An Attempted Coup and the Narratives Surrounding It

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Image: Leah Millis/Reuters

What occurred on Wednesday, January 6th, 2020, was always a possibility. Amongst those I learn from and listen to regularly, it was Mariame Kaba who perhaps most prominently always foresaw at least an attempt at a coup taking form even before the November election. Other Black radicals also saw there is a chance that the fascist brigade could make at least one forceful attempt to end the steal or pressure enough Republicans to not certify the election results. With repeated social media announcements and alerts, these fascists told the world what they had planned to barge into the Capitol. For several hours, they did occupy that building.

From the officers that opened the security gates to usher in these white nationalists to the others that took selfies with these actors, the inevitability of this type of action points towards the allegiances “law” enforcement has always had. The targets of policing and the US’s authorities were not present in this crowd, thus resulting in the easy access where the fascists waltzed into the Capitol building with little interruption. Much of that crowd were wealthier whites that flew in across the country, including lawmakers, police officers, veterans, and other white supremacists that just came for some fun. That argument of it being a bunch of angry whites that feel economically disadvantaged falls incredibly flat in light of this (again not to state that there may not have been working-class people there, but they did not appear to be there en masse). Although their overarching goal of stopping the certification failed, what they accomplished is that they are a force that will be aided by agents of the state and will begin to escalate their tactics. The people who died on that day, including the officer, were unintentional collateral in the state’s action to respond because it was beginning to threaten US hegemony. The ruling class saw these events as getting too out of hand after several hours and stepped in to remove the occupiers.

The discussion surrounding the terminology of the recent events has significant ramifications in what ends up becoming of this event. I am not the best person to speak of these events as terrorism, a coup. However, I can comfortable and confident in stating is that this was an attempted coup, not the work of anarchists (no one seems to understand this term either, intentional or not) and its response will result in the state affirming its monopoly of violence on the most vulnerable. We know what citizens associate with terrorism, with coups, and almost all of that rhetoric is racist and rooted in the US’s imperialist efforts elsewhere. Maybe it means refraining from using such terms to discuss the events of Wednesday (I do not because I don’t know if terrorism is the best way to describe that day), or it’s in the requirement to qualify such language and addressing to what ends you think these words serve. Calling America “Bogota,” a “banana republic,” “looking like a third world country,” or any other related euphemism is a mockery of the death and destruction the US caused abroad, let alone it even being comparable to what power trip/fantasy the fascists pursued this week.

Forget just a demand to increase funding in an already extremely bloated Capitol police force or of national policing as Biden demands; the lovers of the carceral state will seek to “make an example” of the raiders of the Capitol to proclaim the state is righteous. As an abolitionist, I do put energy into the fact that the fascists getting arrested and sentenced because we have more pressing issues to care about. What is more concerning is that as these people get minimal charges, the state will increase the amount of violence they justify in quelling righteous Black protests and organizers. They will claim that because the fascists got punished, the state has a legitimate claim to continuing its fascist-imperialist efforts abroad and domestically.

One of the more harmful discussions that stemmed from the events last week was the whole “well imagine what would have happened if the people entering the Capitol were Black.” Forget the repeated justification and understanding that the state has been forever Black, along with America’s collective conscious of envisioning mass Black death; the Black people who dared to take whatever force or measure of just violence against the state have either been killed or served decades/continue to serve time incarcerated. We know what would have happened if these were Black people because we have seen in history what it would have and continues to do to Black people who dare to challenge the authority of the state. Any jokes about Black people getting decimated at the Capitol steps not only dehumanizes these people as the state hopes to do, but it also removes any opportunity to understand the radical history of those who did dare to take on American elites by any means necessary.

The events of Wednesday has left political legislators distracted and has given leaders an excuse to not focus on the immediate economic relief, instead of pursuing impeachment. Am I fine with the president being impeached and removed? In theory, yeah sure that’s fine. However, this is coming in front of the economic and public health crisis, which only harms citizens far more than removing the president for his last ten days, is nothing less than deadly. The Twitter permanent ban, while welcome, must be recognized with the understanding that Twitter did this both because 350+ employees pressured Jack Dorsey, along with the business benefits of the positive press to remove Trump. The harm of his Twitter account has already been done at this point. On the free speech point, it has escaped this discourse that tech corporations have repeatedly regulated and banned not only other world leaders (many times left-leaning), but also in restricting leftist ideologies and thinkers.

What do we take from this moment? Perhaps take the advice of Kwame Ture on this new fracture in the right:

The right is fractured between those who supported the raiding of the Capitol and those who backed the certification of the election results. It is at this moment that Ture argues that this moment can afford us with an opportunity for significant political consciousness. Abolition helps us rationalize much of the events on Wednesday, along with how groups reacted to January 6th. I’ll link Mariame Kaba’s list of political commitments folks can take this upcoming year to support an abolitionist future here. Use this moment of a confused and divided right as the chance to jump into organizing with those in your community. If there’s anything we know from the events this week, it’s that this was likely just the first of many fascist marches across the country, so tap in with those near you, stay safe, and be prepared.

Being Noah Tesfaye #165: An Attempted Coup and the Narratives Surrounding It

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