Yesterday marked the beginning of hearings into the breach of the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021. On this first day, members of the Congressional panel heard from police officers who were on the ground, many of whom recounted similar stories. Suffering bodily assault and fatal threats of being physically crushed by rioters, officers told of their fears of death and disbelief that such action was taking place at the Capitol building.
One officer talked of how he was verbally assaulted by racial slurs hurled by members of the mob as they attempted to break into the House chambers. Another recounted how he was "beaten [and] tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.” Many more shared similar horrors. One officer and veteran, Brian Sicknick, was not able to share his story, having passed away January 7th due to injuries.
At the same time that these public servants told stories of putting their lives on the line to defend America's Congress, Biden's Justice Department declared a key decision. The federal government declined to substitute itself as the defendant in a lawsuit against Representative Mo Brooks, a Republican representing Alabama's 5th District. Mr. Brooks is one among several defendants in the case—including President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Rudy Giuliani—who are accused of knowingly inciting the mob violence against the Capitol which those officers faced. The Department declared that it is not its responsibility to defend public officials for "inciting or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the United States Congress."
Due to the extremely high tensions which obviously surrounded and still surround the election and its results, it is worth stating a reminder of Spectacles' editorial position. Spectacles holds no partisan loyalty whatsoever. That said, we remain wholly committed to liberal democracy and its preservation, not just here in America but as a way of life and organizing society around the world. Given that position, we will take a strong stance on issues which are of critical importance to democratic maintenance, not because any politician says so but because we feel we must in order to uphold our mission.
As such, it is not enough merely to recount the facts of yesterday's happenings regarding January 6th. With the testimony provided by Capitol police officers yesterday—and by so many others over the past six months—it is clear that the Justice Department has made the right call. If the rule of law is to be upheld, a public official cannot expect to avoid accountability for encouraging members of the public to assault other public officials or overturn the results of an election, to target political opponents and "start taking down names and kicking ass."
But it is not enough that only the Justice Department sidesteps defending individuals culpable for the events of January 6th. Instead, it is of critical importance that both voters and elected officials openly confront that terrible event and the actions that led to them. Republicans must not downplay the severity or gravity of what took place, and Democrats must remember that people like Mr. Brooks being penalized is not a "win" but a sorry consolation given the depths to which our free government has fallen.
Loyalty to the democratic process must come before political expediency, if America is to remain with a government by, for, and of the people. Otherwise, politics becomes a winner-take-all gambit, and there's no telling just what the losers may suffer—probably things not unlike the experiences of those Capitol police officers.
As Republican, and daughter to a former Republican Vice-President, Liz Cheney, said herself yesterday,
“The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed, for every American is this: Will we adhere to the rule of law, respect the rulings of our courts, and preserve the peaceful transition of power?”
Yesterday's decision from the Justice Department is a resounding yes. But this question is not for them alone to decide.