Capitol Riots: What do students think?

Hundreds of rioters storm the Capitol building, clashing with law enforcement, and climbing the walls. Lev Radin / Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Hundreds of rioters storm the Capitol building, clashing with law enforcement, and climbing the walls. Lev Radin / Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Hundreds of rioters storm the Capitol building, clashing with law enforcement, and climbing the walls. Lev Radin / Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, during the Senate’s confirmation of each state’s Electoral College votes, what started out as an alleged peaceful protest turned into an angry mob of rioters, who proceeded to break into the Capitol building, and cause a major delay for the senate. Senators had to promptly evacuate in the middle of their confirmation of Joe Biden’s win of the November election as rioters broke into the capitol building using excessive force and exhibiting extremely violent behavior. This demonstration delayed the Senate for multiple hours, however they proceeded with the event later in the evening on Jan. 6.

Rioters stormed the main hall of the United States Capitol, as well as the offices of congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and other Congress officials. Then Vice President Mike Pence, who was present in the Capitol building as the rioting started and progressed, deployed the National Guard to aid Washington D.C. law enforcement. One woman who managed to get inside the Capitol building received fatal injuries, and died on Jan. 6. Four other deaths were later confirmed— one officer, and three other rioters.

What do high schoolers in the United States have to say about these displays of domestic terrorism? Does the new generation of politicians, leaders, lawmakers, and activists condemn this behavior, or can we sympathize with it?

When asked about this, senior Torie Smith said, “People planted bombs, had the intention to kill, and broke into a secured building. The people who were involved from inside the Capitol are not excluded from the title of terrorists. I have to say I sympathize with them because the only way we can all come back from something like this is from a place of empathy. When we move forward with problems like this, yelling back louder is not the solution. It’s conversations and explanations to help us understand that these people were taken advantage of and it’s truly sad.”

Many of the rioters justified their actions as merely carrying out an invitation from the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. The former president never directly invited these people. However, over the course of the many months since the election, he had used aggressive language to promote the false narrative of a fraudulent election. In the former president’s response to the horrific event, as opposed to condemning the behavior, he said, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it. Especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”

When the Senate reconvened in the Capitol Building’s main hall, on the evening of Jan. 6, each senator was given an opportunity to express their thoughts on the events of earlier. Most senators expressed their utter disappointment and revulsion at what they had experienced, and it was an incredibly raw moment on the Capitol’s floor.

But what is the appropriate response from our nation’s leaders? A freshman, Philip Ehret said, “At this time, the best, and maybe the only thing that can be done, is to convict the rioters. I’m not sure I could give specific crimes that would be charged against them, but at the very least destruction of private and public property. Many of them took videos and photos of themselves and posted them online so they shouldn’t be something people can get away with.”

Ehret went on to say, “I was at first unsurprised, but definitely concerned. Knowing this country, this is the kind of thing I would expect from people, but then again, that doesn’t lessen the wrongness of what happened. Above all else, this sets a precedent that any large group extreme enough can storm the Capitol because they felt it was right.”

Smith continued her thoughts as well. “I feel like this event proves that our democracy is truly under attack. There are two extremes at this point, and it’s hard when there’s so many people being misinformed. We need to talk about the manipulation on both the left and right. Open our ears back up. We also need to face the fact that our democracy needs change. The founding fathers intended for the constitution to change with time. We can’t keep sticking with what’s worked in the past because that is how history repeats itself. While the events of that day were horrid, it gave America the opportunity to see the real issue with our country right now.”