It was not a protest: Call the attack on the U.S. Capitol what it is

Illustration by Myah Anglin | The Signal

The attack on the U.S. Capitol was the first time such a breach or occupation has happened since the War of 1812. Then, the perpetrators were enemies of the U.S. On Jan. 6, Americans became enemies to their own country. 

“We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Former President Donald Trump spoke these words that incited the violence we saw that day. 

Are they just words? Or do they mean something more?

Protesters were given the signal by leaders to attack Capitol Hill. Trump continued to empathize. He used words such as “we love you” and “I know how you feel.” 

Are they just words?

In the wake of a ransacked Capitol, five dead and an election-certifying congressional session ambushed, what are the words for what happened in Washington? 

Media outlets nationwide, anyone with social media, used anything from “patriot” to “terrorist.” Many settled on “rioters,” including CNN and Fox News. Admitting these actions were awful is one thing, but calling it what it is, domestic terrorism, is something completely different. In fact, The Signal was one of the few to call it a terrorist attack.

Are they just words?

Domestic terrorism is defined as “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the [U.S.] or of any State, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” Furthermore, white supremacy is the most significant threat, according to Congress

The Capitol siege reeks of white supremacy. The police force had no sense of urgency compared to the brutality of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Individuals who ransacked the Capitol hours before were waltzing around long after the curfew was in effect. 

The baseless claims of a stolen election are rooted in a conspiracy, perpetuating a culture of distrusting the democratic process and healthcare officials. Most terrorists wore no masks, even though the day before was the deadliest day of the pandemic to date, a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color. 

We can also analyze the words of our former commander-in-chief, who “loves” terrorists and called BLM a “symbol of hate.” 

Many want to compare the BLM protests of the summer of 2020 to the siege of the Capitol. If you look for a moment at each’s actions, it is clear that one has heart and the other, hate. So, why does it matter if someone calls them both riots or one instead of the other? 

Domestic terrorist holds a lot more weight in the minds of Americans than rioters. Weaving this language into the conversation is the only way to encourage widespread understanding of the problem. Individuals who want to promote equality and justice will never be perfect but will understand their words’ weight, even if our political leaders and news outlets do not.

Words are inciters of violence. Words are weapons of conspiracy theorists. Words are a catalyst for white supremacy to live on. Words are also powerful. Words can create change and understanding, or are they just words?