Students Weigh In on Capitol Riots


Photo courtesy of Channel 3000.

A mob of Trump supporters staged a domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Building on January 6. People around the world watched with horror as this attack struck the center of the U.S. democracy.

“I was… watching CNN as it was happening live, and I was in complete shock and disbelief,” said junior Ella Stamerra, the public outreach chair for Young Democrats. “I remember being so scared because I just saw people charge up to the Capitol.”

Other students who found out from friends or the internet echoed Stamerra’s feelings of shock and found the event so unreal that they didn’t think it was true. “I had kind of seen something but I thought it was a joke at first,” said a Woodson senior who prefers to remain unnamed. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. I was just shocked and kind of denied it was happening for a bit.”

Senior Caroline Smith also thought it was a joke when her friend first told her. “I was just so confused about how they had gotten into the Capitol,” she said, “but after looking more into it, it made sense.” As more information came through, people were left to grapple with the idea that these rioters had left bombs around DC, that the president had seemingly incited this mob, and that law enforcement hadn’t been able to stop them.

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Mr. Mike Viccora, a U.S. history teacher, said that he talked about the riots with students in his classes, discussing both the attack and parallels they might be able to draw between it and other historical events. “I think they appreciated what was happening but they took it a) with a little bit of historical context so they knew we’re not really breaking out into another civil war,” said Mr. Viccora, “and b) they had a little bit of perspective and sense of humor, trying to appreciate it, but understanding the depth of what’s happened.”

As the Capitol was secured and the shock of the attack wore off, there were a lot of different takeaways about what this might mean for the country. At the forefront of many discussions was the disparity between law enforcement’s treatment of the Trump rioters and the Black Lives Matter movement. “If that was a Black Lives Matter protest [more] people would be dead,” said Stamerra. “I think it really shows the blatant racism in our country.”

The unnamed senior also was frustrated with the lack of police response, “but at the same time they were probably scared to do anything at all after all the persecution they have endured after BLM.”

Despite this tragedy, others continue to debate how valid the feelings that led to the attack were, while still condemning the violence. “All the people who rioted are the same people who have been told they are wrong,” said the unnamed senior. “They wanted a recount of votes, among other things, and they weren’t listened to… so those people probably felt cheated.”

Though Trump’s claims of voter fraud precipitated this tragedy, some people, including the president, who repeated his false claims even as he told the rioters to leave, were unwilling to abandon the belief that there had been voter fraud. Many other Republicans expressed their disgust at this riot and some even called it a terrorist attack, yet 147 Republican lawmakers continued to refuse to certify the election results, repeating the false claim that there had been widespread election fraud.

Junior Johnny Hanford. Photo courtesy of Hanford.

“I feel that people should know that Republicans in no way support this happening,” said junior Johnny Hanford, a member of Young Republicans. “The protest was for the most part peaceful, which I can support, but only a small section of the party would ever approve of these actions.”

Since this attack, the House of Representatives has impeached President Trump, and on January 25 they transmitted the impeachment article to the Senate, triggering Trump’s trial even though he has left office and been replaced by President Biden.

The fear and shock of this event, especially because it happened only 20 miles from Woodson, has left people with questions over what comes next personally as well. “It made me feel quite honestly discouraged,” Smith said, “However, I am still keeping hope that we can see a fundamental change…I would like to take more action to help combat the things I don’t like about this country.”

Ms. Stephanie Pollack, a government teacher, suggested to students, “If you don’t like what you’re seeing, change it. Even if you’re not 18 you can change it through volunteering, through educating yourself on the issues.”