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University responds to riots at the U.S. Capitol

Courtesy of Reuters
A mob of supporters of President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, chaos erupted in Washington when a mob of mostly white rioters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop legislators from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. As the country continues to grapple with the day’s events leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, UTEP faculty, staff and students weighed in on the attack, America’s double standards and what the future of U.S. democracy looks like.   

Within hours of the day’s violent events that left structure damages and resulted in five deaths, UTEP President Heather Wilson denounced the assault through a news release sent out to the University’s community.  

“What we saw at the United States Capitol today was unlawful and undermines our self-governing Republic,” said Wilson, who served as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009. “A mature self-governing country engages passionately and respectfully in healthy debate. We must begin to restore our ability to listen to each other, not listening to refute or to shame, but listening to understand with an open mind and the loving hearts of countrymen.” 

In the statement, Wilson stated the importance of respecting the election results and supporting a peaceful transition of power.  

“In the coming weeks, in our homes and our workplaces, at our universities and our houses of worship, with our children and with our neighbors, we should take some time to reflect and talk with each other about how to exercise our responsibilities as citizens,” Wilson said.  

The statement came a few days before President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Jan. 13 for inciting violence against the government. The impeachment makes him the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. 

“No president has ever been impeached twice, and the efforts this time look to be, to some extent, bipartisan,” said Todd Curry, a political science professor at UTEP. “Furthermore, no president has done more to erode American democracy or faith in the American system. It is unprecedented.” 

Curry and leaders across the country who have since spoken up about the attack, raise the concern of what this may mean for the American government and its democracy.   

“There are both short term and long term effects.  Short term, it further erodes confidence that government and its institutions can act effectively to mitigate threats, both internal and external,” Curry said. “Long term, if there aren’t consequences, it will embolden individuals bent on violating interference with traditional governmental functions. It could set a dangerous precedent.” 

Although some pro-Trump rioters have begun to be identified and arrested, the initial lack of restraint Capitol police had against the destructive mob left many to question the country’s racial double standards, as they recalled law enforcement’s violent response to the Black Lives Matter peaceful protests.  

“All my life I’ve had to endure the unjust murders of Black people. My people,” said Fate Hill, 22, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology at UTEP.  “On the other hand, we have white terrorists who stormed the Capitol…If it were any different than the corpses would have started to pile up before they could even get to the steps of the Capitol, and the jails would have been filled.” 

Hill was among the hundreds of El Pasoans who attended the local Black Lives Matter protest at Memorial Park on May 31. A peaceful protest that resulted in turbulence after dark, as the El Paso Police Department (EPPD) said protesters began boxing in their officers and throwing bottles. This resulted in EPPD’s Tactical Unit deploying gas and non-lethal rounds into the remaining crowd. According to KTSM News, members of the crowd said police were responsible for the quick escalation, as they were hit with tear gas and rubber bullets while trying to run away.  

In June 2020, Trump warned Black Lives Matter protesters they would face a minimum of 10 years in prison for vandalizing or damaging federal buildings. On Jan. 6, Trump posted a message on his now banned Twitter account calling the Capitol mob “great patriots” who were reacting to an election victory “viciously stripped away.”  

“America will hesitate to reprimand white people; what happened on Jan. 6 is a painfully clear reminder,” said Hill, who also serves as historian for UTEP’s Black Student Union executive board. “As Trump leaves office, we must prepare for what is yet to come. Chaos. We are in the fight of our lives now and we must continue our journey.” 

Hill hopes president-elect Joe Biden will address the problems of systemic racism in America and work to undo years of unfair treatment in Black communities. She shares this hope for the new administration and people across the country. 

“Educate yourself on what is going on and why it’s going on,” Hill said. “We are still not free. People must hold themselves and their loved ones accountable. It all starts with you.” 

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected] ; @by_anahydiaz on Twitter.  

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About the Contributor
Anahy Diaz, is a bilingual Multimedia Journalism, Political Science and Chicano Studies student at The University of Texas at El Paso. She has helped lead The Prospector, as editor-in-chief, copy editor and multimedia editor by writing and creating news packages. Anahy currently works as an intern for NBC News Los Angeles, and has previously interned with NBC’s Today and Weekend Today. Anahy’s published work can also be seen in Borderzine, KERA News, KTEP, KTSM Channel 9 and KVIA Channel 7. As a first-generation college student, Anahy hopes to join the field of broadcast after graduation covering news, politics, and entertainment.
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University responds to riots at the U.S. Capitol