Leadership with the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard discuss shift details after arriving near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2021. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from several states have traveled to Washington to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to the 59th Presidential Inauguration. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

The world watched as the Capitol building was stormed, but not everyone saw the same thing — from historians to student protesters, here’s what some on campus thought about what unfolded in Washington, D.C. 


Matthew Petrocelli, professor of criminal justice studies, said he thinks President Donald Trump was responsible and should face the full extent of the law. 


“I think that any fair reading of what [Trump] said and what he did there under the law qualifies as incitement, which is a crime,” Petrocelli said. “I mean if we don’t impeach a president of the United States for inciting an armed coup … what do we impeach a president for, then?”


Sophomore political science major and president of Turning Point USA’s SIUE chapter Sophia Pritchett of Staunton, Illinois, said she thought the president chose his words poorly, but didn’t act maliciously.


“I don’t necessarily think he incited violence, but he definitely could’ve worded stuff differently,” Pritchett said. “Whether he would’ve prevented it, I’m not sure, because I think the people who did do that stuff on Capitol Hill were quite upset that he lost the election.” 


To stop Trump from calling for further unrest, Facebook and Twitter announced they would suspend him from their platforms indefinitely. History professor Bryan Jack said he thought these actions were too little, too late.


“I think when he was continually putting out false information, especially on Twitter, that Twitter was marking as ‘disputed’ when it wasn’t disputed, it was false … Twitter [and] Facebook could’ve done a much better job [with] misinformation on their platforms,” Jack said.


While Pritchett said she recognized the rights of these companies, she also said this could lead to further online censorship. 


“They are private companies, they can do whatever they want, but I can’t really think how helpful it will be, rather than creating sort of an echo chamber,” Pritchett said. “It just makes it more hard for people with right-leaning views … it would trickle down into being just an echo chamber of just the same ideas, and I think it is a little harmful.”


According to political science professor Andrew Theising, this should never have been the platforms’ responsibility to begin with.


‘It is not Facebook’s job and it is not Twitter’s job to hold our President accountable,” Theising said. “I think their actions were justified, I think their actions were too late, honestly. I think they tolerated more than they should have. They can police their platforms, but it’s up to … the citizens of this country to police our politicians.”


Politicians and social media companies alike mobilized a group that has since been defined in many different terms — Petrocelli said he considers them textbook domestic terrorists. 


“To me, they’re domestic terrorists, and the reason that I say that is because the definition of a terrorist is someone who uses violence to achieve a political end, and that’s clearly what they were doing,” Petrocelli said.


Junior exercise science major Mikia Keith of Indianapolis said based on her experience at recent protests, she doesn’t consider them protestors.


“I would consider them terrorists instead of protestors because they were in the federal government’s offices destroying federal papers and documents,” Keith said. “For Indianapolis, we did a protest outside our state capitol, but we never went into the building ... we did not break in anywhere.” 


Pritchett said she thought the group was trying to send a message.


“I think it was to get back at the government,” Pritchett said. “They were upset with the system. I don’t necessarily know the reason why, but I think it was just maybe a little bit of a power move, saying ‘look at us, we got into the Capitol.’” 


The response of the Capitol Police to this incident drew intense criticism, after which their chief resigned. According to Petrocelli, the officers on the ground were operating under faulty leadership.


“The officers that were on site there, I think, did a magnificent job and fought bravely to try to defend the Capitol,” Petrocelli said. “That was a failure at the highest level, that was an administrative failure … how they could not have been prepared for that is simply beyond me … even when [Trump] was speaking, he was inciting the crowd. If I’m a police commander and I’m listening to that happening, I’m calling in reserves immediately.”


This security approach allowed the Capitol group to get away with things Black Lives Matter protestors never would have, according to Keith. 


“The craziest thing for me is just the way that the two situations were dealt with,” Keith said.
Keith said protestors at Black Lives Matter events this past summer were maced, tased and arrested, but said that she thinks police let the rioters in.


Pritchett said it was unclear whether race impacted the police response. 


“I don’t think it really played a factor,” Pritchett said. “In my heart, I’m really ... hopeful that race did not play a factor, but it is in question. It was debated that whole day, Jan. 6, ‘if they were another skin color, would they have been treated differently?’ but I don’t know how we can truly know.”


As far as how the country should move forward, Pritchett said we should let civility shape our identity. 


“I saw a lot of people saying that they were ashamed to be American on the day of the Capitol incident, but we really cannot let those people define us as Americans,” Pritchett said. “If we want to make a change, we need to mobilize, get our voice out there in a very peaceful way and remain civil.” 


Graduate business administration major Asher Denkyirah of Glen Carbon, Illinois, said she hopes this is an awakening which brings about change.


“I hope that this moment that happened last week will open the eyes for many Trump supporters that were kind of on the fence,” Denkyirah said. “We cannot pick and choose to condemn Black Lives Matter for protesting for their own lives and then … not [be] willing to condemn and prosecute these terrorists that invaded the Capitol building.” 


For more information on what happened that day, visit NPR's Live Updates webpage.

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