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2021 United States Capitol Riot and QAnon

 On January 6, 2021, less than a week after the new year had begun, an unprecedented incident in which supporters of former President Donald Trump occupied the U.S. Capitol, which can be called the temple of democracy, took place. What we have only seen in the movies happened in Washington, the heart of the United States. QAnon is being blamed for the Capitol riot, so let's look into QAnon and the U.S. Capitol riot.

 

Donald Trump's disobedience to U.S. presidential election results

 In the U.S. presidential election that was held on November 3, 2020, Joe Biden, who took 306 electoral college, won the U.S. presidential election with 51.3% of the vote, beating Donald Trump who got 46.8% of the vote. However, former President Donald Trump consistently disobeyed Joe Biden's election. Trump held a press conference at the White House on November 5, 2020 and said, “If only legal votes were counted, I could easily win this election.” Also, he claimed, “This election is an unprecedented case of corruption confirmed.” At the same time while declaring dissatisfaction, he defined 2020 U.S. presidential election as a fraud and expressed his intention to appeal to the Supreme Court. Also, on November 8, he tweeted, “When did the humble press claim our next president? We've all learned a lot in the last two weeks!” And then, he criticized the media for reporting Joe Biden's election and repeatedly denied the election results.

 On January 8, 2021, after the year had changed, former President Trump tweeted, “To everyone who asked me, I will not go to the inauguration ceremony on January 20.” He said he would not attend Joe Biden's presidential inauguration. He missed President Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2021. This is the first time in 152 years that an incumbent president did not attend his successor's inauguration ceremony. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln as president after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, had a strained relationship with his successor, Ulysses Grant, and did not attend his inauguration in 1869.

 Donald Trump's disobedience of the U.S. presidential election results peaked with the U.S. Capitol riot. On January 6, 2021, at 12 noon, former President Trump went up onto a platform that read ‘SAVE AMERICA MARCH’ in the park in front of the White House and delivered a speech to his supporters. He said, “We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.” He then said, “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” Before closing his speech, he called the 2020 U.S. presidential election a fraud and induced a march to the Capitol to block President Joe Biden’s election.

 

The U.S. Capitol riot

 On January 6, 2021, at 1 p.m., a joint session was held at the Capitol in Washington, DC to officially confirm President Joe Biden's victory. Outside the Capitol, supporters of Donald Trump had been rallying in the south of the White House since 11 a.m. on the same day. Trump also attended the rally and made a speech on the podium to encourage his supporters who participated in the rally. He said, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and show our strength.” Supporters who listened to Trump's speech began to confront the police as they marched toward the U.S. Capitol about 30 minutes away.

 At around 2 p.m., protesters outside the Capitol tried to cross the barricade and enter the building. The protesters defeated police forces, opened the door with force, smashed windows, and entered the Capitol. Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were presiding over the joint session, left the meeting in a hurry flanked by security guards.

 Capitol police sealed off the plenary chamber. The Capitol police tried to suppress the intruders by blocking the door with wooden chests, but the protesters succeeded in entering the plenary chamber and occupying the hall. Fortunately, all members of both Houses were evacuated, and the election results were kept safe as a congressional staff member did not forget to pack boxes containing the results of each state election. The protesters, who occupied the plenary chamber, took the seat of the Senate President where Vice President Pence had sat and put their feet on the desk of House Speaker Pelosi; they mocked public power.

 According to the Fox News video, when one of the protesters leads a chant of “Whose house?” the rest of the crowd answers, “Our house!” At the same time, they committed vandalism and went on the rampage. In the end, a 35-year-old woman from San Diego, California was shot dead by the Capitol police during the process of suppressing the protesters. A total of six people were killed in and out of the Capitol, including two police officers. The U.S. Capitol riot was settled by 5:40 p.m., about four hours after the National Guard and federal police were urgently deployed.

 

Blind faith in Trump, QAnon

 Several far-right organizations, including white supremacist groups and militants, participated in the U.S. Capitol riot, but QAnon was especially blamed for inciting the violence. According to the A.P., Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said the protesters' claims at the scene were exactly in line with QAnon's position. He added, “QAnon has been inciting such a frenzy for years.” Let’s find out about QAnon, who cast a gloom over Washington.

