The picture is almost ridiculous: a scared policeman trying to restrain a group of ‘hillbillies’ mostly bearded men who walk in disbelief into the Capitol. Nor did they seem to believe the one they were riding. The mob made up of individuals used to always being the last occupied the very heart of the empire, the center of power in the most powerful country in the history of mankind. How can this happen in a nation where, moreover, security is almost an obsession, where the most sophisticated defense mechanisms are developed? A nation that is even on permanent alert because it lives with the terrorist threat every hour of every day of the year.
There is going to be a lot of talk about this. In principle, everything seems to indicate that there has been a combination of unpredictability and legal rigidities. Not to mention that the instigator of the tumult, Donald Trump, remains the president of the United States, with the consequent authority to influence delicate decisions affecting the country. And we are facing one of them: practically militarizing the capital.
The analysts begin by remembering that the competition architecture in Washington DC has its peculiarities since it is a different entity from the fifty states and depends directly on the federal government. And within Parliament the situation is even more particular because the competence of its security corresponds solely to the Capitol Police. Neither the army, the National Guard nor the city police have access to these facilities. So it is not surprising that a police force that is fundamentally used to managing tourist queues was overwhelmed by this situation. What’s more, some of the officers viewed the rioters with a certain sympathy, even taking selfies.
The problem, therefore, was outside, when no one did anything to contain the mob on their way to the Legislative headquarters. It seems that the authorities trusted themselves, which is surprising. Knowing Trump’s incendiary abilities and the primitive impulses of his most radical (and heavily armed) supporters, anything could happen. The protest was called one kilometer from the Capitol, yes. But it is a minimum distance for people who had approached from the most remote corners of the country. The still president only had to light the fuse for his faithful to advance towards where, according to his crazy theses, the electoral fraud that would turn the United States into a Soviet state was taking place.
When everything exploded, the Pentagon did activate all the National Guard reservists in the District of Columbia (about 1,100 soldiers), and the governor of Virginia sent 200 state agents to contain the unrest. But the damage had already been done, and what considers itself the greatest democracy on the planet had suffered one of the most painful humiliations in its history. Even more so when it has been inflicted by its own people, what some there call ‘white trash’: poor whites spurred, on top of it, by the violent message of their own president.
There is a derivative that is further inflaming the spirits in the US, and it is the striking difference between the shielding that Washington underwent during the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, and yesterday. Also between the police attitude when there are altercations with the Afro-American majority, and that displayed in this case. Doc Rivers, former coach of the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team, said it very well: “Can you imagine what would have happened if those who stormed the Capitol were black?”