Yesterday’s occupation of the United States Capitol building by a mob of violent, overwhelmingly white, insurrectionists — incited and encouraged by President Trump in an attempted coup seeking to overthrow an election — was a shocking, seditious extension of the conspiracy-laden white supremacy Trump has embraced for decades and fomented as a candidate and president.
The insurrection failed to prevent the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. Its damage — and that of the toxic cesspool that created the environment in which it formed and occurred, evinced by the false and baseless objections of eight Republican senators and 139 Republican representatives — will likely take years to be known and repaired.
Trump’s call to violence provoked calls for his removal, either by impeachment or the 25th Amendment, from corners of the political spectrum that rarely find themselves in agreement — at least 196 Democratic members of Congress; Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.; former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the Washington Post editorial board, among others. Numerous foreign leaders expressed concern and dismay over the attempted insurrection and called for the United States to abide by its election results and conduct a peaceful transfer of power.
The contrast between the actions of officers who took selfies with the insurrectionists as they stormed the Capitol and the violent reactions by law enforcement to the peaceful Black Lives Matter movement, the native Water Protectors at Standing Rock and Dakota Access, and other protesters against injustice is a stark illustration of the entrenched and pervasive racism in the United States.
Functioning and robust democracy is integral to justly combating the climate crisis, and a fundamental component of any robust democracy is the right to protest — the ‘right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ This violent attempt to disrupt and prevent the democratic transfer of power is antithetical to the best of the principles and ideals — too often unmet — on which this country was founded. But however abhorrent, yesterday’s violence must not be used as pretext to further restrict the right to protest or further militarize police forces. The struggle for climate justice and the struggle for equity and human rights are inextricably linked to the act of democracy, just as the racist, anti-democratic forces that fueled yesterday’s events are inextricably linked to the extractive, violent, conspiracy-addled machine of climate denial.
Climate Nexus stands firmly with those who seek to build a more democratic, just, and sustainable world.