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Journalists are taught to provide information in any article in response to basic questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? In the wake of last week’s tsunami of events in Washington, I have many questions. They’re not rhetorical; they’re honest questions that I believe urgently need answers to help us understand not only what happened, but also the consequences and possible implications of those events.

Who?

Who planned for the Jan. 6 rally? Who applied for the permit and paid for the speakers’ stand and the tent where the President and his family watched the rally before he spoke?

Who erected the gallows facing the Capitol?

After the Capitol was overrun, who in the Pentagon did not immediately grant an urgent request to deploy National Guard troops there, apparently because of reservations about the “optics” of soldiers in the building? Who denied Gov. Hogan’s repeated offers to send in the Maryland National Guard? Were Pentagon officers acting on their own, or under direct orders from the White House? Eventually Vice President Pence approved the additional Guard deployment; who in the Pentagon contacted him for that approval?

Who directed the rioters to inconspicuous offices in the Capitol, including the Parliamentarian’s office, which was ransacked?

Who gave an order not to arrest rioters as they left the building, or did not give an order to arrest them?

What?

What did the terrorists actually hope to accomplish? While the storming of the Capitol seemed an act of spontaneous mob violence, at least some came prepared with riot gear, and some seemed intent on hunting down and killing Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Pence. Did they intend to kill other members of Congress as well? Did they intend to hold hostages to force surviving members of Congress to reject the Electoral College votes and install Trump for another term?

Compared to that question, others seem trivial, but they’re still important:

Were there any direct communications to participants in the insurrection to bring pipe bombs, knives, Mace, and zipties to the rally, or did individuals take responsibility themselves?

What changed the President’s tone between his tweet at 2:24, seeming to encourage the mob (“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”) and the one at 2:38 (“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”)?

What involvement, if any, did members of Congress have in the assault, including knowing that it might happen, or knowing what was taking place, and failing to alert law enforcement? Rep. Lauren Boebert live-tweeted, “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers” – at best, accidentally providing information about Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts to a mob intending to harm her.

When?

When will the Attorney General or the President communicate directly with the American people and answer questions about the events of last week?

Where?

Where else might be vulnerable to this sort of mob violence? Government.com reported that on the same day that the Capitol was overrun, New Mexico and Texas shut down their capitol complexes, the Georgia capitol went into lockdown, and Utah state workers were told to work from home; Denver closed city government buildings, and in Arizona, a guillotine was erected outside the capitol.

And it’s not over: the Washington Post cites reports of plans for a “Million Militia March” in Washington and coordinated attacks on state capitals in the coming days as one reason that Twitter closed President Trump’s account. The leader of the Proud Boys, forbidden to enter Washington because he’d been arrested on weapons violations, said from his Maryland hotel room, “Whether it’s the Capitol today or a state capitol tomorrow, or some other government building, you probably will see this,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen, but fortunately this is a reminder to these politicians that they work for us. We don’t work for them.”

How?

Innumerable books and articles will be written about the events of Jan. 6 and how they came about. Looking toward the future:

How can the Capitol be secured in the future?

How can we confidently tell our friends abroad, and each other, that our representatives in Congress and in our state and local governments are safe?

How can we confidently encourage young people to consider getting engaged in politics and running for office?

Why?

Perhaps the most puzzling question of all: After a divisive election and in the middle of a pandemic that is killing 4,000 Americans every day, why would anyone think that breaking into the nation’s Capitol to ransack and deface it, much less killing our elected representatives, would be the right answer to ... anything?

Maggie Brown Cassidy is a teacher and writer living in Putney. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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