POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Shocked but not surprised: reactions to US violence



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Trump supporters scaling the Capitol building in Washington on 6 January (Photo: Alex Gakos, Shutterstock) 

As extremists stormed the Capitol in Washington on 6 January, Luxembourg watched the scenes unfold from afar, horrified by what was taking place in the US capital. 

“I was hoping this wouldn’t happen,” said Natalie Bachiri, chairwoman of Democrats Abroad in Luxembourg. “He [US president Donald Trump] has been stoking the flames for so long. We’re going to have more problems like this until the inauguration.”

Trump supporters had gathered for a rally in the US capital on Wednesday, but Capitol Hill turned into a riot zone and the building went into lockdown after a violent mob breached security and stormed the federal legislature’s seat.

“It’s really scary that it’s gotten to this point,” said Bachiri, adding that the US under Donald Trump was no longer a beacon of democracy. “It’s not a welcoming country anymore.”

While the Capitol was being cleared, armed pro-Trump militia gathered at the State Capitol in Georgia--where Democrats narrowly won two Senate seats the same day--and protesters rallied in other US states, including California, Kansas and Oregon.

“The propaganda that people have been fed for so long will take a long time to get out of their system,” Bachiri said of Trump’s supporters. “People are going to hear what they want to hear.”

Delano contacted the Republicans Overseas for comment, but they did not reply before publication.

Numerous politicians in Luxembourg also expressed disbelief at the events unfolding across the Atlantic. Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) via Twitter called the riots “a heinous attack on the foundations of democracy and the freedom of press.”

Djuna Bernard, deputy president of the Green party, also on Twitter said: “Democracy is fragile! We must step up!” The Pirate Party’s Sven Clement tweeted: “Whatever your opinions, violence is never the solution.” And Gary Diderich (déi Lénk) said: “We need a clear ‘no’ to fascism for this to stay a short nightmare. Trump go home!”

“Trump is not only a danger for democracy but also his party,” commented Laurent Mosar (CSV) on Twitter. “The Republicans must think twice about how long they will continue following him.” Yves Cruchten, the president of the LSAP, tweeted a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty burying her head in her hands.

Display of lunacy

“It’s not a testament to the strength of America’s democracy,” said political scientist Josip Glaurdić. “My hope is that this pathetic display of lunacy will deflate the whole thing and will lead to many people on the right--who seem to believe the president’s lies about the elections being rigged--to wake up and realise they don’t want to be a part of this.”

While the insurgence puts even more pressure on president-elect Joe Biden, Glaurdić said the scenes could yet play out in Biden’s favour. “You saw someone with a sense of decency and understanding of the Constitution,” he said. “He has made the contrast between himself and his opponent even starker.”

Glaurdić agreed with commentators who called out law enforcement bias against black protesters who were arrested by the thousands during Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the year, when Capitol Hill was heavily guarded.

“It’s absolutely shocking,” he said of images showing “QAnon freaks basically chasing metro police officers around the Capitol building.”

Police reported four deaths from the riots, including one woman who was shot and later died of her injuries. “When you see people turned towards conspiracy theory, giving their life for an incompetent fool, a fraudster… it’s sad,” Glaurdić said.

But he also warned that it was “shortsighted to think that this kind of thing cannot happen in Europe.” During anti-coronavirus protests in Berlin in August, extremists stormed the steps of Germany’s parliament--the Reichstag building--although they failed to gain access. “Storming a parliament is a very European thing,” the University of Luxembourg professor said.

The US embassy in Luxembourg in response to a request for comment referred to a statement issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who wrote: “The storming of the US Capitol today is unacceptable. Lawlessness and rioting--here or around the world--is always unacceptable,” adding: “Let us swiftly bring justice to the criminals who engaged in this rioting.”