By Claudia Motley and Maya Brown
Violence erupted at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, as a pro-Trump mob stormed the building during the counting of electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Five people died and several officers were injured as a result of the riot.
When asked to speak on the riot, Robert Chase, a history professor at Stony Brook, called the turmoil “a kind of mass social psychosis.”
“You hear the interviews, hear the depths or the breaths of the anger based online,” he said. “I think that at some point, a country has to have a national reckoning over truth.”
Chase also went on to discuss the issue of policing and security, noting how rioters were able to easily work past building security and National Guard.
“We know from decades of witness, historical work, sociological studies, that when the police want to shut something down, they shut it down,” he said “[At the Capitol], they were not only unprepared, some took selfies with people in the audience, and many just kind of ran the other way. They allowed it to happen.”
John Ryan, a political science professor, said that a pattern of rallies could have led to the group of rioters choosing to attack and storm the Capitol.
“I think something that people have overlooked is that people who attend political rallies are often thrill seekers who have less concern about risk,” he said. “The losing side in an election always has large numbers of voters who believe the election was ‘stolen,’ but you don’t typically gather the most risk acceptant portion of them in one place and tell them, as one Representative Mo Brooks did, ‘start taking down names and kicking ass.’”
Brooks spoke to a crowd of people at a Trump rally before the riot occurred. During the rally, Trump and other speakers perpetuated the unsubstantiated claim that the election was stolen and urged supporters to march to Capitol Hill.
Ryan also said that President Trump should have conceded in December after his court challenges proved to be unsuccessful, and that Trump has now made a mess of himself and the Republican Party.
“There’s never been anything exactly like this in recent American history,” Ryan said. “But foolish people destroying things supposedly in the name of the political party or cause or sports team they support and embarrassing that party or cause or team happens quite frequently. The main difference is that the leaders usually try to avoid things like this and in this case few Republican leaders clearly saw the danger.”
Stony Brook University was one of many colleges to react to the storming of the Capitol.
Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis responded to the attack and focused on the power of education to unite and heal through a campus-wide email on Jan. 7.
“I believe that as scholars and members of a university community, we have a profound role to play going forward,” she wrote. “We must be a place of healing and unity, and an institution that reinforces our nation’s most cherished ideals, including equality, justice, freedom of expression, peaceful dissent, and lawful participation in the workings of our government.”
With an academic background in the cultural history of the American south, McInnis pointed out that the U.S. hasn’t faced a similar attack since the War of 1812, when the British set fire to the Capitol.
“We must dedicate ourselves to the work of sustaining democracy,” McInnis wrote. “It’s going to take all of us at Stony Brook – every faculty and staff member, every clinician and student – to support each other in this challenging time, to live up to our mission, and remember that our community has the power to unite, heal, and lead the way to a stronger future.”
Select faculty at Harvard University also condemned the riots in a set of interviews for their student-led school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.
Lehigh University, a private college in Pennsylvania, has rescinded the honorary degree that the school awarded Trump more than 30 years ago in 1988.
After the Capitol Building was cleared out, lawmakers resumed the vote count and confirmed Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
As a result of the riots in Washington, D.C., Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter to prevent him from inciting possible violence. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Trump also became the first president to be impeached twice for his role in inciting the violence.
Ryan believes that there is a stark division between Democrats and Republicans, and that there are currently two Republican Parties at the national level. He also said that he thinks there is an opportunity for President-elect Biden to work with Senate Republicans in order to reform the country with bipartisanship once he is inaugurated and in office.
“From a political perspective, the Republican Party has really backed themselves into a corner,” Ryan said. “They need to find a way to increase their voters because they lost the elections and this does the opposite.”