As supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, forcing Congress to halt the electoral college vote, some in Georgia watched in utter disbelief. One woman was killed during an attempt to break into the House chamber, three other protesters died of medical emergencies, including a woman from Kennesaw, and an officer succumbed on Jan. 7 to his injuries sustained during the protest.
The riot, part of a “Save America March” at which Trump spoke, came just hours after media outlets predicted that Georgia Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock had won their two Senate races, ensuring a Democratic trifecta in the federal government.
Ossoff, who is believed to be the youngest current senator and first Jewish senator from Georgia, released a written statement condemning the violence, and calling for the removal of the president in wake of what happened. “Today’s insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol was incited by Trump’s poisonous lies & flagrant assault on our Constitution. The GOP must discard and disavow Trump once and for all, end its attacks on the electoral process, & commit fully to the peaceful transfer of power.”
While Ossoff is yet to be inaugurated as senator, the only Jewish lawmaker in the Georgia State House, Democrat Mike Wilensky, offered this statement on the violence to the AJT: “This was a shameful act of domestic terrorism, and unfortunately, it was encouraged by President Trump. My heart aches for our country and what our children had to witness. I do believe a brighter day is coming, but we must come together as Americans and be greater than our differences. We are all more alike than unalike.”
On the other side of the aisle, some Republicans are condemning the president for his involvement in sparking the riot and trying to imagine a party without the current commander in chief.
Dan Israel, a locally active Republican who has been to every Republican National Committee conference besides 2020 as a delegate, told the AJT that he was “appalled at what happened yesterday [Jan. 6]. There has been this very uneasy alliance between conservatives and the Trump cult. I think yesterday it completely, irreparably, destroyed that link. It was always tenuous, and as I tell everybody, Trump wasn’t one of my first 16 choices in 2016. I just think now it’s getting to the point where either Trump definitely takes over the Republican Party and then conservatives create their own, or vice versa, and I think it’s more likely to be the latter, that Trump will get run out of the Republican Party, and he may create a splinter group.” Israel went on to speak about the opportunity this presents for American unity. “I think yesterday was one of America’s best days, not worst. We demonstrated that America still has checks and balances in place, and Republicans and Democrats can come together to do what the country needs, bring us together.”
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican from Sandy Springs who is a contractor with the
Secretary of State, expressed similar sentiments to Dan Israel in a Twitter post. “Today [Jan. 6] will end up being a great day for Democracy. It will show its resilience as these actions inspired by the president will be held back. But those who are part of it need to be held accountable.”
He is among those who have publicly condemned the rhetoric in which other Republicans denied the election results, particularly those who targeted Georgia’s voting system and electoral process. “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed.”
Michael Rosenzweig, an Atlantan and national board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said of the protests, “It is shameful and extremely frightening that the president of the United States is encouraging violent insurrection… [it is] nothing short of an attempted coup.” As the country moves forward after what many believe to be the greatest attack on American government since 9/11, Rosenzweig told the AJT he believes that it is important to stop any more danger from being done. “This must be seen for what it is: An outright assault on our democracy. It is outrageous and cannot be tolerated. Those responsible, including Trump, should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Betsy Kramer, a local House district chair for the Republican Party as well as a Tea Party member, told the AJT she didn’t attend the march, but knew 200 to 300 in attendance.
“While what happened on Wednesday was atrocious, and it should never have happened to the Capitol, but … what went on last spring and summer was far worse than what happened up in Congress. But two wrongs don’t make a right … I would like to think that it was a peaceful protest where outsiders came to incite the protesters. They brought their own bats, hammers and milk [to ease pain from teargas and pepper spray] to start the riot. The hypocrisy is obvious.”
Kramer said she believes that it was a situation in which a few bad apples participated and incited the riot. “Ninety-nine percent of those people didn’t participate in what happened [in the Capitol] … you have stupid people.”
Kramer also believes that the media and politicians are being hypocritical over the violence that occurred during Black Lives Matter protests, although she does believe that what happened at the Capitol was a riot. Kramer doesn’t believe that the president incited the riot; “He didn’t incite anything.”
As the House moves forward with impeachment, with some Republicans supporting the measure, the violence on Capitol Hill is likely to be marked in American history. After being forced to evacuate because of the rioters, Senate Minority Leader, soon to be majority leader, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said upon returning to the Senate floor, that “President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Dec. 7, 1941, as a day that will live in infamy. Unfortunately, we can add Jan. 6, 2021, to that very short list of dates in American history that will live forever in infamy.”
Meanwhile, many contemplate where the country goes next. After the end of a historic election in Georgia, which resulted in the first Democratic senators in decades, rumors are circulating about more protests against the incoming Biden administration. With only a few days left in Trump’s presidency, this raises concerns that this dark saga in American history is not yet over.