UC Berkeley students and city officials universally expressed disgust and shock in the wake of a violent insurrection that took place when President Donald Trump’s supporters mobbed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
As the U.S. Congress attempted to finalize the Electoral College’s results Wednesday, Trump spoke at a “Save America” march in Washington, D.C. During the rally, he urged Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the presidential election results, claimed fraud affected election results and told those at the rally to join him and “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” to encourage Republican officials “to take back (the) country.”
Soon after, members of the crowd arrived at the federal Capitol and passed police barricades to enter the building. Rioters carrying “Trump 2020” and Confederate flags then breached the Senate chambers, the Capitol rotunda and the offices of members of Congress.
Congress was able to reconvene in the evening to continue certifying the presidential election results after Trump’s supporters were forced out of the building. During the rioting, four people died, and more than 50 police officers were injured.
“This is the logical and inevitable consequence of Trump,” said Robert Reich, campus professor of public policy, in an email. “We should not normalize, forget, or dismiss what occurred yesterday. The president of the United States encouraged a militia to attack the seat of the legislative branch and threaten the physical safety of Congress.”
According to Reich, it is the “solemn responsibility of Congress” to either impeach Trump or remove him from office through the invocation of the 25th Amendment, a statement that Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín echoed.
UC Berkeley political science professor Steven Fish said there was no precedent for impeaching a president so close to his departure from office but called every further day of Trump’s presidency a “hazard” for the country.
Robin López, campus doctoral scholar, said while he was disturbed by images of the rioters, he was not shocked. He added that Trump was “just the surface” of what led to the incident.
“This is not just the result of one election. This is the result of our country’s years, centuries of systemic oppression,” López said.
López added that he was dissatisfied with campus’s emailed statement about the event, which he said failed to acknowledge the root of the rioters’ actions. He further noted the stark differences in police treatment of rioters at the Capitol versus police treatment of people of color protesting against racial discrimination and in favor of police reform.
“We need to start acknowledging the lived experiences of Black, Latino and Asian students,” López said. “We really need to put our money where our mouth is. The letters aren’t going to do much.”
UC Berkeley students involved in campus Republican and Democratic groups expressed further dismay at the Capitol rioting.
Elizabeth Grubb, Cal Berkeley Democrats president, spoke about the “hypocrisy” of the police and the National Guard’s treatment of the rioters, adding that she was disgusted by the rioting.
Aniruth Kasthuri, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, called the violence a “massive threat” to U.S. democracy.
“Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you can violently start attacking people,” Kasthuri said. “If people don’t agree with (the election results), then they need to go out and vote in 2022.”
Despite their upset after the rioting, community members spoke positively about Senate wins for the Democratic Party in Georgia’s runoff elections. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are both projected to win the election, with 98% of districts reporting as of press time, and this would give Democrats the majority in the Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the deciding vote.
The edge in the Senate will give President-elect Joe Biden a better prospect to move legislation through the Congress, noted Fish.
The possibility of a united government could allow for the organization of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, criminal justice reform and further investments in sustainable energy, according to Arreguín.
“I am hopeful for all we can accomplish with true federal partners,” Arreguín said in a statement. “Thank you to the people of Georgia, especially organizers and Stacey Abrams.”
Multiple Berkeley City Council members also expressed their support for Ossoff and Warnock. City Councilmember Terry Taplin said he was “elated” and cautiously optimistic about their election, while City Councilmember Kate Harrison called the two “fine people.”
“To watch (David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler) lose to these two nice dudes is so truly, deeply heartwarming,” said City Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “Public agencies everywhere whose budgets have been decimated by the pandemic have a new shot at real relief under a Democratic Senate.”