The Attempted Coup Was Not a Surprise

Juggling livestreams from the attempted coup on Wednesday, I heard one of the white women outside the Capitol yell, “This is what a peaceful protest looks like!” Simultaneously streaming from inside the Capitol building, I saw white men with white supremacy insignia on their clothes, tattooed on their bodies, carrying flags representative of oppression and hate as they stormed the deserted halls. I saw one lone Black security guard attempting to hold off the horde ascending the marble staircase, calling for backup on his radio as he whipped out his baton and stood, alone. Later, there would be a shot, a death, pipe bombs found and disarmed. An officer would die from the events that day.

Friends on Facebook began sharing what they were seeing, including messages from conspiracy pages claiming Antifa had infiltrated the MAGA protest. A message from the President, hours too late, called for peace and then emphasized that he loved his supporters who had walked past police officers, took selfies with police officers, as they tried to overthrow the election.

My heart pounded; I assume yours did, too. I felt scared, and sad, and angry.

But this was not unexpected.

Or, rather, it was not unexpected to segments of our society who know all too well what white people do when their authority is threatened. The night before the insurrection, as soon as it was clear that one or both democrat nominees would win in Georgia, Black and Indigenous folx began issuing the warning. Sorry, that’s wrong. They had spent four years warning the nation that the man in the White House was a white supremacist intent on remaining in power in spite of any election outcome. What’s more, they had been warning that the groups who constituted his base were exactly the people, armed and willing, who would help him. They only had to use the President’s own words and their lifelong knowledge of white supremacy to prove the point. He had told a known white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, to “stand down and stand by.” He had repeatedly tweeted lies about a stolen election, promising they would not lie down while snowflake Democrats and traitorous Republicans destroyed America. Throughout his presidency, he actively worked to suppress the votes of Black, Latiné, and Indigenous people and then tried to have their ballots thrown out once they were cast.

Six days before the attack, Representative Maxine Waters asked Capitol Police Chief Sund a series of questions: were the rooftops secured? Would the streets be blocked off? Were they prepared for violence from Proud Boys and Oath Keepers? He assured her they were. They were not. He has resigned.

The night of the Georgia Senate count, Black twitter doubled down on warnings. Jan. 6 had been named by the President as the day for his base to converge on the Capitol. Parler and other social media outlets were full of plan-making as well as not-just-hinted-at promises of violence.

Maybe you, like me, felt shocked that the police and National Guard, which had reportedly been deployed around the city, failed to prevent the overrun of the Capitol. After all, we’d seen them in action all summer long, in Portland, on the steps of capitol buildings around the country, across the street from the White House. They didn’t let things like this happen!

Except, they did. Not when the protestors were Black, of course. When Black people walked down the streets asking for an end to police violence, the police, and other law enforcement personnel, fired pepper spray, pepper balls, bean bag rounds, tear gas. They sprayed a child in the face because he was…standing there. He was just standing there. He later asked his dad, eyes swollen with chemicals, what he’d done wrong. No, Black people have different rules in the US, don’t they?

No, it wasn’t during the protests for equity that the police and National Guard stood by. They stood by while anti-maskers stormed the Michigan State Capitol, semi-automatic weapons strapped to them, and forced the emergency shut down of the legislative session. They stood calmly by while white people drove vehicles into crowds of protestors. They tossed a bottle of water to a white boy from Wisconsin who had just murdered two people with a gun he had illegally. White people have different rules in the US, don’t we?

If we want to understand what white people do when their power is threatened, we need to start listening to the people who have spent their lives learning how to read the warning signs. If we want to know how to keep democracy safe, we should start centering the voices of people who have watched democracy weaponized against them. We should listen to the experts.

We have wise women among us. Can we be humble enough to hear them?


  1. i guess its alright to destroy working peoples life work in all the cities here in the midwest if you are white or asian or latino.. I am ashamed also and the protest should never have happened, but we are so sick of a non working government for all people. Lazy people prosper over the dedicated tax payer. God have mercy on our country

    • Hi Marilyn. I’m trying to understand your comment. So you feel that the attempted overthrow of the election through violent means was justified because the people who stormed the Capitol were tax payers? And is it your assumption that the Black people violently assaulted in the streets during peaceful protests are not taxpayers? I’m trying to get a feel for your position. Thank you.

