One Year Ago: The Capitol Riot

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On January 6, 2021, I watched on television as a mob of rioters climbed the steps of the United States Capitol, broke its windows, ripped apart its doors, stormed the building, vandalized it, terrified the public servants who work there, assaulted law enforcement officers, and desecrated some of the highest symbols of the American republic. It is one of the saddest things I’ve seen in many years.

Don’t misunderstand me. The storming of the Capitol in 2021 was not even half as severe as the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in 2001 . . . or, for that matter, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, or the burning of Washington, D.C., by the British in 1814. Comparison to these events is, at best, historically ignorant. This was no republic-shaking “insurrection.” It was a riot . . . a big, stupid, hurtful, pointless riot. The only thing that made it significantly worse than the other riots that plagued the nation over the year prior was the prominence of the place it targeted.

It deserves unequivocal condemnation. Aimless destruction of property is not an acceptable response to any problem, whether real or imagined. I don’t care if your riot is labeled “Stop the Steal” or “Black Lives Matter.” It’s wrong. It hurts the cause it is supposed to be supporting and, worse, it hurts innocent people.

Those who exaggerate the events of January 6, 2021, into an insurrection are no worse than those who reduce it into a patriotic protest. It wasn’t an attempted coup, but it also wasn’t a righteous rebellion by patriots. It was mob action. People got swept up in the moment and lashed out in anger, with many not even fully cognizant of what they were doing or why. I don’t pretend to understand how mass hysteria happens, but I know that it does, and that this was a prime example of it.

At 2:34 p.m. on that day, I made my first Facebook post about what was happening in Washington, D.C. It was a link to a local news article with these comments:

Absolute insanity. Capitol Building is now on lockdown, both the House and Senate have recessed, reports (unconfirmed) that protesters have entered the building. They have certainly breached the outside barricades.

Absolutely unacceptable. I support 100% the right to protest, but I condemn all efforts to interfere with legitimate government activity, destruction of property, etc.

At 3:21 p.m., I made another, simpler post:



When I wrote that, I was on the verge of tears.

I have spent much of my life in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. I have been downtown countless times. The west terrace of the U.S. Capitol Building was one of my favorite places to visit (before the security changes after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks rendered it inaccessible to the public). It affords a view of the National Mall that is surpassed only by that from the top of the Washington Monument. And above you, a different kind of beauty—a domed edifice that, ideally, inspires in every American a renewed love for freedom and self-government.

I understand that many people have doubts about the results of the 2020 presidential election. They are mostly misguided. The only state’s result that I am not at least 95% certain of is Pennsylvania’s (due to the widespread acceptance of late and illegal ballots in violation of the state’s own election laws), but its electors would not have been enough to change the result. It is extremely unlikely that the election was ‘stolen,’ and most of the apparent irregularities can be explained by the unusual nature of an election during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unusual candidate at the top of the Republican ticket.

Even if I were to put on my most conspiratorial tin-foil hat and sign-on with the “stolen election” Trumpers, Congress just does not have the authority to second-guess the electoral votes submitted by the states. If you don’t like Pennsylvania’s election result, you can take it up with the government of Pennsylvania. We’re a federal republic, remember? And those of us on the more conservative side of the political spectrum are supposed to be the ones who don’t want the federal government second-guessing what the states do in their areas of responsibility.

But I digress. It doesn’t really matter how right or wrong the protesters-turned-rioters were one year ago on the actual subject about which they were protesting. I don’t care if you’re protesting in favor of an indisputable objective good—puppies, for example. Once you start breaking windows and storming buildings and assaulting cops, you become the bad guys. Period. And you undermine the very argument that you are trying to make.

The people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were criminals and vandals and thugs. I won’t call them insurrectionists (because they weren’t). I won’t call them patriots either (because they weren’t). They went into our house, broke our windows, threatened our representatives, assaulted our law enforcement officers, and delayed the certification of the results of our presidential election. It was appalling to watch. And I hope I never see anything like it again.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.