 Among Donald Trump's supporters during the Capitol riot, there is one person who walked all over the Capitol half-naked and wearing a hat with big buffalo horns. He was Jacob Anthony Chansley, who often appeared at various far-right organizations rallies, calling himself ‘QAnon Shaman.’ According to local media such as CNN and The New York Times, two of the four protesters who died on January 6, 2021 were QAnon like Chansley. QAnon refers to a conspiracy theory or group that followed the nickname ‘Q’ on the far-right online bulletin board ‘4chan’ since late 2017, the year President Donald Trump took office. In other words, QAnon is a compound word of Q who claims to be high-ranking government official and Anonymous. Through 4chan, the online bulletin board, they say the United States is now dominated by pedophiles and Satanists who engage in child sex trafficking. These “pedophiles and Satanists” included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former President Barack Obama. According to QAnon, these pedophiles and Satanists are controlling the state through a secret bureaucratic group called ‘deep state,’ and Donald Trump is trying to save the United States.

 Originally, deep state is a conspiracy theory that means an unelected power that governs national policy, but QAnon uses deep state to refer to federal officials and intelligence agencies that support former President Obama. In addition, they have repeatedly argued that the Democratic Party manipulated the election after the 2020 presidential election. They have also brought in many conspiracies that COVID-19 was manipulated, and that masks and COVID-19 vaccines were useless.

 There have been numerous conspiracies in the U.S. since the past, such as the John F. Kennedy assassination and the lunar exploration. But nothing became more popular than QAnon. A survey of 1,115 U.S. adults conducted by global polling company Ipsos from December 21 to 22 in 2020 showed that 39% of the respondents believed the existence of deep state was true. In addition, when they were asked whether elites, including pedophiles and Satanists, controlled American politics and media, 17% of respondents said it was true, 37% said they did not know, and even less than half said it was false.

 Starting from the 2020 U.S. presidential election, QAnon did not only stay online but entered offline politics. According to the U.S. public radio network NPR, there were 19 candidates related to QAnon in the 2020 U.S. House and Governor elections. Among them, Lauren Boebert (35, Republican) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (47, Republican) were respectively elected as Congressperson of Colorado and Georgia. Greene, nicknamed ‘Trump wearing high heels,’ is a passionate QAnon believer. She has produced videos of QAnon’s claims and posted them on her social media.

 

Response to the Capitol riot inside the U.S.

 At around 4 p.m. on January 6, 2021, when the Capitol was occupied, President-elect Joe Biden issued a public statement. President-elect Biden urged the mob to step back and allow democracy to move forward. He said that we must end this chaos, and then he pressed Trump to appear on national television immediately and tell the mob to end the occupation. He also criticized violent demonstrators for attacking the Capitol, representatives of the people, police officers and civil servants on duty, and the rule of law by saying our democracy was under unprecedented attack. On the other hand, President Trump defended them by saying on Twitter that this was what happened when great patriots were deprived of a holy and overwhelming election victory. He also told supporters that his supporters had been treated unfairly and badly for a very long time. He added that they should return home in peace and remember today forever. In a video posted earlier than his tweet, former President Trump told his supporters that you should go home immediately, but praised them by saying that we have stolen elections and that you are very special.

 Republicans who watched the U.S. Capitol riot left Trump one by one because of his encouragement of violence. On January 6, 2021, Republican Senator Kelly Leffler said, “When I arrived in Washington this morning, I was completely opposed to approving the election results. But what happened today made me think again.” She added, “I can't consciously oppose the electoral confirmation.” Leffler had taken the stage in former President Trump’s campaign in Georgia on January 4 and vowed to oppose the election of a presidential elector on Jan. 6. Consequently, she was praised by Trump as a great person. According to The Washington Post, Senator Steve Daines (Montana), who had opposed the certification of Joe Biden's election, issued a statement saying he would vote to confirm Biden's election. “Today is a sad day for our country,” he said. “The destruction and violence we saw in the Capitol today is an attack on democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law and should not be tolerated,” he said. According to Reuters, Alex Azar who led the Trump administration's response to COVID-19, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, also resigned on January 15, 2021, citing the Capitol riot. Azar appeared on ABC News on January 12 and criticized Trump’s remarks that incited his supporters to riot.

 

Reactions of leaders from all over the world

 After watching the U.S. Capitol riot, world leaders responded. Leaders from around the world have been mostly critical of the U.S. Capitol riot. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticized the U.S. Capitol riot on January 7 on his Twitter account. He said, “Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.” Following the British Prime Minister, the BBC reported on January 9 that ‘QAnon shaman’ Jake Angeli was charged over pro-Trump riots. The BBC added, “It is alleged that Chansley (aka Jake Angeli) was identified as the man seen in media coverage.”

