American Spirit

A “protest” that took it too far.

April 29, 2021

In the United States of America, we preach and practice the first amendment. Despite Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s lack of knowledge about its freedoms, many Americans have made full use of its right to petition the government. Yet, what was once upheld as a patriotic form of expression turned into full-fledged terrorism in the span of 24 hours. On Jan. 6, 2021, President Donald Trump incited his supporters to raid the U.S Capitol Building while our nation’s leaders crouched under desks and feared for their lives. Four rioters died while fighting for a reason that seems to be undetermined. Ultimately, these individuals were not fighting for “Blue Lives” while pushing aside police officers at the Capitol gates. They were not fighting for “All Lives” while not wearing masks during a pandemic that kills more people than who died on Sept. 11, 2001, on a daily basis. Further, these terrorists were not fighting because they genuinely believed that the recent November 2020 election was rigged. The truth of the matter is that they never fight for anything, but against others from having rights of their own. They were fighting against the fair removal of Donald Trump from office. They were fighting against having to hide their white supremacy for another four years, and our Republican leaders who encouraged this behavior need to be held accountable. 

In the past months, even years, we have listened to politicians on both sides speak about how America is a divided country, promising that “This is not who we are”. I beg to differ. It is us Americans who are capable of parading Confederate Flags or “Camp Auschwitz” shirts through the Capitol’s sacred halls, and it is us Americans who elected a President into office that will stand by, simultaneously tweeting “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” during an actual protest for the Black Lives Matter movement. There are so many places to begin with why the President and his supporting politicians and civilians are responsible for the D.C terrorism, but I would like to begin with a personal statement. As a Jewish teenager, it is absolutely disgusting that I am forced to watch a giant cross held at the heart of my nation, a nation that supposedly has no established religion. As a student journalist, I find it extremely disrespectful to see the treatment of news stations, like CNN, being attacked for simply covering the event. More than anything, as a compassionate 17-year-old girl, I am appalled by the lack of humanity from those on the far-right. 

There is no denying that the idea of a rigged election has been implanted in the brains of Trump supporters for months, beginning with the use of mail-in ballots. Lucky for me, there is not much to argue here considering that President Trump tweeted this on August 26, 2020 himself, saying “The fraud and abuse will be an embarrassment to our Country”. Soon after, his crowd followed suit, so much so that, in January 2021, 147 Republicans in office voted to overturn the election, despite zero evidence of fraud. 13 represent the state of Florida.

Within the duration of one presidential term, Donald Trump managed to corrupt these politicians and the Republican name into spreading legitimate lies, proven false by countless recounts. Considering that Trump also convinced his supporters of the dangers behind ‘mainstream media’, this leaves all those in favor of our President to watch the politicians for accurate news updates. Yet, acting as a journalist is not in the job description for anyone on Capitol Hill. Plus, many Republican leaders fell so far into Trump’s lies that they only wanted to be endorsed by him, meaning they simply did not care if they misinformed the public as long as reelection was in the works. Yet, as easy as it is to place all blame on our leaders, let us not forget who are the actual treasoners at hand.

The first rule of a protest is to be peaceful, and it should go without saying that, if the men and women in Congress were forced to hide, mimicking high school students during an active shooter drill, this “protest” is anything but the sort. Additionally, these thugs did not stop at breaking into the building. They vandalized our leaders’ offices and stole podiums or government information, all the while taking selfies with the people who were supposed to protect us. They reenacted the death of George Floyd, a traumatic event for many Americans to see. There is no argument here. These people are felons. They broke the law, and mentally scarred this country. With this understanding in mind, I am looking for places to turn to where I feel like I can make a difference, starting with my community.

Following the events on Jan. 6, 2021, the School District of Palm Beach County called parents, teachers, students and staff, informing them that their students have no reason to panic as these “protests” are miles away. While one could argue that this is a national emergency, many Suncoast students find it interesting that the SDPBC had no issue being political and calling this event a  “protest”, but refused to make a statement about George Floyd or any of the Black individuals who died because of police brutality. In the words of the SDPBC, that issue was too politicized for their liking. It seems clear that the root in choosing to not discuss world issues, like the Black Lives Matter movement, the rise in Antisemitism or any hate crimes committed against marginalized groups is from a place of simply not caring. Pretending that it is not is infuriating to many Suncoast students, like those in Hands Across Campus and the Black Student Union, who wanted support from their district as they created a “Students Standing with BLM” event.

The hypocrisy does not end there, and, unfortunately, it does not stop with the SDPBC. In voting against the second impeachment on President Trump, many Republicans cited the lack of accountability for those who sparked the BLM protests. 

“Black Lives Matter was created to fight against the police brutality that’s targeted towards the Black community,” senior Emily Ayala, Vice President of the Speech and Debate team, said. “It’s about human rights, highlighting racial inequality. Those comparing the two events are ignorant and missed the entire point.”

These false equivalencies are beyond dangerous. They relate actual instances of white supremacy with police brutality and racial discrimination. The two are vastly different, and this is clear by the effortless demonstrations of white privilege displayed at the Capitol.

While Black Lives Matter protests were, at their worst, looting Targets, they were met with violence. While Trump supporters were, at their best, vandalizing the Capitol building, they were let inside. Sitting down, taking photos and feeling safe enough to not wear masks or hide their identities, this in itself is a privilege. Ultimately, they will be treated at the limited remaining hospital space when they test positive for Covid-19, and for them, it is somehow a lot harder to track down “protesters” who will give almost everything but their Social Security Number than those carefully hiding their face and covering tattoos at a BLM march.

Especially for Palm Beach County’s youth advocates, Wednesday’s riots hit deep. Being young and attempting to spread awareness of an issue is hard enough. Adding in a coup attempt and their own school district not strongly condemning this behavior is the final straw. For us, we hope that America, the real United States that is willing to be better, does so. In the meantime, this is a chance for us Americans to be united against one common enemy: the man who incited violence, death and destruction, and all those who supported it. This should not have happened. This should never happen again. 

 

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