Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Red Hat Riots – Violent Right Wing Extremists Storm the Nation’s Capital

During a cold day in the nation’s capital, a violent mob wearing red hats and carrying flags attacked law enforcement officers. The rioters tore down gates and smashed windows as they forced their way into the halls of their elected officials’ offices. Furious screams of “kill them” and vocal demands to recount an election that their authoritarian leader decisively lost echoed through the halls of Congress. Helpless politicians cowered in their rooms as law enforcement tried to protect them. The violent extremists removed the nation’s national flag from the seat of power, and they replaced it with the flag of their dictatorial leader. The scene is not from a dystopian movie or a novel. It was the reality in Washington D.C. yesterday.

On January 6, 2021, Congress gathered to solidify Joe Biden’s status as the United States’ future President. As the process was ongoing, President Trump’s supporters surrounded their elected officials, intending to pressure them to overturn the election. At the Capitol, the Radical Right shed all pretense of caring about democracy or the Constitution. They had bought into debunked claims by President Donald Trump that the 2020 Presidential Election was rigged, so they wanted war. Trump and his closest allies argued that the election was stolen from him. Trump’s own Vice President, his Supreme Court picks, and his Justice Department all rejected his claims as nonsense, but it it did not satisfy Trump or his supporters’ delusions of a rigged election.

Republican Leaders Provoked This Act of Violence

When violence broke out, I was saddened, but I was not shocked. Many may see my claim as an exaggeration, but Trump loyalists had been hinting at civil war for weeks. In the past month alone, Trump promised the protests would be “wild,” Lin Wood said politicians who did not fall in line with Trump should be executed by firing squad, and right-wing extremists declared “we want civil war!” on social media.

Indeed, It is clear that the violent, authoritarian language of their leaders provoked riotous behavior among Trump’s supporters. On the day of the insurrection, Donald Trump Jr., the President’s oldest son, urged a crowd of rabid Trump supporters to “stand up and fight” while Rudy Giuliani, the President’s conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, demanded “trial by combat.” The irony is Trump Jr. has no military experience and both President Trump and Giuliani are essentially draft dodgers.

Many of the Red Hats (the most extreme Trump supporters) were willing to blindly follow Trump into a civil war despite the lack of evidence of electoral fraud. Trump supporters have rarely been dedicated to facts, and they do not seem to have a firm commitment to anything except President Trump. The insurrectionists completely disregarded the Constitution when it did not overturn the election, they attacked police officers despite condemning “defund the police” by Black Lives Matter, and they engaged in violence after condemning “Antifa” for rioting. Trumpism sees violence as wicked unless it is in favor of Trump. Blue Lives Matter until the police get in the way of Trump. The Constitution and democracy are the foundation of American society unless Trump does not win elections. Many rioters screamed “fight for Trump” (not fight for America or fight for democracy) as they rampaged through the offices of elected representatives.

After the attacks on Congress, Republican leaders must question how their actions impact the extremists in their base. GOP leaders facilitated Trump’s undermining of the electoral process by hiding their heads in the sand or outright pledging their allegiance to whatever schemes he would create. Sure, Mitch McConnell and Vice President Pence eventually confirmed that Trump lost, but that was too little too late. Senators such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley spent months knowingly undermining the election because they hoped to inherit Trump’s radical base when he left office. They peddled conspiracy theories, so they could ride a wave of discontent to the presidency in 2024. Josh Hawley even fabricated a story about his home being attacked by “antifa” because the phrase has become a boogeyman to scare conservatives before bedtime. Trump may have lit the match that started the fire, but Cruz and Hawley poured gasoline all over it. In the words of Rep. Cori Bush, these Republican enablers have “blood on” their “hands” because five people died during the violence in Washington D.C.

You cannot spur on insurrection only to step back before the violence stops and say, “I don’t agree with these people.” This violent episode happened because Republican leaders played on their base’s anger for four years by supporting Trump. If you hint at revolution, you should not be shocked when your supporters storm the buildings.

The Contrast Between the Red Hat Riots and BLM protests

Importantly, these violent attacks on American democracy highlight the fundamental racism, sexism, and paranoia built into society. Trump’s language surrounding these insurrectionary actions sit in stark contrast to conservative discussions about Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is a mass movement by unarmed civilians battling against racism in American society. BLM has legitimate concerns backed up by statistical data, and they also have the support of athletes, celebrities, politicians, and everyday people from across the globe. However, Trump and conservative commentators labeled Black Lives Matter activists as “animals” and “thugs” when protests occasionally became violent. Yet, Trump hailed the Red Hat mob yesterday, many of whom were armed members of right-wing militias, as “patriots” and “special.”

The military and police reacted differently to white insurrectionists, too. Law enforcement has brutally suppressed BLM protestors, and Trump tear-gassed peaceful demonstrators outside the White House last year. Trump and Republicans condemned Democratic leaders for not deploying the National Guard during riots over the murder of George Floyd, but Trump did not use the guard on his white supporters during their attack on democracy. Law enforcement cracked down harder on Black protestors attacking Target than they did against anti-democratic insurrectionists storming Congress with guns and bombs. Five people tragically lost their lives in the insurrection, but the number would have been far greater if Black people violently seized the Capitol building.