 According to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pointed out that Trump was responsible for the incident. She said, “President Trump has not unfortunately admitted his defeat and has created an atmosphere where such violence is possible by fueling doubts about the election results.” Germany also stepped up security for the building of the German federal parliament to prevent any possible intrusion by far-right organizations in Germany. According to German media, Bild am Sonntag, Wolfgang Schauble, chairman of the House of Representatives, wrote a letter to Commons on January 10 and said that Berlin police had increased the deployment of police guards around the building.

 Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was close to former President Trump, met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on January 7 and criticized the U.S. Capitol riot as a shameful act. He added that it should be strongly condemned.

 Among the reactions of foreign leaders, there was a scene where they sought hope for democracy in the United States amid shock and sadness. On January 6, 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared on News 1130 Vancouver radio station and said, “Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbor.” Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld, and it will be,” he also said.

 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also wrote on Twitter on January 7 and said, “I trust in the strength of America's democracy.” Also, he stressed Biden's leadership. He added, “The new Presidency of Joe Biden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people.” Carlos Herrera, a famous morning show host on COPE, the radio network owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, told his listeners on Jan. 7 that violence in the U.S. Capitol was unimaginable, but democracy in the United States would move forward. French President Emmanuel Macron also posted a video on Twitter on January 7 and said, “What happened in the Washington, D.C. Congress was definitely not an American thing. We believe in democracy, and we believe in the power of American democracy.”

 

South Korea's response and the previous intrusion into the National Assembly building in Korea

 On January 9, 2021, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Facebook, “I was awakened with strange sense of deja vu when I saw the U.S. Congress, which was considered a symbol of democracy, was invaded by violence.” Deja vu refers to the experience of feeling familiar with situations or scenes that you have never experienced before, as if you have already experienced them. Prime Minister Chung also said, “In a democratic system, the people should be the owners of the country and its goal should be the people as well. Politics that discriminate, divide and instigate the people are enemies of democracy.” He added, “Instigation is easier than persuasion, and dogma is easier than dialogue.” Lastly, he promised, “I will try to make the Republic of Korea an example of democracy.”

 So, what is the deja vu that Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun mentioned? To confirm this, let's look into the previous intrusion into the National Assembly building that took place in Korea. On December 16, 2019, supporters of Liberty Korea Party and Our Republican Party, who were attending a rally against ‘Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials’ held on the steps in front of the National Assembly, attempted to enter the National Assembly. According to MBC reports, their intrusion was initially considered an accidental act, but was planned from the previous day. It was even a planned crime that included giving instructions and sharing information through Kakao Talk in real time.

 They shared very detailed guidelines. For example, the guidelines included: ‘Go through the side door when the main gate of the National Assembly is blocked,’ ‘If anyone asks, tell him I'm going to Park Wan-soo's office,’ and ‘Put Taegeukgi and your picket sign in your handbag.’ After receiving a request for assistance from the National Assembly Secretariat at 8:55 a.m., the police deployed 17 companies outside the National Assembly at 9 a.m. to jointly control visitors with the staff of the National Assembly Secretariat. However, some of the protesters who were waiting outside the National Assembly entered the National Assembly at around 2 p.m. when the staff opened the door for people who were going outside.

 About 150 of the protesters who intruded into the National Assembly scuffled with the police who were trying to stop them. They assaulted members of Democratic Party of Korea and Justice Party passing through the National Assembly, and spat out abusive language. The protesters waved the Taegeukgi and the Stars and Stripes. In addition, they damaged the nameplates of the chairman of the National Assembly and the leader of the Democratic Party of Korea. Despite the police’s order to disperse six times, they refused to budge. And then, they were persuaded to break up at around 7:10 p.m. by Hwang Kyo-ahn, the leader of the Liberty Korea Party. The police announced that they would deal sternly with the incident, but there were no other detainees except for the criminals who were arrested for obstructing the execution of official duties by hitting the police during the National Assembly raid.

 

 The most fundamental cause of the U.S. Capitol riot, QAnon, and the intrusion into the National Assembly building in Korea is distrust of others who, I think, are different from me. Eventually, this distrust produces conspiracies and creates political polarization. The media and politicians, who have been busy creating division, cannot be free from the issue. Bill Adair, a journalist-turned-professor at Duke University who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, pointed out, “Politicians who have blamed the media for all the problems and instigated distrust are also responsible for this situation.” I hope that journalists and politicians who have watched the U.S. Capitol riot will learn bitter lessons from this situation and take the lead in eliminating distrust and conspiracy in the world in 2021.

남동현  ndhyeon125@naver.com

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