They tried to overthrow democracy. Then they just went home.
On Jan. 6, insurrectionists scaled the Capitol’s exterior walls, pummeled police officers, smashed windows, vandalized congressional offices, stole “souvenirs,” built a gallows, chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” and defecated on the floor.
Perhaps because they couldn’t find the lawmakers they were hunting down, they finally took their combat gear, steel pipes, plastic handcuffs, Confederate flags, and Trump banners and went home as if they were simply leaving a ballgame early to beat traffic.
An attempted coup wasn’t definitively stopped. That means an insurrection can, and probably will, happen again.
For months, Republicans have been downplaying the worst assault on the Capitol in more than 200 years. Last month, despite the pleas of dozens of Capitol Police officers and appeals from the mother and girlfriend of Brian Sicknick, the officer assaulted at the riot who later died, GOP senators blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection that left four others dead.
If the fact-free GOP has its way, children may someday learn that Jan. 6 was a picnic that got a little rowdy when no one remembered to bring napkins.
Even a recent Senate report about the many intelligence failures and security lapses prior to Jan. 6 never mentions President Trump for propagating the Big Lie or inciting his followers on the day of the insurrection to “fight like hell.”
Rejected by more than 81 million voters, Trump is still spreading lies about his historic 2020 election defeat and getting away with it. This has only further emboldened those convinced that neither the election nor the insurrection is over.
In several ballparks, including Fenway Park, the former president’s supporters have taken their propaganda campaign to the upper decks. During a recent Miami Marlins baseball game, at least five people were ejected after they hung two banners from a railing. One read “Proud Boys Did Nothing Wrong,” which encircled the words “Free All Political Prisoners 1/6/21.” The other, also featuring the far-right extremist group’s logo, said, “Trump Won, Take Back America.”
Unless they’re referring to the pathetic allegiance to a one-term, twice-impeached former president, the two dozen Proud Boys arrested after the insurrection aren’t political prisoners. They’re thugs willing to destroy democracy for white supremacy. Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys were also added to Canada’s “terrorist entities” list this year.
Just as the Capitol Hill invaders took to social media to promote their violent plans weeks before they arrived in Washington, domestic terrorists are again broadcasting that their twisted goals for this nation remain unfinished.
Last month, Homeland Security officials issued a warning that “ideologically motivated violent extremists fueled by perceived grievances, false narratives, and conspiracy theories” are sharing information online “with the intent to incite violence.” Some narratives include calls for “violence against elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious or commercial facilities, and perceived ideologically opposed individuals.”
One way to look at Jan. 6 is in comparison to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured when terrorists detonated a truck bomb in a garage beneath the North Tower. Yet the assailants did not achieve their goal — taking down the iconic towers.
At the time there was a palpable sense of relief that despite that attack’s horrors, the nation had dodged even greater disaster. What went unrecognized for nearly a decade is that the terrorists weren’t done. That all changed on a sunny September morning nearly 20 years ago.
Don’t get it twisted again.
During a congressional hearing last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland said that white supremacists pose “the most dangerous threat to our democracy.” In 1995, Garland, then an associate deputy attorney general, led the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers who have inspired a new generation of white nationalists.
“The horror of domestic violent extremism is still with us,” Garland said. It’s critical to understand that for more than 400 years, violent white extremism has never left, even though history has been assiduously cleansed of so many atrocities including, until recently, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Since the insurrection, federal authorities have arrested more than 400 people. Many sit in jails awaiting trial or plea deals. Yet there’s already a sense that justice won’t be served because of the concerted effort to diminish what millions witnessed only five months ago. Police could not stop the rioters. Republicans won’t investigate what happened, its motives, and who was behind it.
Meanwhile, the next white supremacist insurrection lies patiently in wait.
Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.