Tomi Lahren achieved national fame by condemning Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests and comparing BLM to the KKK, but she did not use the same language to describe yesterday’s violence. Sure, Lahren claimed she was appalled by the attack on Congress, but she used a much harsher tone to discuss Kaepernick’s protest. During yesterday’s events, she stated that she thought it was “funny to see liberals suddenly against protest” before adding, “these leftists clutching their pearls tonight is really something given the fact just a few months ago they were clutching TVs and Gucci belts as they bolted out of smashed storefronts.” In the middle of a violent attack on democracy, Lahren felt the need to use coded white supremacist language to link Black protest movements to criminality.

Lahren’s tweets reflect the logical fallacy that armed radicals storming the Capitol was “just” the conservative equivalent of BLM protests. It is not. Some BLM protests may have turned violent, but protestors were unarmed. BLM protestors attacked stores and deface statues, but they did not lay siege to Congress. There is statistical evidence of racism and police brutality in America, but there is zero evidence of the election being rigged. There is no comparison between BLM protests and the Red Hat Riots because BLM has legitimate grievances and nonviolent intentions. If conservative commentators insist on labeling BLM as unpatriotic; they must denounce the attacks on the Capitol as downright treasonous.

Thankfully, some Republicans, such as former President George Bush and Senator Mitt Romney, condemned the insurrection. Bush stated that “this is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.” Bush indicated that he was “appalled” by conservative leaders for promoting the idea that the election was rigged. Many Republicans such as Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell seemed genuinely shaken by the actions of their supporters. Vice President Mike Pence, one of Trump’s closest allies, condemned the riots by saying, “violence never wins. Freedom wins.” These moments are significant in undermining Trump’s bogus claims of voter fraud, but it is unfortunate that it took a physical threat to the lives of members of Congress to convince many Repubilicans to drop partisanship and conspiracies.

To be clear, the Democratic Party is not free from blame for these events. Democrats have not built a robust platform to help disenfranchised and disgruntled white voters. They have often attacked Trump for partisan purposes, which fed into the anger of white Americans. Despite the Democrats’ failures, the blame lies firmly with the Republican Party, the conservative movement, and Donald Trump.

In the end, this event could be a one-off. Most violent riots do not transform into revolutions. The Red Hats do not seem to have leaders capable of building a second Confederacy. Trump is not a political or military leader in the shape of Robert E. Lee, so any rebellion would be doomed by moronic, cowardly leadership. Trump and Rudy Giuliani would dodge the draft during their own rebellion, and Tiffany Trunmp would likely prove the most capable military leader in her family. The lawyers tasked with crafting a potential Consititution, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, cannot file simple legal documents without mulitple spelling errors. Therefore, we can assume that the new state of MAGAmerica would be a disaster. 

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the United States President and his Republican allies encouraged their followers to go “wild” in the nation’s capital. In a moment that was meant to highlight the positive nature of American democracy, we are witnessed the darkest aspects of American racism, paranoia, and violent tendencies.

This is not a partisan issue, and we should not condemn all Republicans or Trump supporters as evil. There were likely over 300,000 Trump supporters in Washington on Wednesday, but only a few thousand of them engaged in physical insurrection. Trump supporters are misguided, and they certainly did not listen to the warnings of the rest of us. However, the majority of them are law abiding citizens that fell victim to the lies of Donald Trump and Fox News. They were sold simplistic answers to complex questions by an immoral hustler, and five peolple needlessly lost their lives following Trump’s lies. This does not mean that they do not bear responsibility for their extremist colleagues. Indeed, if Trump supporters had listened to us instead of being blinded by anger toward the political establishment, they would not have fallen for the charms of an egotistical maniac. Hopefully, moderate Trump supporters take the violence of Wednesday as an opportunity to reevaluate their values, their willingness to overlook immoral failures, and their decision to disregard facts and evidence. If they can return to political sanity, we should welcome them back and build a better future for the sake of our nation and our children.

Indeed, we need to move past partisanship and name calling because it has led to destruction. We should demand responsible leadership from our politicians because the Republicans have not shown that under Trump. People from all sides of the political spectrum need to boldly declare that they stand with democracy and stability against chaos and authoritarianism. I hope that my conservative friends will heed the warning of these violent events and take action to prevent further bloodshed. The Republican Party should to try to build a more positive message instead of utilizing fear and anger. I hope they can live the Christian values of love that they claim to believe in but often do not embody. I do not have a lot of faith in that change because Trumpism is strong within the conservative movement, so we will continue to see Trump’s delusional Red Hats within the Republican Party.

America has to decide if it is going to be a nation of compassion and empathy or paranoia and anger. Politicians cannot continue to utilize anger as a method to radicalise their base. The Republican Party that claims law and order as the foundation of their policy cannot employ coded violent imagery to undermine elections. The Democrats have to figure out a way to speak to disgruntled white voters, so they can bring them back into the circle of political dialogue. America needs to decide if we want to base the community on love or hatred. Regardless of the outcome of this insurrection, you cannot spell hatred without a red hat.

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