Trump supporters tried to silence Black and Brown voters with Capitol attack — accountability is vital

OPINION: Political strategist Donna Brazile writes that the insurrection was "an effort to once again disenfranchise Black voters" who cast 90% of their ballots for Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Thursday marks the anniversary from absolute hell.

On Jan. 6, 2021, defeated U.S. President Donald Trump told some of his most fervent supporters, who he summoned to attend a rally near the White House, to march on the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump falsely denied that Biden was the winner of the free and fair 2020 presidential election.

At my home just a few miles away I was glued to my TV screen watching the riot that followed both outside and inside the U.S. Capitol. As the violence unfolded, Trump watched on TV as well and did nothing for over three hours before he finally called off his rabid supporters.

The attack on the Capitol really hit home for me. I spent over a decade working as a staff member there. I lived on Capitol Hill for over 30 years and got to know many of the dedicated people who work behind the scenes — police, cafeteria workers, janitors — in addition to congressional staffers. 

These people became part of my extended family. They should not see their workplace turned into a war zone.

Capitol building, Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)

Free elections are essential to our democracy. But for hundreds of years, Black Americans were barred from voting — first because we were enslaved, and then under Jim Crow laws before enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To my amazement, last Jan. 6 I saw more than an effort to once again disenfranchise Black voters, who cast 90% of our ballots for Biden. I saw Trump’s supporters attack the Capitol in an effort to erase the votes of the nearly 81.3 million Americans of every race and ethnicity who supported Biden. Trump came up far short with only 74.2 million votes. Biden won in the Electoral College by a landslide 306-232.

Hypocritically, Trump and his supporters have long proclaimed themselves supporters of the police and “law and order” and spent much of 2020 denouncing Black Lives Matter protesters for their overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations against police brutality and other forms of systemic racism. 

Yet Trump and his MAGA fans continue to defend the violent insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol last Jan. 6 as patriots. Some have even falsely and ridiculously claimed that the pro-Trump rioters were really anti-Trump forces masquerading as Trump supporters to make the defeated president look bad. 

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally
President Donald Trump speaks at the “Stop The Steal” Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Trump has asked us to not believe the videos we have seen with our own eyes of his loyalists who viciously attacked police, injured some 140 officers, and killed one. Instead, Trump has falsely claimed the rioters were “hugging and kissing police and the guards.” 

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) even claimed the rioters who rampaged through the Capitol destroying property as they attacked officers and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” were actually engaged in “a normal tourist visit.”

Do these Big Liars think the American people will ignore what we saw and believe their false narrative? Sadly and incredibly, millions of Americans actually do. 

A Washington Post poll published Saturday found that while 78% of Democrats believe those who entered the Capitol last Jan. 6 were mostly violent, only 26% of Republicans hold that view. And while 92% of Democrats and 57% of independents believe Trump bears a “great deal” or a “good amount” of blame for the attack, only 27% of Republicans hold that view. 

In his video finally asking the rioters to peacefully leave the Capitol last Jan. 6, Trump told them “we love you” and “you’re very special,” and said “I know your pain, I know your hurt.” He later tweeted the insurrectionists were “great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Quite a change from when Trump earlier denounced Black Lives Matter as “a symbol of hate,” called for a police crackdown on BLM, and strongly defended monuments to Confederate leaders who committed treason against the United States by launching the Civil War in support of the continued enslavement of Black people. 

Trump frequently called protesters against racism “violent demonstrators” and “THUGS” and said people who want to remove Confederate statues “don’t love our country.”

Protesters walk along the recently renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza with signs near the White House during George Floyd protests on June 6, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Ominously, the nightmare of Jan. 6, 2021 didn’t end a year ago. It’s still with us, as Trump continues to falsely claim he won the 2020 presidential election, works to purge Republicans denying his Big Lie from the party with primary challenges, and supports candidates at the state level who are more loyal to him than to the Constitution and our democracy.

One thing you can bet on with absolute certainty: If Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, he will claim he won the election even if he loses. Frighteningly, Trump may have enough supporters in place in Congress and in state offices to declare him the winner of the election even if he is really the loser.

If this happens, our democracy will die, replaced by a cult of personality and elections as fraudulent as those in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. 

The best way to stop this scenario from unfolding is for the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection to continue its work and hold everyone responsible for the attack accountable — with no exceptions. This must be followed up by Justice Department prosecution of not just the rioters, but those who planned, incited, funded and allowed the attack to continue by their actions or inactions. 

In our beloved democracy, the principle that no one is above the law — even the president or a former president — is what helped make America great in the first place.

Donna Brazile Headshot

Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download today!