ATLANTA (AP) — The daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. says Americans angered by the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol should take care to ensure their responses do not feed the divisive message of extremists.

“I think we tend to fuel the fires, to fan the flames quite a bit in this nation when people do stuff that is extreme like that in a hateful way,” the Rev. Bernice King said of the chaos in Washington last week.

Thousands loyal to President Donald Trump swarmed the Capitol last Wednesday, overrunning police and breaking inside in hopes of stopping Congress from certifying Trump’s election loss. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died as a result of the violent riot.

King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, spoke to The Associated Press a week before the federal holiday honoring her father. She said people outraged by the Washington attack should not channel that into “hateful rhetoric. We can’t become them.”

“We have to elevate them. We have to bring them up to a higher place,” King said. “So the way in which we speak to them, in truth, has to be in the right way. You know, we can’t attack their personhood, but we can attack their actions.”

King noted the predominantly white mob that stormed the Capitol was met with remarkably less force from police than largely Black crowds that protested racial injustice in cities across the U.S. over the summer.


She praised authorities for pursuing arrests and criminal charges in the week since the Capitol siege. And she said those deserving punishment include Trump, who implored his supporters to “fight like hell” in a speech outside the White House right before the crowd marched on the Capitol.

King said taking no action against Trump would send a message that “it’s OK for the leader of the country to act in that way and that there are no consequences.”

“That’s why I’m glad that they have they’ve been talking about the removal and impeachment,” King said. “Even if they don’t succeed, for history they have to do this.”


Follow Alex Sanz on Twitter at @AlexSanz.