From our Executive Director, Kellie Copeland:
The events at the US Capitol this week have been incredibly painful to witness. Many have said they were unprecedented—and in some ways, they were. Nothing of this size and scale with the intention to overturn a presidential election has happened at the Capitol before. However, inflammatory rhetoric inspiring violence and invasion has happened before at abortion clinics, state capitals, Black churches, and synagogues.
The pattern is always the same. “Fringe extremists” express their hate-filled, bigoted outrage at people that don’t look like them, or don’t believe what they believe. They say these people are evil, or inferior, and that they must be controlled—that they must submit to the extremists’ righteous authority. They persuade others to join their cause by telling them that the people they hate are responsible for the problems they face—economic struggles, divorce, or the lost custody of a child. They tell them that BIPOC folks, women, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Jewish or Muslim people, union members, and others are a threat to their way of life, that they are not legitimate, honorable, intelligent, or worthy to live their lives according to their own values and beliefs.
Conservative politicians have long weaponized these views to win elections and hold political power. Donald Trump kicked off his political career claiming that Barack Obama wasn’t a US citizen, and that immigrants from Mexico were murderers and racists, but he was by no means the first to employ this approach. In fact, racist, xenophobic, and patriarchal views are the foundation of nearly every institution and common practice that decides who gets what and when in America—from voting rights, to the Electoral College, to zoning laws, to policing and incarceration, to school funding. Hell, that’s why these institutions and practices were created, to protect the power and wealth of white men.
Time and again, conservative groups stoke the flames of hatred to raise money and mobilize voters. When the people demonized by those methods point out what is happening, they are ridiculed and gaslit, being told they are being “too sensitive” that it was “just a joke.” When the inflammatory rhetoric explodes into bloodshed, these same groups and politicians refuse to accept responsibility, pointing to “lone wolves” and blaming the victims.
People who have been harmed by these practices were hit hard when they saw Trump’s supporters storming the US Capitol. BIPOC, Jewish, and LGBTQ folks watched Proud Boys and other bigots saunter out of the US Capitol they had just invaded and vandalized return to their homes and families without facing arrest. Abortion advocates saw people who picket clinics they’re employed at among that mob, knowing full well that they will be back outside of clinics tomorrow. Each knowing that failure of these invaders to be held accountable will embolden them and lead to more violence, harassment and intimidation.
Politicians, including Governor Mike DeWine, Senator Rob Portman, Congressman Jim Jordan and others, are pretending that they bear no responsibility for what happened. DeWine and Portman co-chaired Trump’s campaign. Ohio Congressmen Steve Chabot, Warren Davidson, Bob Gibbs, Bill Johnson and Jim Jordan voted to overturn the election results AFTER the Capitol was invaded. And this wasn’t their first time playing with fire and then denying their culpability. For example, Governor Mike DeWine has used dangerous rhetoric against abortion providers to raise money and win political favor with conservative voters. His rhetoric has been followed by vandalism. DeWine has been so reckless that he even engaged in inflammatory rhetoric just days after deadly violence at a clinic in another state which was inspired by false allegations similar to his own.
There are already calls to move on, to put all of this behind us. Nothing could be more dangerous. We have seen what years of allowing this behavior has brought: constant harassment at abortion clinics, invasions and shootings at Black churches and synagogues, police murdering Black people with impunity, and a country led by politicians who have allowed this pandemic to kill hundreds of thousands of its people, and push millions into economic free fall. Failure to hold the perpetrators of the Capitol invasion, and political leaders who stoked the flames that led to their actions, accountable will embolden them and lead to more harassment, intimidation, violence, and harmful public policies. Though the system of criminal justice remains flawed, those who broke the law must be arrested and prosecuted. Elected officials who incited violence must also be removed from office.
Without justice, there will never be a chance for peace.