination of months of President Trump repeating over and over again that the American electoral system is a fraud.”
Baker mentioned Trump’s narrow win over Hilary Clinton in 2016 and how no one questioned those votes, but now the 2020 election is being called into question.
“Yesterday [Trump] thanked the mob for their support. The whole thing makes me sick. Yesterday’s riot was a dark day for our country made even more depressing by the president’s role leading up to it and his wholly inadequate and appalling response to the violence.”
Baker also criticized some Republican lawmakers’ efforts to reverse the will of American voters and prevent the electoral votes from being confirmed.
He then added: “people should pursue whatever they believe will make it possible in the most expeditious way possible for the president to step down and the vice president to assume the office, the powers of the office, for the next 14 days so that an orderly transition [to a Biden administration] can take place.”
Reporter Brian Dowd contributed to this story.