Several student organizations at Stony Brook University have reacted to the U.S. Capitol building riot that occurred almost three weeks ago. Some have also supported calls for Rep. Lee Zeldin resignation, as a result of his reactions to the riot.
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, a mob of supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol building while lawmakers were counting electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election.
While many rioters broke into the building, lawmakers were evacuated and a lockdown of the Capitol was ordered. The attack led to five deaths and multiple arrests.
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) condemned the violence at the capitol and shared their support for students who may have felt affected.
USG addressed the attack in a resolution posted to Instagram on Jan. 15. They were called upon to address the attack, as a lack of a statement would reflect poorly and a statement would contribute to transparency and drive student engagement. They released a resolution condemning the “antithetical hatred and rage” that led to the riots and asked Stony Brook students to hold themselves to a higher standard.
In a presidential statement, USG President Huntley Spencer, a senior political science and sociology major, focused on unity and democratic values.
“These ideologies and hate rhetoric are not welcomed in USG, and these are standards of inclusion and love that we hope for the rest of the country,” Spencer wrote in the statement. “In a time that seems shrouded in darkness and misfortune it is up to each and every one of us to be a beacon of light, and with love, unity, and time that light will grow brighter and lead the way through the darkness.”
He asked for Stony Brook students to put politics aside and to come together to spread love and inclusion.
Kiara Arias, the USG director of diversity and inclusion affairs, also released a statement condemning the storming of the Capitol. She emphasized that students should be resilient and also pointed out the difference between the way officers handled Black Lives Matter protests and the riots.
“In the upcoming weeks, we urge you all to continue to advocate for what is fair and just for the sake of our own prosperity,” Arias wrote in the statement. “Create your support system. Check-in with your friends and family. Find space within yourself to empathize with one another.”
The president of the university’s College Democrats, senior political science and economics double major Declan Graham, also condemned the attack and said that his initial reaction was both shock and fear in an interview with The Statesman.
“The events of Jan. 6 were gross, evil, unacceptable attacks,” Graham said. “The insurrection against our nation’s democracy had treasonous motivations to overturn a fair election.”
Graham said that he believes that rioters chose to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in particular because both the House and the Senate would be there at the same time.
“Many of the rioters started years ago as disgruntled citizens that were either manipulated by the President of the United States, and fellow representatives, or were acting in spite of free elections,” he said. “This radicalized mob was ruthless, deadly, and unlawful in their actions to storm and attack the Capitol.”
The university’s College Republicans supported a statement from the College Republican National Committee that condemned the attack.
“The Stony Brook College Republicans wholeheartedly support this message to make sure that violence has no place in our country and on our campus,” they said in an Instagram post.
The School of Social Welfare shared a message from Dean Jacqueline B. Mondros with her response to the violence at the Capitol. She focused on why democracy matters, anti-racism and equity, the importance of truth and a commitment to peaceful protest.
“Social work cannot be truly effective in helping people in any system other than a democratic one,” Mondros wrote in her message. “Our role includes advocating for, managing, and delivering services in organizations that create inclusive and equitable systems and processes, and which respect the dignity and rights of everyone.”
She emphasized the importance of civil discourse.
“We must recommit our efforts to understand the importance of facts and reason as well as our commitment to building a more just and equitable future,” she wrote. “It is through honest and respectful discourse that we can work to mend the divisions in our society.”
As various lawmakers have condemned the president’s response and incitement of the attack, Rep. Lee Zeldin, the representative for eastern Long Island in the House, has faced backlash and calls to resign from local critics.
During the attack, Zeldin released a statement saying that violence should not be tolerated in any form.
“This should never be the scene at the US Capitol. This is not the America we all love,” he said. “We can all passionately love our country, but in our republic we elect people to represent us to voice our objections in the House and Senate on this day. It is very important now for everyone to please cooperate with Capitol Police who need to gain control of this situation immediately.”
Following the chaos at the Capitol, however, Zeldin voted to overturn the election results during the joint session of Congress to certify the results of the election and said that it was his “duty to speak out” about the allegations of fraud that Trump has repeatedly floated.
The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) is among those calling Zeldin to resign. The group released a statement on Instagram asking graduate students at Stony Brook to push for Zeldin’s resignation.
“His support of Trump’s baseless claims and his objection to Biden’s certification make him complicit in what transpired at the Capitol last Wednesday,” GSO wrote in their post.
The New York State Democratic Committee also started an online petition calling for four congress members’ resignations, including Zeldin. The petition has collected more than 1,700 signatures.
“Our NY-01 Lee Zeldin proceeded to back the president and has continued to ignore the president’s role in the creation of the violent mob,” Graham said. “Being complicit in false election conspiracies and a Trump puppet is disgraceful to our district and election system. He has failed to put our democracy and our people before the President’s feelings.”
A week after the riot, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” making him the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice.
Zeldin’s office didn’t respond to a comment before this article was published.