What To Know Today
The links between yesterday’s mob and gun-rights groups. Gun violence prevention advocate Joshua Horwitz has long warned that the embrace of anti-government ideology by some gun-rights groups poses a danger to the country. “They have created this environment,” Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the author of Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea, said yesterday afternoon. “When [then National Rifle Association president] Charlton Heston said, ‘Out of my cold dead hands, Mr. Gore,’ to today, there is a direct line. It’s saying that violence is part of the political process.” Horwitz said that groups like the NRA have championed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that confers an individual right to insurrection. Militias and other extremists have embraced that view. He noted images of AR-15s and the Gadsden Flag (Don’t Tread on Me) displayed yesterday at the Capitol, all of which are standard at gun-rights rallies. “Either we will finally take this seriously and realize that there are no such things as private militias at the state level, there are only mobs,” Horwitz said, “or this gets worse, and if that happens, I shudder for our democracy.” — Will Van Sant, staff writer
The insurrection was seeded on social media platforms, then planned and broadcast on far-right sites. For days leading up to yesterday’s electoral college certification, posters used social media sites like Gab and Parler, encrypted messaging platforms like Telegram, and the pro-Trump forum The Donald to organize and share information. Some messages urged the murder of Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As the mob prowled the Capitol complex, some used live-streaming sites to boast of occupying lawmakers’ offices. While fringe sites aided and amplified yesterday’s mayhem, some of the biggest names in tech have abetted the coalescing of the violent far right, notes online extremism researcher Megan Squire. “The mainstream platforms have turned a blind eye to groups and individuals inciting violence and harassing users for years,” she said. “After some half-hearted attempts to ban the accounts or tamp down on the violent rhetoric around the election, some of the extremists ended up relocating their audiences to newer, smaller, niche platforms.” Companies can still take steps to try to reverse what they’ve fostered. Twitter and Facebook yesterday locked Trump’s accounts, and moderators on The Donald said the firm that hosts the site had given them 24 hours to remove calls for violence. — Chip Brownlee, investigative fellow
Trump supporters also mobbed state capitols and governors mansions. Vox has a good rundown of the aggression that unfolded in Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Washington State, and elsewhere.
In the day’s chaos, one woman was fatally shot inside the Capitol building. Police said the 35-year-old was shot by Capitol Police; three other people died of unspecified medical emergencies during the siege. At least 14 police officers were injured, with one hospitalized. Despite scores of people storming the Capitol, police made just 26 arrests on Capitol grounds; another 26 were arrested across the city by the day’s end, mostly for curfew violations. At least five arrests were for gun violations and police recovered at least five guns. The FBI and other law enforcement “rendered safe” at least two suspected bombs at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee; federal agents were probing whether a truck parked by the RNC building full of long guns and ammo was related to a suspected bomb.
Law enforcement actions and security preparations draw scrutiny. As members of Congress vow consequences for the Capitol Police over the breach, liberal activists are noting the apparent double standard that law enforcement and security forces have applied to white, right-wing protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Photos circulating online make the juxtaposition indelible, as illustrated by these two images, the top one from the Lincoln Memorial during a Black Lives Matter protest in June, and the bottom from yesterday at the Capitol: