On Wednesday, Jan.6, the Capitol was breached by Trump supporters, leading to chaos and destruction of the building. Rioters broke past police barriers then occupied, looted and vandalized offices within the building.
The Trump supporters were attempting to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election, formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victory. After the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump claimed the election was “fraudulent” and “rigged,” leading to a series of lawsuits made by Trump, which most were dismissed or dropped due to lack of evidence.
Some Republican Western Michigan University students felt that the events were tragic, and they did not support them.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Reid Sayles, WMU junior and finance major. “I don’t support any of it. I think all of the people involved should be arrested. I don’t stand for anybody doing that.”
Seth Halsted, a recent WMU alumnus, said he did not agree with neither the riots nor the violence, but he was supportive of the protests.
“I watched this event happen in real time and it was definitely interesting to see everything happen in real time,” Halsted said. “...I had no idea that this was going to transpire, had no idea this was how it was going to happen and how it was going to go down. I was taken aback by it.”
Halsted also added that while he thought breaking into the Capitol and the violence towards police was inappropriate, the rioters had the right to peacefully protest.
Sayles said he voted for Trump in 2020, but when the election results were announced, he moved on.
“I don’t stand for anybody going against the United States of America,” Sayles said. “I think it’s the greatest country in the world.”
Trump was also perceived as inciting the riots through Tweets and speeches given to his supporters.
Trump gave a speech right before the events, encouraging his supporters to walk down to the Capitol.
"...you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said during his speech. “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
Trump also tweeted when the riot was happening, telling his supporters to remain peaceful, despite the large crowd having already entered the building. He later posted a video telling them to go home, that he loved them and they were “very special.”
“I honestly don’t believe he did it intentionally, whether if he did or not,” Sayles said.
Halsted also said he didn’t believe Trump was promoting violence on the Capitol.
“I did also watch Donald Trump’s entire address, leading up to the hearing, and in no place in his speech did he incite violence towards anybody at the Capitol,” Halsted said. “In fact, he was against it.”
Halsted said Trump, in his speech, told his supporters to protest peacefully.
“I’m really struggling with, that people think he incited violence and wanted them to do this, and that he staged some coup,” Halsted said. “ I don’t think that’s the case, I think there were a lot of angry voters, specifically in this case right-wing, who had enough and decided to take things too far.”
Sayles also said that the rioters could be compared to those that rioted and looted during the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. He said that stereotypes from those events could be added to the left as well.
“When something happens like this, it puts a stereotype on republicans,” Sayles said. “Those are maybe 1% of what the Republican Party is. Just like on the other side, there is 1-2% of people that would do such a thing like that.”
Halsted said he thought there was a double standard with the Black Lives Matter protests and the riot at the Capitol.
“There is a serious double standard with the mainstream media and with the left in Congress,” Halsted said. “If you want to call the protesters that entered the Capitol, ‘insurrectionists,’ okay. They did use violence against the State, that would fit the bill for insurrectionists. But, we need to think retrospectively about the other protests in Seattle. Anybody that participated in that was an insurrectionist and should be tried the same exact way as anyone who is tried right now.”
Halsted was referring to The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Chaz was an occupation protest and self-declared autonomous zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The zone covered six city blocks and Cal Anderson Park. It was established on June 8 by George Floyd protesters after the Seattle Police Department left the East Precinct building. The blocks were cleared July 1.
Trump was also suspended and banned on several social media platforms after the events including Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Parler, a platform typically used by conservatives, was later suspended from Amazon, Google and Apple, due to posts that encouraged the riot on the Capitol.
Sayles said he didn’t support Trump’s Twitter posts, but did not fully believe that Trump should have been banned on the platform. He feels it is a way of silencing conservative voices.
“It’s really startling, it’s really scary,” Halsted said. “I really do in my heart think that freedom of speech is under attack.”
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives Jan. 13 for "incitement of insurrection" at the Capitol. This is the second time he has been impeached by the House during his presidency.
“Any attempt, like that of what the Democrats in the House are trying to do, is another attempt to tarnish the legacy of Trump's presidency,” Halsted said. “And once again, it highlights the hypocrisy of the left given that they remained silent on the BLM protests, specifically CHAZ.”
More than 160 case files have been opened and 70 people charged so far for the riot at the Capitol, as of Jan. 12. It is unclear when the Senate will vote on the impeachment.
WMU GOP declined to comment on any story regarding the riot.
Aya Miller contributed to this story.