Just a year ago, hundreds of Donald Trump supporters trespassed on Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Congress in Washington. Story of a day when American democracy faltered.
To understand how American institutions could have been attacked from within, we have to go back several weeks, even months, when Donald Trump is campaigning for his re-election as head of the United States. From the summer of 2020, the candidate warns against the risk of electoral fraud and instills in his camp the idea that the election of November 4, 2020 is illegitimate.
The Republican leader believes in particular that the postal voting system, put in place because of the health context, will give rise to “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history”.
an electrical context
On November 7, three days after the vote, Joe Biden was named the winner of the election with 306 voters against 232 for his opponent. Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He sees it as confirmation of his theories, even if the federal cybersecurity agency assures us that the election is “the safest in American history”. His campaign team files an avalanche of legal appeals which are taken to the Supreme Court but are all rejected.
The unfortunate candidate does not budge and will go so far as to put pressure on the Secretary of State of Georgia to ask him to “find 11,780 votes”.
On December 19, on Twitter, Donald Trump made an appointment with his supporters: “It is statistically impossible that we lost the 2020 election. Large demonstration in Washington DC on January 6. Be there, it will be wild! ”. The date corresponds to the day when Congress must certify the vote of the electoral college and thus ratify the victory of Joe Biden.
A virulent and ambiguous speech
On D-Day, at noon, Donald Trump gives a fiery speech a stone’s throw from the Capitol. Denouncing a “stolen” election, he attacks his favorite scapegoats: the “fake news” media, the “ultra left” Democrats or even the giants of “Big tech”. In a belligerent diatribe, he urges his troops to fight “like devils” and calls repeatedly to “march to the Capitol”. The word “peacefully” is only used once in 70 minutes.
“The whole ambiguity of the speech is that it does not call for revolution. But it was perceived as such ”, analysis for CNEWS Jean-Eric Branaa, lecturer at Paris 2 Panthéon Assas and specialist in American policy.
several hours of violence
White-hot, thousands of activists then head for the Capitol, where the US Congress is meeting. At around 1 p.m. (US time), Vice-President Mike Pence renounced to invalidate the election, as requested by Donald Trump. The American House of Representatives and Senate then open the procedure which must certify the vote of the large voters.
A first wave of demonstrators then overthrows the barricades surrounding the Capitol and then overwhelms the weak police force. Shortly after 2 p.m., rioters smash windows and enter the monument in an insurrectionary atmosphere. The Congress session is suspended.
WATCH: Rioters break windows to enter US Capitol building pic.twitter.com/n9FYMZYvD0
– BNO News (@BNONews) January 6, 2021
Inside the building, a policeman by the name of Eugene Goodman is illustrated by standing up to a group of protesters who climb the stairs to the Senate Chamber. By saving time, it allows elected officials to leave the premises to find safety.
Here’s the scary moment when protesters initially got into the building from the first floor and made their way outside Senate chamber. pic.twitter.com/CfVIBsgywK
– Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
Donald Trump keeps silent
Far from calming things down, Donald Trump is content, according to the parliamentary commission responsible for investigating the attack, to follow events on television. From the White House, he curls up Mike Pence in a tweet and points out his lack of “courage”.
Inside the building, panic and violence reign. Demonstrators enter the chamber (empty) of the Senate, some pose on the seat reserved for Mike Pence, others ransack the offices of parliamentarians.
In the crowd, a protester, Ashli Babbitt, is hit by a police shot. Three other rioters will also lose their lives on the Capitol: a woman trampled by the crowd, a man suffering from cardiac arrest and another from stroke. On the side of the police, around 140 police officers will be injured, from bruises to concussion.
At 3:13 p.m., Donald Trump finally called for calm on Twitter: “I ask everyone on Capitol Hill to remain peaceful. No violence !”. A little later, he published a video in which he called on the rioters to “go home. [eux]”, Without condemning the violence and while maintaining that the election” was fraudulent “.
the time of the investigation
At around 5:30 p.m., the National Guard arrives at the Capitol and brings out the rioters. At 8 p.m., calm returned and the parliamentarians resumed their work. In the night, the victory of Joe Biden is certified.
According to the Washington Post, 187 minutes elapsed between the moment Donald Trump called in his speech to march to the Capitol and the video of appeal for calm posted on Twitter. “As President of the United States, he has colossal means at his disposal and must be able to react in a few minutes in the event of an attack. But he has not moved, ”emphasizes Jean-Eric Branaa.
The investigation must now determine how the assault was organized. “We know that the extreme right groups ‘Oath keepers’ and ‘Proud boys’ were the leaders of the movement. There could be ramifications down to Donald Trump’s closest advisers, including Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows. This is what the parliamentary commission of inquiry is trying to unravel, ”continues Jean-Eric Branaa. The report of the commission, which will be submitted next summer, must establish whether Donald Trump was aware of something or not.
trauma for Americans
A year later, the day of January 6 remains in all memories. “A deep malaise remains in American society,” said Jean-Eric Branaa. Indeed, the country’s deep divisions did not disappear when Joe Biden came to power. Fortunately, a majority of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, condemn the violence and think it should never happen again.
The twists and turns of the investigation could fuel the debates until the mid-term elections next November, a key moment for Joe Biden who hopes to retain a majority in both congress assemblies.