        • that is not what I ment. it was a disgrace to see what happened in our capitol. It is also a disgrace when black people destroy property and call it a peaceful protest. I am old. Police need to calm down. What has bashing out windows and stealing have to do with bringing about justice. We the people no matter our race should be able to live in peace and dignity.

      • Marilyn, being old isn’t an excuse. My dad is 75 and he’s keenly aware of his white privilege. It’s really problematic and concerning to see comments like “black people destroy property and call it a peaceful protest” and what is supposed to be an intersectional feminist space. You might want to do more reading before engaging in this space again.

      • I agree that all people should be able to live in peace. That’s exactly why I support the protests over the summer. Instead of focusing on the very few protests that resulted in some property damage, can we please address the violent insurrection that took place in DC, where one officer was killed, another almost crushed to death, and the mob threatened the 3 people next in line for the Presidency? Trying to play the “all sides are bad” game misses the larger point of my post and fails to address the very real threat to our democracy.

  2. Amen. It was not a surprise because history has been speeding this way and those who have experienced its violence along with those who have studied its patterns have been shouting a warning for years. Also, it was not a surprise because the perpetrators told us they were coming and told us what they were planning. I am so angry with those who are wringing their hands and claiming shock.

  3. I live in north Idaho, one of the most radically conservative places in the nation. My next door neighbor was at Ruby Ridge pointing a rifle at the FBI. Even with everything that has happened they are all still in denial.

    • I appreciate that. I used the words “attempted coup” very deliberately. Given the slow response of the National Guard, and the absence of any formal response from any branch of the military, I believe they were likely complicit, and that the complicity came from the highest level of government. I also believe that this was a first attempt, and that as the alt-right faction of the GOP becomes stronger, a future attempt is not only possible, but extremely probable. I’m not getting these ideas from my own head, though. People like Jelani Cobb, Bree Newsome, and Nick Estes are warning about the same thing, and cautioning that this was, in fact, a first coup attempt. If you have twitter, they all have public accounts that address these issues.

  4. The saddest thing to me is to realize that, if the election had been up to members of the Mormon church, DJT would have won. More than 1/2 of the membership voted for this deranged man. Even the FP held off congratulating the new president-elect! Don’t tell me that that was not a political statement, especially since it was known early enough that all the lawsuits of voter fraud were thrown out! These were terrorist, this was an attempted coup. And even now the weak as water GOP isn’t doing anything. Pence should have thrown DJT out – the mob were out to hang him for crying out loud.

    • Yes, the thing that really gets to me and proves this really was an attempted coup, was that some of them had the intention of hanging the Vice President for not being loyal enough to the president to violate the constitution. Sure, it was an incompetent attempt, and not all of the crowd were in on the plans that made it an attempted coup, but plans to murder the Vice President, speaker of the house, and Senate Majority leader, makes those people guilty of attempting to overthrow the legal government.

    • As a life-time active Mormon, I very much resent your labeling all Mormons as Trump supporters! Many of us were strongly opposed to him.
      Most of my friends know almost nothing about the Mormon cnurch but are very very rabid Trump supporters!


      You are either badly misinformed or extremely anti-mormon!

      • I think most of us are also life long actives members. My understanding of the comment wasn’t that “all Mormons are Trump supporters,” but a deep sadness that too many are. It’s not a stretch to say that more than half of the LDS people who voted went for Trump. Like you, many of us see him as the antithesis of our belief and are sad and embarrassed by the fact that so many of our membership supported him. It’s not “anti-Mormon” to call out other members for this hypocrisy.

      • I am also LDS, also not a Trump supporter, and yet as I read her comment, I understand the sorrow she expresses that we are, in fact, in the minority within the US portion of the LDS church. We need to sit with the discomfort of knowing that over half the US LDS population voted for him, and interrogate what it is about our church culture that might lend itself to support of a person like Trump in spite of the parts of his policy and personality that are the opposite of what I believe Christ would expect from a leader. And then we need to work to change those damaging things.

  5. “If we want to know how to keep democracy safe, we should start centering the voices of people who have watched democracy weaponized against them. We should listen to the experts.”

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