As a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, disrupting the official Congressional tally of presidential electoral votes, the nation gasped — with astonishment, fear, anger and helplessness. But not everyone was shocked. Former President Barak Obama said the outburst was “a moment of great dishonor and shame to our nation,” but that “we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”
In Olympia, Trump supporters, some armed, rallied at the Capitol, then made their way past the gates and spilled onto the lawn of the governor’s mansion. Twitter exploded as people shared emotions, community, wry commentary and quick-hit analysis. (One much-retweeted remark by @atboston: “Today was truly a microcosm of U.S. history: Black and allied movements showing the promise of a fully realized democracy, followed up by extremely predictable white backlash, and ending with the ruling elites feigning innocence.”) After several hours, Congress returned to session and confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Here’s what a few folks in Seattle cultural community were thinking and saying as the chaotic day unfolded. (Interviews have been edited or condensed for clarity and brevity.)
Gabriel Teodros, KEXP DJ for “Early,” weekdays 5 a.m.-7 a.m.
As told to Brendan Kiley
On first thoughts while watching the events online: “Black people literally get shot for everything in this country — for walking down the street, sitting in their own backyard — and a white-supremacist, pro-fascist militia can just storm the Capitol, put up their feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk, and walk out unscathed. My first thought was that the police wanted this to happen. In the clips, some of them are just opening up the gates, and posing for selfies. How we think about this will depend on how we talk about it, how it’s reported — if the police and the state are painted as the heroes and saviors in this moment, I feel like people will forget all about it in a few weeks, a few months.”
On whether the Capitol riot will inspire any Trump supporters to defect: I know people sympathetic to Trump — some are family members, Ethiopian, and I don’t understand it. I don’t know if it’s the Christian angle, stuff they get from church, or what. I don’t know where that comes from. Do I think this will be the breaking point for them? I don’t. The breaking point should’ve been ‘grab ’em by the p—-.’ Why wasn’t that the breaking point? Before he was even elected? It’s a wild groupthink. People are tuned in — if they’re tuned into Trump’s stream, maybe it’s big enough to cloud their whole vision, or they just don’t believe anything outside it.
On how DJ in real time during chaotic events: “I don’t know how I’m going to DJ for this tomorrow, but there have been other hard moments I’ve been on the air this year. After the election, before it was decisive, I just played the music I needed to hear to lift myself up. I usually know before I go to the station what the first three or four songs are going to be and then I have this huge digital crate with songs I want to get to. There’s a lot of improvisation happening in that booth. But with this coup attempt I don’t know where I’m going to go first. I’m thinking of coups in other countries, and might know someone from Kenya who was DJing there during a ton of election violence… I see myself as not a source of information so much as inspiration. But I also don’t want to shy away from what’s happening — to acknowledge it, but find things that give people strength, give people some hope and encouragement to keep going. Just don’t give up. Don’t turn away from the madness but don’t give in.”
Ijeoma Oluo, author of New York Times-bestseller “So You Want to Talk About Race” and “Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America”
Excerpted and transcribed from Oluo’s Instagram post on Wednesday evening.
“We have been really walked down this path not only by the president, but the media and the way in which we define power in this country.
“Over here on the West Coast, we had some weirdness at the state Capitol. But geographically, we’re pretty far away from what’s happening in DC. And yet, also I can guarantee you there are dudes from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana at the Capitol right now. But for those of you who are closer to it…. I feel for you. And I hope that you have some semblance of safety and security. That you have resources and people to reach out to. I’m sending you support for what I know can be an incredibly traumatic experience when white supremacy comes knocking on your door. So I hope you feel that. And I hope we are checking on each other nad making space for that in our community.
“And I was feeling very, you know, uplifted … by what happened in Georgia. And I think we need to recognize that story remains. What’s happening at the Capitol doesn’t cancel out what’s happening in Georgia, if anything what’s happening in the Capitol is a response to the fear of the sorts of successes that we are seeing in Georgia, and the way in which that fear can be easily manipulated and stoked. Don’t let that take away what’s an amazing and important success, and years upon years of important activism. We have to still recognize that, build upon that. What the angry white people storming the Capitol right now are hoping is that the fear this puts into us will cause us to back off and strengthen and lengthen their proximity to power.
