The insurgence we all saw on Wednesday was paralyzing. I never thought, ever, that I’d see American citizens violently storm, occupy and deface the Capitol. It was not just a threat to democracy. It damaged our reputation among the peoples of the world, our place in the global community as a nation guided by the rule of law.
The most powerful man in the world, unhinged and unable to accept his election loss, incited a mob of his supporters to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power our nation has enjoyed for 223 years.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Dec. 19, according to a report in The New York Times that described it as just one of several of his tweets promoting the day. “Be there, will be wild!” He predicted the gathering in Washington DC would be “wild” and it was. We condemn the words, the intentions and the mayhem that resulted.
While the images of rioters defiling the Senate chambers, Capitol police training weapons on the entry to the House chambers, and terrified public servants fleeing to safety, played throughout the nation, I felt the need to find and listen to the President’s speech, to see what exactly was said, immediately before Trump supporters menacingly marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and violently broke through police barriers.
“Now, it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy,” Trump told the crowd. “And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” he said. “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
There was one unbelievable scene after the next: the rioter in a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, the man grinning at the camera as he walked away with the lecturn of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the shirtless Viking from the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy group yelling orders. Authorities used tear gas and stun grenades but still the mob pushed ahead.
And for many hours, our chief executive refused to implore the rioters to stand down.
While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and I share a history of leadership in family philanthropy, I seldom, if ever, agreed with her actions during her four years in the job. But I couldn’t agree more with her comments to the president last Thursday in resigning from the Cabinet:
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation.”
We are saddened by it all: the threat to democracy, the incomprehensible police response, the deaths of five people including one officer and one rioter shot by police. On the world stage, we are embarrassed.
Our role, as community leaders and Alaskans, is to stand up for what is right, for truth and justice, decency and fairness, for kindness and compassion, for freedom of the press. For the rule of law. We are a people who work together despite different political interests, cultures and experiences.
In our democracy, we cherish the right to speak out. Let’s all use our voices for good.