Donald Trump Incited a Riot. Now He and His Mob Must Be Held Accountable.

Emboldened by the President, rioters intent on overthrowing the election showed us the worst face of America – one we all must reckon with

Rioters Storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6

The rioters who invaded the Capitol on January 6 should be investigated, prosecuted, and punished. So should the inciter-in-chief and those in Congress who sought to overturn the election. Photo: Brett Davis (CC BY-NC-2.0)

Last week, we witnessed a violent display of white supremacy at the U.S. Capitol – a calculated threat to our democracy incited by our sitting president and his unrepentant allies. As we watched the Confederate flag carried through the halls of government, it was hard even to recall that such a dark day in our nation’s history had dawned auspiciously, joyously, with the historic election of Pastor Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate.

Georgia’s first Black senator won an ugly run-off election thanks to the power of grassroots organizing that overwhelmed state-sponsored efforts to suppress the Black vote.

In acknowledging the significance of the moment, Warnock invoked his mother’s triumph as “the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.”

The juxtaposition of the insurrection and Warnock’s election belies the claim, repeated earnestly by those on both sides of the aisle since January 6, that these events do not reflect “who we are as Americans.” In fact, these events together speak to exactly who we are as Americans today – and who we should aspire to be.

First, we cannot regard the white-rage-fueled attack on the Capitol and Congress or the pervasive voter suppression in the presidential and Georgia special elections as aberrations. Anti-democratic and unlawful voter suppression – reinforced by threats of violence – has been commonplace, historically and currently. And, it has been energized and given legitimacy by President Trump.

At the same time, we can look with hope to the courageous organizers, volunteers, and voters in Georgia and across the country who stood up for justice last week and ensured that this time, our democracy would live up to its potential. Together, they changed the course not just of a single state but of our Nation.

Investigate. Prosecute. Punish. Including the President.

In this immediate aftermath of the insurrection, we at CLF are demanding the thorough investigation, prosecution, and punishment of all of those connected to it – from the inciter-in-chief to those acting at his urging.

We urge you to tell your federal elected officials that President Trump and the Members of Congress who sought to overturn the election results must be held accountable through censure or impeachment and removal. And, those rioters who invaded the Capitol must be investigated, prosecuted, and punished.

We do not make these demands lightly. As a nonpartisan organization committed to and reliant on the rule of law, CLF sees these demands as central to our mission and our commitment to social justice. This must be a moment for accountability, not absolution. There can be no unity without it.

White Supremacy Culture Has Many Faces and Consequences

The work we must all do together over the long term is just as critical. We must reject the shameful legacy of white supremacy, but we also must recognize how it pervades our systems of governance, laws, and policies – intentionally and to this day. Decades of racist policies have created deep, damaging inequities for communities of color – from policing to economic opportunity to healthcare. And that very pervasiveness is what emboldens the brazen displays of white nationalism that we witnessed last week.

Those inequities won’t go away just because President Trump has been banned from social media and, soon enough, the Oval Office. And, while the mob that stormed the Capitol last week may wear – literally – the most blatant and shameless expressions of white supremacy, it’s these long-embedded injustices and systemic failures – which have been hiding in plain sight for far too long – that pose the greater threat to equality, opportunity, and democracy in this country.

Eradicating hate and fixing these entrenched systems will not be easy. But it is necessary and urgent. I am grateful to have you as our partners as, together, we boldly confront the work ahead with courage, integrity, and humility.

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