One year later, students recall Jan. 6 insurrection

It’s been a year since violent rioters broke into the capitol building and threatened the lives of lawmakers, law enforcement and innocent bystanders, and in the process threatened the livelihood of American citizens all over the country. The Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol impacted all of us, even though some understood the tragedy differently than others. 

As high school students in Iowa, no one at the high school was directly injured or hurt, but all watched as right wing extremists and radical followers of the Trump presidency stormed the Capitol building. 

Austin Haworth, a junior, remembers the day clearly. “It was like a scene from a movie. I was walking down the hall when I caught a glimpse of a teacher’s monitor. I doubled back and watched as the news showed the rioters entering the capital. What I find interesting is my immediate reaction: ‘Here we go again.’”

For such a significant and historical event, many weren’t even surprised at the violence and tragedy that occured. Haworth noted that he was “numb” to the importance of the day as though it wasn’t anything new to him. Growing up in an age of extreme political divisiveness and animosity, students recalled what it was like being a teenager during the Jan. 6 Insurrection. 

Throughout the 2020 presidential election and into the new presidency, tensions were high between Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between. Sophomore Evan Myers addressed the effect that the insurrection and the election leading up to it had on him and his family.

“I have many family members that have become more and more radicalized toward the ‘big steal’ lie that essentially sparked this whole ordeal, which has led up to very close direct family going as far as blocking me and my parents on social media over opinions and posts, gross amounts of verbal abuse in person and online for even vocalizing opinions and laying out facts.”

Even within communities and families that were once close-knit and caring, many Americans would rather cut out the ones they hold dear than come to an understanding with each other. 

Myers said, “People rioted like they did as many of those radicalized enough to fly across the country to attack the US Capitol Building were being strewn down the path of misinformation and hate for years before this. With the Trump presidency and the minority of his very radical supporters, misinformation was easily spread online to thousands. Things got to a point where supporters voiced whatever Trump said, with many of the rioters sporting ‘Make America Great Again’ gear while literally tearing down the Capitol, and in spirit, the country.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Jack Baumann, a sophomore, recalled his experiences being a Republican and watching his fellow party members take part in this historical revolt.

“My family is largely diverse in politics. I myself am a Republican and both of my parents are Democrats,” he said. “What happened on Jan. 6th was an insurrection against the United States government and a large embarrassment for my own party.”

When asked the motive behind the coup, Baumann said he was, “very saddened to hear of the officer who was killed in the line of duty while protecting his country’s capital. I do believe that President Trump had some role in the insurrection happening and caused hundreds of people to flood the capital. Regarding Trump’s words when he said ‘fight for it.’ I do not believe that Trump actually meant to start an insurrection,” Baumann said. “Trump has said a lot of stuff without thinking in the past, and this is a good example of it. People took him seriously and actually tried fighting.”

Throughout Trump’s presidency, he said lots of things without thinking, like in October of 2020 when he said that COVID-19 is “going to disappear. It’s disappearing.” Or Trump falsely claiming that he won the 2020 election before ballots were finished counting. While falsities have always been a prevalent part of politics, with an ever-increasing rise in social media use, misinformation isn’t a new concept by any means. 

Junior Alexander Haskins said, “People rioted because they don’t like change, and in today’s politics, you are either Left or Right. When Trump was voted in, he spent time changing Obama’s policies, and when Biden was voted in, he spent time changing Trump’s policies. There’s no middle ground, there’s no working together. It feels very separated in the political scene. Going from a far-right president who has very dedicated followers and all the sudden that changes, the followers and supporters might feel like it’s the end of the world, especially when guided by misinformation.”

Today, social media is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. It has the ability to spread ideas to the whole world all at once and manipulate people into believing outrageous things.

Junior Annie Forcum said, “They rioted and acted as they did because in part they were manipulated by right-wing extremists and in part because they had put so much energy into supporting this man and basing much of their life around him, so when he actually lost they couldn’t believe it and got mad.” 

Forcum continued. “Of course being the mostly white men they are, wanted to get what they wanted and didn’t think about the real risks or consequences of doing so because even if they don’t know or acknowledge it, they were certainly protected in part by their privilege both at the capital and all throughout their lives,” Forcum said. “A group of rioters and insurrectionists broke into the capitol, putting their lives at risk because their favorite orange man didn’t get reelected president and they were mad.”

With a historic practice of a peaceful transfer of power between United States’ presidents, the outcome of the 2020 election came as a surprise for many Americans. It was not peaceful or respectful, but instead ended in a violent riot with five casualties: one Capitol Police officer and four Trump loyalists. 

Junior Tanvi Khadiya explained her assessment of the uproar.

“For something like this to have even happened in our country was sickening, and I think it just exposed the widespread and deep-rooted effects of the lie that the president had been pushing for so long. I think the fact that the rioters were being encouraged by the president of the United States gave them the support and approval they wanted and needed to be able to riot the way they did. That, combined with a general herd mentality, is probably what made this riot as dangerous and violent as it became.”

Khadiya continued. “It just opened our eyes to what people in this country had actually been thinking and following for so long. We knew that there were people who believed that the election was stolen but never realized how far they would go to defend that lie.”

Few expected Jan. 6, 2021, to end how it did, with extreme violence and animosity. Protests and peaceful demonstrations have been increasingly common these last few years, with American citizens speaking up about passionate controversies. Junior Sophia Woods finished with this thought. “Ever since America was formed, there has been a tradition of peaceful transfer of power between presidents. Yes, there have been protests, but never has there been a direct attack with violent intent on lawmakers. No matter your personal opinion on those elected, it’s expected that your opinion can be expressed in a way that is safe for all those involved, and with the deaths of multiple, Jan. 6th’s riots were anything but.”

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