The riots in Washington, D.C. and breach of the Capitol on Wednesday during the joint session of Congress, as members debated the certification of the Electoral College results in the presidential election, have shocked the nation.
As senators and representatives sheltered in place and police attempted to keep the mobs away and restore order, the videos that emerged, along with news of four deaths – one woman shot and killed by police and three who succumbed to “medical emergencies” – have deeply grieved the overwhelming majority Americans who believe in the sanctity of the democratic process and the peaceful transition of power.
The fallout and repercussions of Wednesday’s events will continue to manifest for some time. But as Congress re-assembled late Wednesday and continued its constitutional duties into the early hours of Thursday morning before ultimately certifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice President-elect, certain profiles in courage emerged that are worthy of highlighting.
Law enforcement and first responders deserve the lion’s share of respect and gratitude for the dangerous and necessary duties they performed as the mob broke windows, threw projectiles, and threatened the safety of everyone inside the Capitol’s hallowed halls.
Fourteen police officers were wounded during the riot, according to D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. The D.C. Metro police, along with the National Guard, the FBI, and other local law enforcement agencies came to the aid of the U.S. Capitol Police, the federal agency charged with protecting Congress. The police have thus far made 52 arrests, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Image from JIM BOURG/REUTERS
Attackers wielded metal pipes and other weapons and released chemical irritants at police, according to Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. The attack on the Capitol was “unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,″ Sund, a former city police officer, said. “Make no mistake: these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior. The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced.″
In the middle of the pandemonium inside the building, paramedics rushed to save Ashli Babbitt, the San Diego woman who was shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to climb through a smashed window and over police barricades on the other side. She later died at the hospital. Kudos to those emergency personnel who risked their own safety in order to attempt to save Babbitt’s life.
The press may not be very popular with some Americans, but they nevertheless waded into the sea of hostile protestors in pursuit of a story outside the Capitol. The Daily Citizen’s own news crew reported from the scene, including witnessing the vandalizing and destruction of The AP’s equipment by the mob. At one point, at about eight and a half minutes into the linked video, one young man approached our reporters with the question, “You’re not fake news too, are you? You better not be.”
It was tense, but our reporters said they never felt as though they were in danger.
Under the category of “moral courage,” a couple of scenes are worthy of mention.
First, Vice President Mike Pence took a courageous stance, in the form of an open letter to the American people explaining why he felt he was not constitutionally empowered to stop the Electoral College certification process and demand investigations by several states into allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities. Pence’s stance, taken after President Donald Trump pressured him to block the process, is the first time in four years the Vice President visibly differed with the president on any major issue.
The VP’s stand caught the attention of Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, who tweeted: “Today, @realDonaldTrump accused @VP @Mike_Pence of lacking courage. Courage isn’t doing what you’re pressured to do. It’s doing what is right. It’s following your conscience regardless of the consequences. God bless you, VP Pence.”
The other example of moral courage we witnessed on Wednesday was the resolve shown by Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to return to their chambers to finish the debate over, and certification of, the Electoral College results.
“They tried to disrupt our democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “They failed.”
The Capitol Hill riot may have shaken, at least temporarily, our faith in the tradition of peaceful transfers of power in this country, but some things never change about Americans. Their examples of courage in times of crisis always remind us that we still have much to admire and be grateful for.
Photo from JIM BOURG/REUTERS