RJI statement on January 6th Attack on U.S. Capitol-January 8, 2021
By Lisa Rea, President, Restorative Justice International
We have witnessed a violent attack on our U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020 which most in this country would not have predicted was possible. That assault involved hundreds of supporters of the U.S. sitting president because the event was sponsored by him. He incited the violence and attack by his very words. For the U.S. Capitol to suffer such a violent attack and for Americans to witness this violence on television left us stunned and angry wondering if this could really be our country being attacked—from the inside. Some call it a coup d’état which I believe is correct. That is a serious offense. It is most assuredly domestic terror.
Most in this country were relieved to see 2020 pass thinking that the new year with a new president-elect, Joe Biden, would make all the difference. The election of Joe Biden will make all the difference to this nation’s future, but we must not forget for even a moment that the person still in power has more power than we knew. His power is based on those voters who continue to support him but even more important to understand is that the president’s power is sustained by the public officials who still stand by him and enable his every move. These supporters include a small group of Congress members, and those left in his cabinet, and some state public officials including local office holders, and even members of law enforcement.
Because of this the United States is in dangerous territory as we start 2021. Now we must demand that those who have supported this sitting president who are public officials stand down for the good of the country. It, of course, requires condemning the violence but that condemnation of the violence is not valid without identifying the source of the attack and how it came to be. Words have meaning and the words used by this sitting president for over four years have bred hatred amongst us and violence culminating in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
On the night of January 6 in Congress after the violence had ceased leaving the nation stunned, we heard many speeches rebuking the violence. But one early speech on the floor of Congress concerned me. It was a speech given by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell—Majority Leader soon to be Minority Leader. Instead of calling out the president specifically he condemned the violence, called it an assault on our democracy, but did not mention the president’s name. That was a failure. While he supported our democracy and said that Congress would continue working on the nation’s business, which was certifying the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the time of the attack, McConnell said nothing about the reason we were attacked. The attack on the Capitol was at the hands of the president’s supporters incited by the president himself on January 6th in person. By not making this clear in his remarks McConnell failed when he could have worked immediately to stem the bleeding.
This country was attacked and as some have said it was a failed coup d’état. The French phrase is defined as a blow, a blow of state or a blow against the state. Usually a violent takeover. That blow America did survive but not by much. It was a violent attack which coups are. But those who deflect the damage and seek not to address the reasons perpetuate the chance of violence again. The source of the attack was the president himself. That is why it is so important to stand down and stand away from his power to de-legitimize it and stand firm for this democracy. Though this president has less than two weeks left to reign it does not matter. The damage we have witnessed could happen again because of his power and those who continue to enable him while knowing the damage he has done already to this democracy.
In the field I work in as president of Restorative Justice International (RJI) peacemaking, conflict prevention, nonviolence and conflict resolution are goals that are highly valued. Restorative justice principles are universal usually applying to criminal justice reform. But restorative justice principles also apply broadly to peacemaking between nations and peacemaking between individuals often when there is a direct crime victim and offender. Healing is possible after conflict, even violence but not without offender accountability. Restorative justice respects the rule of law and seeks to restore peace or shalom in communities after violence. Restorative Justice International is committed to bringing healing and restoration wherever the shalom has been broken.
We will need restorative justice in the days ahead, but we also need it now after this violent attack on our U.S. Capitol. Those individuals who committed the violent assault must be held accountable for their acts since that attack was on our democracy which is an attack on all Americans. The individual, the sitting president, who fomented the violence will ultimately need to be held accountable as well because he is the source of the damage and injury we have sustained.
Restorative Justice International (RJI) is a global association and network of over 6000 members and affiliates advocating for victims-driven restorative justice as the foundation for needed systemic justice reform. Lisa Rea is the founder and president of RJI.