REGION — The demonstration in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, after President Donald Trump’s “Save America Rally,” has stirred on-going controversy regarding the media’s terminology and portrayal of events and the use of police force during protests.

Kingfield resident Isaiah Reid serves on Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations. File Photo

Isaiah Reid, the youth member of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations and student at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), referred to Wednesday’s demonstrators as “rioters.”

“At the very least, I would describe this group as rioters, but domestic terrorists certainly fits the bill,” Reid wrote in an email.  

The United States Department of Justice Jan. 8 press release revealed that 13 individuals have been charged with federal crimes ranging from threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to breaking and entering the Capitol building while armed to assaulting law enforcement officers.

One of these individuals, Lonnie Coffman of Alabama is under investigation for 11 explosive devices, Molotov cocktails, allegedly found in his vehicle.

An additional 40 individuals have been charged with crimes related to unlawful entry, curfew violations, and firearms, according to the press release.

Scott Landry, Maine House Representative of District #113 of Farmington and New Sharon, made a point to distinguish between the different types of demonstrators at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Scott Landry is the State Representative for District #113, Farmington and New Sharon. File Photo

“I believe that there were both,” Landry wrote in an email. “Peaceful protest is a right of our democracy, but there were elements that had planned to attack the Capitol according to social media. This element was the rioters.”

Steve Hopkins, a real estate developer in Farmington, said that context is everything and that the media’s coining of the term ‘insurrection’ to refer to the demonstrators is an overstep.

“The same mainstream media that is lying to us today – and they never get called out on it, that’s the most amazing thing in the world, they have the worst track record – the same mainstream media that for Trump’s first three years in office was screaming out Russian collusion, and when it came down to the trial of impeachment brought on by the House run by Democrats, what happened?

“They had no evidence, it got thrown out on its face because it was a sham. And who sold it? It was the same media, the same media that’s selling the ‘insurrection’… it was an insurrection by people with their cell phone cameras taking selfies once they got in and they recognized they were there,” Hopkins said.

Images on social media have been circulating of Trump supporters such as Jake Angeli, a QAnon conspiracy theorist wearing fur and horns on his head and posing for photos shirtless and unarmed in the Capitol building.

Alongside the growing list of demonstrators who entered the Capitol either armed or with questionable items such as zip-tie handcuffs, were demonstrators allegedly more consumed with a photoshoot. 

The crowd in D.C. was a mixed bag of QAnon supporters, members from far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois, and people that were present at Trump’s rally. They convened to participate in the “March for Trump,” organized by the nonprofit Women for America First which secured a permit from the National Park Service for 30,000 participants. 

Scott Erb, Professor of political science at UMF, described the demonstration as Trump’s last resort to retain power.

“President Trump wanted to manipulate the system to stay in power. He pressured the Attorney General, the Georgia Secretary of State, and his own Vice President. But those officials, all Republican, put U.S. institutions and the culture of democracy ahead of party or President,” Erb wrote in an email. “This is also true for numerous judges, including those appointed by Trump. He then tried to use a popular uprising to gain power perhaps he hoped that if the violence was out of control he could declare martial law under the insurrection act.”

As Reid watched events unfold last Wednesday, he observed the lack of law enforcement presence compared to the the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest at the Capitol on May 29 last year. 

“I am not saying I wish these rioters were met with violent or deadly force, but I can’t help but feel that if a group of non-white people breached the Capitol, there would be more than a single death at the hands of law enforcement,” Reid wrote in an email.

Isaiah Reid, left, at a Black Lives Matter march on June 9, at Hippach Field in Farmington. Beside him, from left, are Jordyn Ridlon of Wilton, Wylie Post of Chesterville and Marco Montoya-Londono of Brunswick. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

“And let’s not forget that this death was the result of one rioter trying to enter the lobby outside the house chamber through a broken window after being warned by capitol police that they would be met with force,” Reid said. “Meanwhile, many Black men have been shot dead without warning at the hands of police across the nation for doing things as simple as walking, jogging, or entering their own home, or, to be more general, not storming a federal building with hopes to overturn an election and potentially execute government officials.” 

For Hopkins, the amount of law enforcement initially present at the Capitol last Wednesday was appropriate as he said that the majority of Trump rallies have been peaceful. He contrasted this with the looting and destruction of property that has coincided with BLM protests across the country.

“The entire summer, I watched as members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa burned this country down in major cities across the country. I don’t care what the reason was, George Floyd, it doesn’t matter… I support them going out and marching for whatever reason, George Floyd, whatever they’re upset about,” Hopkins said. “That’s what this country is, this country is protesting; Martin Luther King, peaceful protesting. You get a lot done, it has been proved. You can change the world. Where it goes wrong is when you start burning and breaking stuff.” 

According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), there were over 7,750 BLM-related demonstrations across the U.S. from May 24 to August 22 last year. Of those, 93% involved peaceful protestors and one in 10 of the demonstrations were intervened by law enforcement.

Landry attributed a growing division in the U.S. alongside Trump’s rhetoric to the events that took place at the Capitol last week.

“The tension between the right and the left has been growing for years. President Trump fueled it with his rhetoric. I am not surprised with the outcome,” Landry wrote. “We are all affected by messages that have been issued from Washington, but I feel that in our community we are close enough that we can talk to each other and not end up in violent confrontations.”

 

 

 

 

 

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