Donald Trump’s incitement of insurrection on Jan. 6 was among the most traitorous and anti-democratic actions of any U.S. president in history.
In its aftermath, People For the American Way has pressed for swift and decisive legal accountability, which we believe is the first step toward repairing our fractured democracy. In addition to calling for Trump to be removed from office, we also demand accountability for every front-line rioter who acted on Trump’s incitement, his Republican enablers in Congress, and the U.S. Capitol Police officers who rubbed elbows with the violent mob.
Our work going forward requires vigilance from all of us. And on January 14, People For held a member telebriefing to outline our robust accountability campaign and discuss how progressives can join our efforts. People For Executive Vice President Marge Baker, People For Senior Director of Field Mobilization Diallo Brooks, and Right Wing Watch Editor Addie Stan joined the briefing as People For’s panel of experts, with People For Communications Director Laurie Kinney acting as moderator.
Our members had the opportunity to submit their questions and concerns about the insurrectionist attack and our accountability campaign. Here’s what our experts had to say in response to some of their questions:
The individuals who planned this attack planned it online. Many of us knew it was coming. How is it possible that the Capitol was so poorly protected, and how can we hold law enforcement accountable?
People For has called for an investigation into law enforcement’s egregious response to the attack, including workplace termination and full prosecution of the law for all officers who participated. Stan shared that investigative work is already underway among media outlets that research and report on right-wing extremism. Also, she said, Right Wing Watch is providing its expertise and critical insights about white supremacist and other extremist groups that recruit officers and researching the kinds of arrests that are being made among departments with a known white supremacist presence.
Brooks also pointed to the systemic racism that has shaped our nation’s law enforcement practices and the discrepancy in law enforcement’s militarized response to Black Lives Matter protests, which was needlessly violent and combative, in contrast with its response to this attack. Many Black U.S. Capitol Police officers have since come forward to address the endemic racism within their department. Stan also emphasized that law enforcement has a history of recruiting white supremacists into their circles.
How can members of Congress who enabled Trump’s lies and insurrection be held accountable?
Baker shared People For’s accountability plans for members of Congress, which include the resignation of every member of Congress who voted to deny the Electoral College’s certification of the presidential election. In addition, we have also called for Republican congressional ringleaders House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise, and senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – all of whom supported this effort – to be censured.
Brooks also stressed that we all must recognize that the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress are also complicit in this attack for spreading disinformation, and “lighting a match and tossing it on a powder keg because they did not win this election.” They also need to be held accountable.
How do we stop and push back against false narratives in far-right media and from far-right figures and politicians?
Stan acknowledged that our work as activists to push back against disinformation is especially challenging during this moment because Trumpism and the far right have created a culture of distrust that has taken root so strongly that many of his supporters believe that their “phantasmagorical tales are real.” In other words, they no longer recognize the truth as the truth. But, she said, we need to “develop tools for de-radicalization.” Baker added that staying current on Right Wing Watch’s reporting is incredibly helpful because its team reports, in real time, when elected officials and other high-level figures repeat and spread right-wing disinformation and other false narratives.
Does this end when Trump leaves office? Going forward, how can we stem the wave of Trumpism?
Baker urged that our work as activists doesn’t end when Trump leaves office because the work of holding Trump accountable is far from over. But the violent display of white entitlement and rage also made it clear how much further we have to go to achieve true racial equity and justice in this country, Brooks said, and we cannot continue to ignore our country’s shameful legacy of white supremacy. “We’ve ignored it for a long time,” he continued, “and the way we create change is to do the hard work necessary to really engage and combat it and hold folks accountable when we see it.”
Indeed, our work as activists and defenders of democracy continues. And you can take part in that effort right now by supporting our work to hold every individual who threatened our democracy to account.
If you missed the telebriefing, you can watch it in full here.