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As Long As Donald Trump Remains In Politics, The Events Of January 6 2021 Are Bound To Repeat Themselves

Last week marked three years since the insurrection on January 6 2021 at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. On a day now synonymous with violence and destruction, the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, rallied his supporters in a mob-like fashion and insisted the 2020 election had been stolen, before encouraging them to move towards the Capitol where the electoral count was taking place.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of people travelled from all over the country to the nation’s capital at the behest of the former president. They included far-right members from extremist  groups, former police officers, US Marines and even an Olympic swimmer. Still, despite their professional differences, they all had one very obvious thing in common – adoration for and unquestioning loyalty to Donald Trump.

In the attack at the Capitol, 140 police officers were injured and 4 people died, along with Capitol police officer, Brian D. Sicknick, who passed away the following day. A further 2 police officers have also died by suicide in the aftermath of January 6.

The sequence of events that eventually culminated in the Capitol insurrection at the start of 2021, ultimately began following the 2020 Election, two months prior. Trump persistently claimed he had won the election and Biden had lost, despite the sixty federal courts and the former president’s own Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, concluding there was no evidence to support such claims.

In a phone call with Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump infamously asked him to “find 11,780” votes, stating Raffensperger would “risk” prosecution if he failed to oblige. As well as attempting to interfere with the election in Georgia, Trump pressured the acting US Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me”, which they refused to do.

In the run-up to the insurrection, Trump posted a series of Tweets, urging his supporters to come to Washington and participate in a ‘Save America’ protest on January 6 – the same day Congress was due to count the electoral votes and certify Joe Biden’s win. On December 19, he described it as a “big protest” that would “be wild” before issuing another reminder on December 26 and yet another on December 30. On New Year’s Day 2021, he revealed the “protest rally” would take place in Washington D.C. at 11AM on January 6, signing off “StopTheSteal!”.

When the day came, Trump held a rally where he reassured his supporters that the election had been stolen and refused to concede. He believed Republicans needed “to fight much harder” before urging the crowd to “walk down to the Capitol” and “show strength” as “you’ll never take back our country with weakness” he said. He incited the mob to “fight like hell”, telling them “different rules” applied here.

According to reports, the former president then sat and watched the insurrection unfold from the White House. For 3 hours, he made no attempt to call off his supporters or prevent the escalation of violence that ultimately got multiple people killed.

Eventually, after hours of rioting and destruction, Trump told his followers “to go home” to restore law and order. Justifying their actions, Trump later warned the events at the Capitol were the result of “unceremoniously & viciously” stripping away “a sacred landslide election victory” from those who have suffered for too long. Seemingly hailing the day a victory, Trump urged his supporters to “Remember this day forever!”

Now, over three years later, Trump still refuses to acknowledge he lost the 2020 Election and insists it was stolen. One year later, on January 6 2022, in a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, he told reporters the real insurrection had happened on November 3 2020, and January 6 2021 was a mere “protest of the rigged election”.

As of 2024, Trump has still not been held accountable for his role on January 6. Although the former president was impeached (for the second time), a divided Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority required for a conviction of high crimes and misdemeanours and Trump was acquitted. Had the verdict gone the other way, Donald Trump would have been prevented from ever holding future office.

The insurrection also had political consequences for those Republicans who dared to go against the former president. Having failed to support Trump whilst both sat on the January 6 House Committee, congressional Republicans Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger suffered Trump’s wrath, losing a re-election bid and leaving congress, respectively.  

Donald Trump is currently running for president again, and according to some polls, is expected to win the Republican nomination later this year. During his campaign, he has reflected on January 6 2021 as “a beautiful day” and described those in prison for their actions that day, as “great, great patriots” who were being held hostage.

Any attempts to hold the former president accountable for his role that day, or disqualify him from seeking re-election this year, have been met with criticism that he is being unfairly and unconstitutionally persecuted, which has ultimately helped his campaign far more than it has damaged it. Supreme Court rulings by Colorado and Maine, to remove Trump from the state ballots, citing Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, have also been appealed by the former president and are now set to be decided by the United States Supreme Court.

In what has now become the largest criminal investigation in US history, authorities are still attempting to identify over 80% of those wanted for their violent participation on January 6 2021. Of those 1,230 already indicted, charges range from trespassing to assaulting police officers and seditious conspiracy. Prison time has been given to almost two-thirds of the 750 people sentenced, extending from a few days to 22 years.

In a CNN poll months after the insurrection, a massive 72% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, still believed Biden’s win was not legitimate. A year after January 6, this dropped slightly to 67%. But amongst those self-confessed 2020 Trump voters, 75% expressed doubts over the current president’s legitimacy.

According to a recent Newsweek poll (December 19, 2023), the majority of Americans fear another event, like January 6 in the coming years. With the significant likelihood of a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch, it is reported that 63% of Americans think the election will result in rioting of some form. This is particularly likely when you consider Trump already believes he has suffered election interference, over legal ramifications resulting from his role on January 6.

Julie Norman, Professor of US Politics at University College London, thinks it is unlikely that another event like January 6 will occur, simply because of heightened security in and around the Capitol. She does acknowledge however, that “if the legitimacy of the election is again called into doubt”, protests “are certainly likely”. The debate is whether they will become violent and evolve into riots. 

I think it highly likely that without Trump’s removal from politics, the events of January 6 will repeat themselves. Although several people have been punished for their role that day, the sentiment displayed that day still exists. The insurrectionists at the Capitol only represented a fraction of those with unquestioning and all-consuming loyalty to the former president. Trump will incite more violence, just as he did three years ago, and more rioting in the name of democracy, will take place.

Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison

Photo credit: Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

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