La Salle Community Reacts to Violent Invasion at the United States Capitol


Maggie Dougherty

One participant in the mob paraded through the United States Capitol building while carrying the Confederate flag.

Carlie Weigel, Editor in Chief

As members of Congress gathered to count electoral votes and officially certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday, Jan. 6, a large and violent mob descended upon the grounds of the United States Capitol and forcefully invaded the building. 

Rioters threw themselves through shattered windows, posed for photos at the desks of elected officials, scattered documents across office floors, stole objects, and vandalized much of the building before the National Guard was eventually able to dilute the situation.

In response to the event, social studies teacher Mr. Alex Lanaghan said that he felt shocked at first, until “it really turned into just sadness.”

“If we saw this in another country, we would be so just distraught with that,” he said. “We would say, ‘How dare they do that and what kind of country allows that to happen?’ Now, that’s us basically.”

Unlike Mr. Lanaghan, junior Daniel Hartson wasn’t initially as astonished by the situation.

“I was not very surprised that there was outrage and protest, as I had seen how extreme some far-right groups had become,” he said. “That being said, I wasn’t expecting them to raid our Capitol in such a violent matter.”

For senior Isa Sale, she is experiencing feelings of frustration and anger, particularly over what she considered the doubt rioters have in the results of the 2020 election and the level of force used against their wrongful actions.

“It’s frustrating that people are still trying to contest the election when there’s all this evidence that Biden won,” she said. “They’re storming the Capitol, they’re vandalizing it, and they have not been met with much opposition or force, which I’m not necessarily advocating for…[but] we just saw peaceful protests that were met with way worse conditions.”

Biden was quick to speak out about the chaos that had been caused by the mob and called upon President Donald Trump to request that his supporters leave the premises of the Capitol. 

Senior Danny Nguyen appreciated Biden’s speech and felt that it was “appropriate.”

“As an individual who did not necessarily have any form of formal power to help stop the mob, I do believe [in] Biden’s statement to call on leaders to stop the mob and for President Trump to use his position as a leader to call on the stopping of the mob.”

Biden also claimed that the actions of rioters “do not reflect a true America.”

From junior Peter Fengler’s perspective, he has mixed feelings about this statement, as he agrees that most Americans wouldn’t vandalize their country’s Capitol building, but also believes that there is a large percentage of Americans who share many of the same views as the rioters.

“It’s unfortunately a part of America that is totally alive and well and happening right now,” he said.

Not long after Biden made an appearance on national television, so did Trump. And while he told rioting protesters to “go home,” he continued to make fraudulent claims that the election was stolen. This spread of false information even prompted Facebook to suspend his account for 24 hours, and Twitter for 12.

Junior Ava Whalon said that the words of the President were unprofessional, and so did Hartson. 

“I was very disgusted by his reaction, repeating baseless election fraud claims after telling them to go home,” Hartson said. “I was not surprised but I was still disgusted that while he said he didn’t support what the people were doing, he supported the people themselves.”

Senior Stella Mack thinks that Trump deserves to be held accountable for his behavior leading up to this event.

“He has gotten away with too much and it needs to end now,” she said. “He egged on a terrorist attack — that is a serious offense that needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law.”

In Washington D.C., the mob did not face significant police resistance as they stormed the building. One officer was even caught posing for a selfie

“Today, the police took selfies with terrorists,” Mack said. “That is how screwed up the United States is.”

For some students, this was a notable contrast with the police response to protests last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

“Black Lives Matter protesters, I mean, they would not have been let within 50 feet of the steps of the Capitol, and you’ve got armed white people who have been able to vandalize the building,” Sale said. “There is no other explanation really other than to show the racism that’s really kind of ingrained in our justice system and the law enforcement system… The different response that has been met with, I think, shows a lot about our government and leadership.”

Echoing this sentiment, Whalon emphasized the comparison between Black Lives Matter protests and the pro-Trump mob.

“It is really disturbing to see how little law enforcement did to stop the storming of the Capitol building while all summer innocent and peaceful protestors were continuously tear gassed, arrested, and beaten,” she said. “I think that when people are asking where the law involvement was today, they aren’t calling for it to be there, but rather trying to make a point of the fact that our country’s law enforcement system is biased and desperately needs to be reworked.”

Junior Jacob Waterman similarly felt that there was an unequal police response and that this was rooted in the fact that most rioters were not people of color.

“Black Lives Matter fought for racial injustice in America along with systemic racism,” he said. “People in attendance were marked as thugs by Donald Trump and were treated as such by the police and national guard. However, when white people break into a government building holding symbols of hate such as swastikas and Confederate flags, while terrorizing police and officials inside, there is no consequence.”

He continued to highlight the idea that what took place was hypocritical.

“People of color are referred to as thugs and terrorists for protesting racism,” he said. “What happened today defines white privilege, and if it isn’t seen now, I’m losing hope it will ever be seen.”

Moving forward, Nguyen wants others to understand that “the actions that were seen today and the domestic terrorism that occured should be remembered the next time a person critiques or remarks about a protest for Black Lives Matter.”

During the days that follow this event, Mr. Lanaghan wants to address what happened with his students, as he attempts to cover current events on a regular basis. He plans to do so by reminding his classes about why they study the Constitution.

“This is not how it works,” he said. “This is not how you get things done. This is not the way that our system is designed. You go to the polls and you take it to the streets, not to the inside of the Capitol.”

Mr. Lanaghan also hopes that the community will revisit the importance of protecting democracy.

“We can’t just assume that these systems that we have and know and believe in will continue to work the way they are,” he said. “We have to make them work.”

Sale reiterated this thought.

“Our democracy isn’t perfect, but protecting kind of these really fundamental aspects of it — like a fair election — is really important,” she said. “It’s important that we don’t let that eclipse, I guess, our willingness to work towards a republic where things run fairly and where the government runs well and is trying to serve [the] best it can.

As the community continues to reflect on the events at the Capitol, Interim Principal Ms. Alanna O’Brien encourages turning to prayer.

“We invite our school community to join us in praying for peace in our nation,” she said. “May we be people who seek to understand differences and work towards healing and community.”