“We have to keep pushing forward. The response will remain violent. It’ll get more violent. We have to keep pushing regardless. … If you look at our history, this is what happens with every gain. And, someone says, with every gain do we have to experience this aggression each time? Likely, and for quite some time.
“And so the question is do we want to keep experiencing it over and over again while we try to redo the same thing, or do we keep pushing forward? And push the progress forward. Knowing that the backlash and the violence is coming and trying to protect ourselves. And trying to build the systems that can limit the effect it can have and keep pushing forward. Because every time we back off and say, ‘oh it’s too much, the risk is too high,’ that’s the intent. That’s what this terror campaign is about. It’s not going to be a lesser response the next time we push forward. Every time, it’s gonna meet us and we just have to meet it and keep pushing. Someone asked me earlier on another social media platform – are you scared? Yeah, but I am not any more scared than I have been for quite some time. White supremacy is a violent and terrorizing and powerful force and it has come for many people many times throughout our history and it will to anything that threatens its power. So yeah, I’m scared. But am I scared because there’s white men throwing baby fits in the capitol right now? No. I’m scared because many of those men come from highly armed communities that are hoping to stoke violence and they are empowered by systems that will always prioritize them over us. And that fear stays, regardless. But I’m also hopeful – in seeing what we can do. We are not nothing in the face of that. I think what we saw in Georgia is proof. Our continued existence is proof. We have to remember that that matters.
“That’s the message I have here – I hope that we keep pushing. We have to have faith in what we can do – we have to push these systems and create something new and better, and we can do it. But that doen’t mean the grief isn’t real, the fear isn’t real and that we don’t need to make space for each other. We absolutely have to.
“My heart is with people on the East Coast. Especially with people of color on the East Coast, Black people on the East Coast. I love you. My heart goes out to you. Stay safe. Stay in community online safely – whatever you need to do to stay connected and reach out to people.”
C. Davida Ingram, award-winning artist and civic leader
Excerpted from Ingram’s Facebook post on Wednesday
“Domestic violence advocates will tell you a Survivor is most in danger when she seeks to leave her abuser.
“Last night, Black women organizers delivered the Senate. Like clockwork, today white terrorists descended on the Capitol.
“Any postcolonialist will tell you this story began with white supremacists with guns who did not want a fair fight.
In our U.S. allegory, Black women on Indigenous land said they wanted a Fair Fight. And moved.
“We decide how this story ends.
“Never forget that. Not cowards. Not racists. Not bullies. Not losers.
“So, I ask you: What world will you decide to live in? A free one? Or the one a vexed oppressor would choose?”
Davin Michael Stedman, 41-year-old Everett musician
As told to Michael Rietmulder
On talking with Republican friends: “This morning, before this all went down, I hit up one of my friends who’s been sticking with Trump the entire time. He’s a Marine. I was like ‘This thing’s over, how could you have never turned on him?’ I keep telling him this guy’s disrespected [John] McCain, he’s disrespected the troops.’ He said ‘It’s for the party.’ I go ‘Things are gonna happen today. We knew it was coming and it came. Are people surprised?”
On maintaining friendships across party lines after today: “I think we have to. On Facebook, you’re gonna throw memes at me, you’re gonna block me. There’s all these ways on a comment chain to not acknowledge somebody’s point or existence or value. But when you’re in real life – and maybe because I’m 6′ 1” and I’m a bigger guy – but people don’t wanna punch you.”
On finding hope: “The moment my sister asked [my father], ‘Are you gonna vote for Trump?’ it was a family dinner. We were all there. And he just starts tearing up. He says to everybody that he’s been a Republican ever since ’64. Since he turned 18, he’s been a Republican man. And he couldn’t vote for Trump. A lot of my hope has to do with people like my father that are out there.”
On going forward: “Artists are pretty resilient. We have to be. We’re used to taking a licking. I’m worried about people that aren’t ready, because I think a lot of the disaster that’s happened in America is people are starting to lose their privilege and it’s scary for people. Certain things are coming apart in society and we’re seeing a panic. The MAGA movement, people are afraid. It’s classic snake oil salesman stuff, we know that. People are desperately looking for answers right now, but they don’t want to look deep into themselves.”
