On Jan. 6, 2021, or what should have been a normal afternoon in Washington D.C., a violent mob attacked the Capitol building in rebellion to President Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The protesters attacked law enforcement and made it past the outer lines of security and into the building, halting the Congress session and causing around $1.5 million worth of damage to the infrastructure, according to the US Department of Justice. They vandalized and destroyed offices, furniture and broke into the senate chamber during the 7-hour attack.
Since then, the US Department of Justice has charged around 730 attackers for assaulting officers and ruining property in the last year. The FBI continues to search for around 350 other participants, according to CNBC. In addition, the utter scale of the investigation is one of the largest in American history, requiring the probing of massive amounts of online data, the issuing of thousands of search warrants and involving almost every FBI office across the country.
The Jan. 6 Committee, a panel of nine lawyers in charge of investigating the attack and questioning potential attackers and involved politicians, is currently looking into former President Donald Trump’s claims of a fraudulent election in 2020 as well as his knowledge of the riot. Public records also demonstrate forged declarations of victory for Trump in the swing states of Michigan and Arizona. FOX News opinion host Sean Hannity, among other politicians and confidants of the former president, will also be questioned due to their closeness to Trump and records of communication with him about the insurrection. The panel is currently trying to garner as much evidence as possible before the first trial on Feb. 24, 2022.
While the committee and Department of Justice are doing their best to establish adequate punishments and create a comprehensive report of what exactly occurred, the long-term issues that caused this national crisis have not diminished. It is no secret that American politics in recent years have been extremely polarized, and the country faces fundamental differences in beliefs across political parties all the way down to the issue of basic human rights, as opposed to the small political disagreements of the past.
Another issue that the nation still must attend to is the spread of misinformation. The Capitol insurrection was based on the false narrative that Joe Biden “stole” the election from Trump, and social media and general political strife allowed for this information to be not only spread, but encouraged by President Donald Trump. After all, Trump’s message to his violent supporters on the night of the riot included the sentiment that he “loves” them and that they “are very special.” He went on to claim that the election was a “landslide” despite overwhelming proof of Biden’s victory.
According to NPR, a study from the University of Chicago details that around 21 million American adults believe that Trump won the 2020 election and that violence would be justified to correct this error. On the other hand, much of the rest of America believes that the election was fairly conducted and that Biden is the rightful president. It becomes more difficult for Americans to unify over policy when they cannot even agree on a leader and have faith in the over 200 year-old American democratic system.
In light of the anniversary of the Capitol attack, politicians and citizens alike remember the infamous day. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, led a moment of silence on the House floor, and a vigil took place outside of the Capitol building. President Biden delivered a speech, insisting that “the will of the people was under assault,” but they finally “prevailed.”
A year since the insurrection, extremism continues to become more of a norm. People are more willing than ever to believe conspiracy theories and misinformation, an issue that extends beyond this attack and into concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and more. Far-right groups continue to congregate, and the investigation is far from over. The attack proved to be one of the greatest challenges to democracy in history and served as a visual representation of the widespread lack of faith in American systems and media.