Local LGBTQ+ leaders react to Capitol insurrection

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Donald Trump speaking to reporters about the storming of the U.S. Capitol. (Youtube screenshot.)

On the first Wednesday in January, just before Congress convened to count the electoral votes and confirm Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, Donald Trump addressed his supporters at a nearby rally.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and Congressmen and women,” Trump said. “We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

Immediately afterwards, a slew of Donald Trump supporters violently invaded the United States Capitol, where they ultimately pushed past security, smashed windows, infiltrated the building and terrorized its occupants. Police officers drew their weapons at one point as pro-Trump extremists attempted to break into the House chamber. The National Guard was deployed. A 35-year-old Air Force veteran was fatally shot. Five people died in total.

Not only does the violence at the Capitol equate to a literal attack on democracy by trying to prevent the counting of the electoral college votes, but it was also part of a continued effort to suppress Black and Brown voters.

“I think it was the most disgraceful display we’ve seen, driven by continued lies from Donald Trump and his acolytes,” said Pa. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. “This is about certain segments, particularly of the Republican party, who are driven by racial [animus] and who don’t believe that Black voters are equal citizens whose vote should be counted equal to theirs. You heard it a lot from the people who were storming the Capitol, that only legal votes should be counted. So that means not votes from places like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, places that are majority Black and Brown.”

On Jan. 6, Pa. State Rep. Brian Sims posted on Facebook that Pa. Sen. Doug Mastriano was “heavily involved” in the riots. “Justice is NOT Senator Doug Mastriano’s resignation,” Sims wrote in a separate post. “Justice is an investigation, indictment, arrest, prosecution and conviction. His resignation or expulsion is just what’s necessary in our Democracy.” 

Kenyatta echoed Sims’s call for Mastriano’s resignation and investigation. 

Pa. Rep. Rick Saccone also participated in the riots, as did a Philadelphia police detective. Saccone has since resigned.

Although Trump encouraged the mob to leave the Capitol via Twitter, he expressed sympathy for them and continued to lie about the election having been a sham. In public statements, he denied his role in inciting the riots and called his words “appropriate.” 

At the federal level, members of the House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment earlier this week on the grounds of “incitement of insurrection.” Extremist groups similar to those who stormed the Capitol have threatened to rampage local and state government buildings across the country, including Washington D.C., in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration. As of now, no particular threats have been made targeting Philadelphia, City Deputy Communications Director Lauren Cox told the Inquirer.

In addition to the all-too frequent attacks on Black and Brown communities, the violence at the Capitol signifies an attack on every minority community because of what Trump represents.

Celena Morrison, executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, said in a written statement that “the events of January 6 were certainly shocking for many Americans, but for those of us in marginalized communities it was a clear example of what we have feared throughout the Trump presidency. To add to the trauma of that day, we witnessed thousands of people face little to no consequence on the scene; the stark contrast in how these individuals were treated compared to the force used against Black Lives Matter protestors this summer was not lost. I am proud of the many LGBTQ+ members of Congress who swiftly demanded accountability — from the criminals who attacked the Capitol, from the president, and from their own colleagues.”

Other LGBTQ leaders spoke similarly.

“The violence in the US Capitol… is a powerful reminder of the violence enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender people during Donald Trump’s one-term presidency,” William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett said in an email. “We must all work hard to support efforts to repair the damage done to the body politic by Trump and Trumpism. And we must be a strong voice for those most targeted — such as Black trans women. Though this insurrection targeted Congress, we must be clear that we LGBT people are their target also.”

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress (PYC), which empowers LGBTQ youth to advocate for their rights, also condemned the terrorist action as well as “the gaping disparity in police and military action in Washington, DC, against Black Lives Matter protests as opposed to the response to political demonstrations backing white nationalism, including this latest armed insurrection,” a representative from PYC wrote in a Facebook post.

“The backlash of white rage on display… failed to diminish the results of countless young people,” the PYC representative wrote. “Especially Black and brown Americans and those from marginalized communities, who are working countless hours building relationships, having conversations, knocking on doors, phone banking… to advocate for their issues and get the vote out.”

Despite actions to hold Trump and his riotous supporters accountable, many Republicans continue to believe and perpetuate the lie that the votes that won Biden the election — many of which are Black and Brown votes — are null and void. 

“That’s what’s really so frustrating,” Kenyatta said “that even after this event, this violence, this insurrection, Republicans are still pushing the same big lie that encouraged that behavior in the first place.”