Brandon Marsalis, 24-year-old hip-hop artist from Tacoma
As told to Michael Rietmulder
On watching the situation unfold through Twitter: “It’s what we go through on Twitter and ties in a lot of our mental health, too. We see something tragic one scroll, half a second later we see a joke being made about it, which is a lot of people’s way to cope. It does something to our brain, to our emotional state. How do we move forward with advocating for Black people’s safety? How do we move forward marching in the streets and getting changes when people went into the most secure building in the world almost? It’s tough. I guess making light of the situation is a lot of our way to deal with this type of moment.”
On maintaining hope for America’s future and social justice advocacy: “One reason why I still have hope is that there’s a lot of younger people than me – I’m 24 – that realized that this is wrong at a younger age than I ever did. I’m seeing younger kids talk about capitalism and having a broader sense of knowledge on this type of thing. I’m hopeful and scared at the same time. I think of a lot of the great people that we’ve had advocate for peace in this world. And when I saw people storming the Capitol almost unabated and without any pushback – my mom said to me a lot of people that were our heroes that died – Martin Luther King, Malcolm X – it almost felt like they died for nothing watching that happen. It feels like five steps back, to be honest. But I’m still hopeful. Gotta be.”
On staying engaged: “This war of souls that we’re having, this war of ideals, needs everybody. It’s an all ‘hands on deck’ thing. If I say ‘Well, I’m gonna tune out for a week’ or ‘Man, I can’t handle it,’ then there’s somebody else who’s gotta handle that. Somebody else has to pick up that burden. How I’m handling it is to keep looking forward. There’s not a lot of good things in the past. A lot of people who aren’t here right now have been fighting this same beast for decades — centuries. I can’t fail now.”
On music during turbulent times: “Music is one of the few things that has the ability to transcend times like these. Music has always been something there to give me a hug when I’ve needed it. A lot of people are watching horrific things go down on the daily and they still find a reason to write something down, find a reason to rhyme, to sing. We’re beings of vibration, we’re beings of movement. It’s one of those things that can heal pain, but I don’t think it can remove scars.”
On moving forward: “It wasn’t surprising. It felt like the culmination of a lot of [expletive] that’s been happening. There’s a lot of question marks. How do we combat this demonly nationwide thing in our own backyard or in our own mind? I was telling my mom, when I was young when I looked at myself and I was brown, I didn’t think that was a problem with anybody else, until I started feeling it. Until I started seeing it, experiencing it. Then I started asking why and there still isn’t an answer. There still isn’t an answer to why somebody is compelled to end me because I look like this. I saw some people say this is one of the saddest moments in American history. You ain’t looking hard enough then, man.”
Courtney Marie Andrews, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter
As told to Michael Rietmulder
On learning the U.S. Capitol had been stormed: “I was recording some guitar instrumentals when my mom texted me about it. One of my resolutions was to spend less time reading the news. I like to stay informed of course, but I limited myself to 10 minutes a day. I was completely blown away and entranced in what was happening. Not in a healthy way.”
On watching the situation throughout the day: “I felt a lot of pain. I felt a lot of shame for our country. But I also felt this kind of universal eye-opening amidst the whole country. It’s so sad because it was on a day that offered such great news with Georgia turning blue and the senate turning blue. It was such a beautiful morning and I was recording zen guitar music [laughs]. Time and time again, we’re met with these eye-opening realities that we’re living in two different Americas.
“But my hopeful brain this morning, after a night of mourning and thinking about our country and what it’s come to, I’ve been thinking about the need to build a new foundation for this country. The foundation and principles on which it was built upon were faulty from the start. So, it feels like this is an opportunity to really seize the moment and build a country that works for everybody.”
On speaking to a politically mixed Americana audience: “I’m not looking to be a voice for anybody. I just know and stick by my morals and see that there’s a problem in America. And no matter what kind of music I play would be the first person in debate class to make a stance for what I believe in.
“I haven’t really thought about whether I’m reaching fans on the opposite end of things. I know they get upset when I say things. They get very upset [laughs]. So, I don’t know if it’s actually [getting through] if they’re just upset. My own personal moral compass always has a belly full of hope in it. And when I speak about these things, I try and come from a place of empathy for everybody. But at the same time there’s certain lines you have to draw in the sand and when it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”