I was at the Capitol as a broadcast journalist on Jan. 6, 2021, to cover the protest of the 2020 presidential elections. This protest drew Americans from around the country, some even driving in caravans from the West Coast to attend and to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, my experience was unsettling. As a result, I have some very unsettling on-the-scene news to report.
This is not the news that I had expected to report, but as a journalist, integrity is of the utmost importance, particularly in today's day and age. My eyewitness account is most distressing.
First and foremost, let me say that I am a patriot who has always venerated our military and the men and women who willingly lay down their lives so that we might live ours. That very fact makes it painful for me to acknowledge, but it is the truth: The riot (and it was a riot) was, in part, led and organized by many men and women with ties to the American military complex.
While I have never served myself, I know many veterans and active service members. I consider them friends and confidants and hold them in the highest esteem. I know how they speak and how they dress, from their choice of attire and footwear to the types of backpacks they use and the types of tattoos they have. I can identify a current or former service member in a crowd simply by observing their distinct mannerisms. For example, there is the way that military officers describe problems as "challenges"; the way they use the 24-hour clock; the way they are constantly observing and taking in those around them; the way they talk about logistics and tactics; and the shorter, more direct sentences they use when involved in a job. If you have spent time among military personnel, identifying them becomes almost second nature.
My experience and observations at the riot expose the hard truth that we all must confront. I've reviewed, to my displeasure, the video that I took that day, and the video confirms for me even more clearly what I suspected at first glance: There were, without a doubt, many military men and women at the Capitol. They were absolutely involved in the destruction and violence that ensued. They were using tactical methods to sow chaos. They brought pepper spray and used it against U.S. Capitol Police. They worked in shifts; they carried gear; and they came prepared. This was a riot that was well organized and well orchestrated. It was premeditated.
Now, let me be clear: There absolutely may have been some antifa activists in the crowd as well, and there may have been people posing as Trump supporters who were not. There were no doubt hundreds of things that I did not and could not see. Regardless, what I did see concerned me, and I have no doubt that many of the people engaged in the rioting and in leading the crowd were not only Trump supporters but Trump supporters with military training.
I am as disturbed as every American by the events at the Capitol, by the summer of rioting and looting in America and by the increasing division among Americans. We can do better. We can be stronger. We can and should be proud of our veterans. However, to heal as a nation, we must also acknowledge the truth of the rioting that happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and the truth of the rioting that happened in the wake of George Floyd's murder.
What I mean to say is this: The message from the leaders of our country and from the mainstream media should be one of unity. Certainly, there are times when it is appropriate to disagree with one another and it is healthy to engage in debate, whether it be on solutions to health care or how to fix the immigration system. These are examples of times when debate should be welcome and encouraged. There are also times when, regardless of political philosophy, a behavior is so inherently un-American and uncivilized that it should be condemned regardless of whether the political philosophy of those behaving in such a way aligns with yours. For the good of the American public, and, more importantly, for the future of this nation, politicians from both sides of the aisle should be able to vehemently agree that rioting, looting and inciting violence for the sake of ANY political cause is absolutely unacceptable. If our leaders cannot unite behind something so obvious, I worry about the future of this country.
To find out more about Armstrong Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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