As organizers and people who believe in the power of organizing for social and environmental justice, on January 6, 2021 we experienced great joy and incredible pain. In the morning, we learned about the results from the Georgia Senate runoff races where Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won. Their wins are historic not only because of their personal stories, with Warnock becoming the first African-American elected to the Senate from Georgia and Ossoff becoming the first Jewish Senator from the state and the youngest at the age of 33, but also because of the long-term organizing and vision of Stacey Abrams and so many others. Communities across the state fought back against voter suppression efforts and they expressed the need for change in leadership to address the real challenges they face. The direct work of activists won and that is something to be celebrated and emulated.
Yet, by the afternoon, a mob of far-right insurrectionists attempted a coup to stop the certification of the electoral college’s presidential votes. They, too, were an organized group that wanted to exert power and to express their displeasure with the outcome of the vote, especially the votes in communities with large Black, immigrant, and Latinx populations. This was not a one-time event. We experienced the violence of white supremacist rhetoric on April 30 when those protesting the coronavirus state of emergency entered the Michigan State Capitol armed to intimidate lawmakers and in October when others plotted to abduct Governor Gretchen Whitmer. We know that we need to stay vigilant here in Michigan, and now the rest of the world has seen how easily the United States could fall to fascism.
Silencing the voice and vote of our communities is violence. Founded upon genocide, occupying stolen land, and built on the backs of enslaved people, this country and our systems are inherently violent. Violence comes in many forms — whether an armed insurrection, voter suppression, evictions, denial of medical care, educational inequity, etc. We must face these truths and take actions to build a more peaceful and just future. January 6th spotlighted the violence in our society and could have led our country closer to fascism. What happens moving forward, how we and our leaders react, matters.
We reject calls to turn the page and move on in the name of unity. We demand accountability; anything less than accountability is unacceptable! Accountability is the only way that this country will be able to address the systems and institutions that allowed this violent action to happen.
We cannot ignore the difference in the response from law enforcement when preparing for the nonviolent #BlackLivesMatter protests and a coup attempt that was announced, publicly, weeks before. If the certification of a bedrock of our democracy doesn’t require protection, but protecting property and policing Black bodies is fair and just, then our values do not match. We cannot ignore that 147 senators and house representatives voted to disenfranchise the people and 11 of our state senators asked to delay the vote. Their political grandstanding diminished trust in the legislative branch, gave credence to unfounded lies by the President that he had won, and broke their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. The insurrectionists left feeling all-powerful because the lie of white supremacy was upheld by these complicit actors, and they have no reason not to carry that feeling back to their home communities where they can continue to cause harm.
We need our elected officials to understand the depth of the harm and trauma caused to so many communities across this country and elsewhere. Black and indigenous people had to, once again, see the reality of unequal treatment and the extreme difference in the valuation of their lives in action in Wednesday’s photos and videos. After sacrificing to travel to this country, Immigrant communities are treated as less-than human and see that their safety is threatened by far-right extremists and main-stream policies. Jewish, Muslim, and queer residents recognized the feeling of danger they experience at the hands of extremists and bigots. When anyone now justifies inaction against the insurgents by saying they don’t want things to get worse, they disregard how bad it actually is and how bad it will get for these populations who are vulnerable to white supremacist violence. We need to rethink what safety means and to recognize the role that true accountability plays in rebuilding trust and belonging. If our elected officials choose to protect their colleagues from accountability, then they are deciding to continue the harm against the rest of us.
With this in mind, we join together to demand actions that in the short, medium, and longer terms:
- Focus on the public officials and governmental staff responsible for this coup attempt:
- Impeach and remove President Trump from office immediately because he incited the insurrection!
- Investigate and expel the Congress members and state legislators who participated in efforts to overturn the election!
- Investigate the mismanagement of the response including those responsible for discerning appropriate responses and preparedness to protestors expressing First Amendment rights versus fascist insurrectionists wanting to overturn an election.
- Focus on anti-democratic institutions and policies that created an atmosphere for this kind of coup attempt:
- Address voter suppression practices like gerrymandering
- Abolish the Electoral College
- Overturn the Citizens United ruling and address the need for campaign finance reform by co-sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment on the federal level and passing a resolution at the state level indicating that you would ratify the amendment.
- End Qualified Immunity and address other racist policing practices
- Focus on long-term structural change so this will not happen again by addressing the root causes of white supremacy and unbridled capitalism in our systems: