The armed attack by thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election winners Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Trump’s defeat. Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney voted for impeachment and blamed Trump for the violence that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer. She asserted, “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president.”
Many questions are still unanswered as to why, with so much advance warning about the intentions of Trump supporters to bring weapons to Washington, D.C. and assault the Capitol, additional security measures weren’t taken to protect legislators and police. Reports also indicate that ex-military and police were among the Capitol rioters.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the Center for Protest Law and Litigation have launched a massive investigation into the communications, planning, memos, personnel, logs and other documents operational plans to fully understand the cause of the security failure and expose any law enforcement or high-level government collusion with the violent mob — as well as prevent future attacks by extreme right-wing domestic terrorists and white supremacists. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder and executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, who summarizes the importance of conducting an aggressive independent investigation, while resisting further restrictions on civil liberties.
MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: We immediately sprung into action, actually on the same day as this violent attack on Jan. 6, because we recognize that there are two very extreme threats that have to be addressed and have to be addressed quickly. One is the extraordinary present danger of white supremacist and militia members that are seeded throughout law enforcement and the military. Now, when we saw this attack unfold, we knew immediately that this could not happen without support and collusion, not just from line officers, but from command officials up at the highest level. And at the Center for Protest Law and Litigation and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, we immediately were identifying these as real concerns that have to be exposed because these are officers that are given guns, given the ability to deprive people of their liberty that are deployed against black communities across the United States, that are deployed against demonstrators across the United States.
And here they are participating in basically a fascist-attempted coup against the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. And to allow them to remain in their positions, to not have them immediately identified and dealt with is an extreme, extreme danger that we believe cannot be allowed to continue. And we knew what was happening at the Capitol. We could see, we saw, as so many others did, images of the line officers who were facilitating entrance, stepping back or opening barricades, officers posing for selfies inside.
But moreover, everyone who’s been in Washington, D.C. and has demonstrated here knows perfectly well the capacity of all of these different agencies in Washington, D.C. to come together and the massive amount of personnel, material force, weapons at their disposal that they do not hesitate to use against peaceful, actual protesters when the peaceful protesters are standing up for racial, social, economic or environmental justice. And yet, here you have a mob that was openly planning an attack on the Capitol, bragging in advance that they were trying to smuggle guns in — everybody knew about this. So any claim that the police were “unprepared or caught off guard” is simply false. And we have to show what was actually happening behind the scenes, the decisions that were being made up at the highest levels to allow this attack to get as much momentum as it did and to get as far as it did.
SCOTT HARRIS: Since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, there’ve been a number of officials — many of them at the FBI or former Justice Department officials — who say their hands were tied, that they couldn’t monitor the planning that was going into the armed assault on the Capitol because they didn’t have a “domestic terrorism law,” unlike laws on the books to monitor foreign terrorism. What is your concern about exactly the kind of legislation that may be debated and voted on soon and the threat, not only to right-wing political activists, but to all political activists in this country who want to practice freedom of speech?
MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: We need to make it clear at the very, very onset that that statement that their hands were tied is 100 percent false. And it is exactly what we are talking about, about their cynical use of a calculated decision to allow what happened to happen, to make decisions as to inaction. Their hands were not tied. They were not restricted from using the very generous grant of authority and capacities that they immediately have at hand. And that they have not hesitated to actually illegally use against peaceful social justice groups.
But here you have an openly bragging, armed mob talking about what they intend to do and the seditious conspiracy that they’re engaged in and the violence that they wish and plan to commit. To say that their hands were tied — the only reason they’re saying that is because this is a grotesque opportunistic use of this right-wing attack to now try and aggregate to themselves, even greater authority to suppress social justice movements in the United States. And we have to call it out very clearly. That’s why we’re performing this investigation, because the facts must be made available so that we can show exactly what they chose not to do, what information they had. And it’s already plainly available, the vast amount of resources and laws and capacities that they have that they did not use or that they chose to ignore the plain information that was in front of them and allow this to go forward.
For more information about Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, visit justiceonline.org.