While Congress gathered to officially certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, unrest erupted at the Capitol building by an angry mob of Trump supporters. The result was an attack of domestic terrorism on our nation, our democracy and our elected officials. The horrific event also left four people dead. Between the violence, the destruction of property, the verbalized racism and sexism, as well as the negligence of further spreading the coronavirus during a surge of the pandemic, social media was quick to shed light on law enforcement’s seemingly slow and indifferent reaction.
There was a stark difference in how police and security responded to this mob in comparison to peaceful protests across the country last summer of those standing up for the preservation of Black lives.
Mariah Cooley, a young Black activist, speaks her truth having been face-to-face with similar domestic terrorists during her own acts of peaceful activism. Condemning the violence, she also brings us back to the reality of Georgia turning blue, the Senate now under Democratic control and the work that still needs to be done to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition of power.
On January 19th of 2020, I traveled to Richmond, VA and spent my day lobbying state legislators to pass common sense gun laws and invest in low-income communities to end senseless gun violence. In the evening, I slept on the floor of the Virginia Capitol as armed militias surrounded the building. The same groups we saw boldly storming Capitol Hill yesterday (Jan. 6) in D.C., stood in my face, stalking and called me racial slurs like n**ger, a monkey, and a bitch. Luckily, I had security with me, but I knew that if I were to encounter those terrorists again, the police would not protect me. They do not value my life more than they value upholding white supremacy. I believe many of those wearing badges would have stormed inside the Capitol Hill too if they could.
Yesterday, in reaction to seeing this mob’s assault on our congressional process and disgusting display of chaos, anarchy and white privilege, I tweeted for Black activists to stay inside instead of counter-protesting outside of Capitol Hill. My aim was to hopefully prevent further violence. This entire summer, Black people have been organizing and peacefully protesting against brutal killings of our people and state-sanctioned white supremacy. Peaceful protesters across the nation have been met with nothing but pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas, and further assault by the police. I knew that we would continue to be unprotected and tortured by those in law enforcement who are supposedly there to protect and serve all people.
This is the America that outgoing President Donald Trump has emboldened, spurred by his rhetoric to march on the Capitol and disenfranchised by his losing the election. The fascist rioters displayed nothing but unlawful behavior and yet there’s video coverage of local police officers taking selfies with them, moving barricades to allow these individuals inside the Capitol building, and enabling their violent behavior. If the mob destroying and invading the Capitol yesterday was Black, it would have been a massacre. It is not the job or responsibility of Black women, in particular, (we applaud you Stacey Abrams) to defend a government that has never defended us and yet we work tirelessly to save this country.
That is what we saw with the results of the 2020 election. Black women, people of color, HBCU’s, young people, and organizers across the country saved this democracy. On the same day as those efforts coming to fruition with the victorious changing of Senate representation in Georgia, flipping the state blue, we were met with a riot that can only be described as domestic terrorism. At the very least, we can look forward to January 20th where President-elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take office with a Democratic House and Senate.
As an organizer and an American, I expect our newly elected officials to reinstate a sense of diplomacy and democracy that has been missing under the Trump administration. Once in, we will hold those in office accountable for passing the progressive legislation that was promised to us. The movement for Black lives, trans lives, abolishing ICE, ending gun violence, and more are now in focus as we wait to see how this new administration will uphold their end of the bargain.
The work to a more just America is far from over.
Mariah Cooley is an 19 year old activist studying political science at Howard University. She is on Youth Congress for March For Our Lives, a youth-led gun violence prevention organization, and worked on campaigns such as President elect Joe Biden and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.