Politics and Government

'How did it get to this?': Minnesotans react to violence, chaos at U.S. Capitol

Mob breaches U.S. Capitol.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Joseph Prezioso | AFP via Getty Images file

The violent insurrection by pro-Trump extremists at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday has left many Americans reeling. People are sharing their sorrow, anger and shock — or lack thereof — as we continue to process and learn more about the events.

On Thursday morning, MPR News hosts Kerri Miller and Angela Davis opened up the phone lines for people to share their thoughts and feelings on how we got here and how we can move forward. Here’s what a few Minnesotans had to say:

“The audacity of people to break windows out of the Capitol, and take people's chairs, and tear things down. It was a mess,“ said BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, a psychologist in Plymouth, Minn., who joined Davis’ show as an expert guest. “And it just showed how violent and angry people are.”

Phycologist BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya

Garrett-Akinsanya expressed her concern for those traumatized by witnessing the event, as well as for the mental wellness of those involved in the insurrection.

“How did it get to this? How do people get so manipulated by narcissism, or by a narcissistic personality, and plus anti-social personality? How do they get so manipulated to the point where they own that person’s pathology and they wear it and use it as a social way of masking their own pain and fear?” she said.

Darcel, a listener in St. Paul, echoed what many other callers said — that the entitlement they saw Wednesday is rooted in race. The largely white crowd that breached the Capitol met little resistance from law enforcement when compared to the heavily-armed response mobilized ahead of Black Lives Matter protests this summer.

Darcel from St. Paul

“What systems were in place that those people could storm the Capitol and for the most part feel very comfortable at it, and not be harm at what they did?” Darcel said. “So clearly there is a system in place that says that it’s OK for people of European decent to do what they do but yet people of Black and brown decent are stopped in their tracks.”

Logan, another listener in St. Paul, told Miller that he's no longer supporting the Republican Party as he once did.

Logan from St. Paul

“I come from a long line of conservatives in my family. I’ve also served in the military as well as generations of family members. And I can no longer support a conservative side that I feel is leaning more toward a fascist, nationalist, totalitarian regime,” he said. “And to think that anti-fascism is a bad word when our military veterans of generations have fought against fascism is just despicable and disgraceful.”

Several other Minnesotans wrote in to share their reactions:

These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“I've been thinking a lot about how normal anti-democratic forces have been throughout America's history. How many democratically elected governments have we overthrown? How many voters, primarily Black voters, have we intimidated? In 1898, white supremacists carried out a literal coup in North Carolina. This isn't a new problem. But we treat it like it is.” Alex, Bemidji, Minn.

“I am scared and heartbroken. I used to think if we voted Trump out of office maybe we’d get some sanity back in politics. The fact that 140 Republican members of Congress, including two from our state, voted to object to the results after everything is beyond the pale. They are traitors and have violated their oath to the constitution. We can and should be angry at them, but unless we change the incentives within government that allow for extremism and lying to flourish I fear this will become normal. As a first step we need ranked choice voting and an end to partisan gerrymandering. We need moderates who tell the truth in power and the system isn’t designed right now to help them win.” Tim, Wayzata, Minn.

“I worry that white people will still deny that the insurrection had anything to do with whiteness and that white Minnesotans will just think, ‘Oh that’s just an extremist group in D.C., that has nothing to do with me.’ With Trump supporters at our state Capitol threatening our governor and making speeches about purges and civil war, I’m worried that white Minnesotans will continue to see themselves outside of the ‘problem people.’ Until they turn inward and truly interrogate their whiteness, this is going to keep happening, no matter who the President is. Yes, it’s not pleasant. Yes, it hurts to acknowledge all the ways the privilege of whiteness has harmed others, but it is a vital step in making things right for all of us. We need to be centering the voices and experiences of people who are still fighting for their liberation and we can’t do that fully until white people realize that the ‘race issue’ has been their issue all along. As James Baldwin says, ‘Nothing can be changed until it is faced.’” Cristina, Minneapolis

“I’m absolutely livid! How is this being accepted? I feel every single representative who went along with this should lose their seat. Trump should be charged, impeached or taken out by 25th Amendment. This is not the America I know or remember.” Kyrietta, Richfield, Minn.

“I’m saddened and angry, but not surprised. If anything, I’m angry that four-plus years of left-wing activists all but screaming that this type of fascist event was coming and that lack of consequences only emboldens them further was dismissed or ignored where it mattered. And remember, this only got as bad as it did because law enforcement allowed it. It was encouraged, both actively (there’s video of police opening gates there) and by a woefully improper response. Maybe they should have been Black? Maybe then they’d have met the opposition that comes from the actions they took.” Reid, Wayzata

“This is more disturbing to me than 9/11. That was an attack from the outside. This was an attack from within our own government and the threat continues in every part of our nation. This will take many years to recover from if that’s even possible.” — Polly, Owatonna, Minn.

“If people are having a hard time understanding what white privilege is, this is a clear example. Racism runs deep in this country and it is heartbreaking.”Bridget, Minneapolis

“I'm frustrated with the media questioning if Trump could be removed in his remaining days as opposed to why he hasn't been removed. This is a massive failure. Pressure needs to be put on Congress, the Cabinet and vice president. Every passing moment will only embolden Trump.” Dustin, Prescott, Minn.

“I am angry, scared, but ultimately I guess I knew this day was coming. I want [Trump] removed from office immediately, and his congressional conspirators to resign or be removed.” — Marcie, Anoka, Minn.

“President Trump has encouraged and emboldened groups like these since his first day in office, and in doing so has made our country less safe. I used to be upset with those who have done nothing to hold him in check, but now I just feel betrayed by the elected officials who continue to back him solely for their own political gain. What must be addressed is that fact that those who entered the Capitol to do harm met with little or no resistance, even though authorities were well aware of the potential for violence. I love my country, and am grieving for her now.“ Judy, Red Wing, Minn.

“What happened was a mockery of democracy. These people are not patriots, they are anarchists. I have family members who are adamant Trump supporters. They and their children proudly wear MAGA memorabilia. My daughters — 9 and 16 — have asked me what we will do if they continue to wear their T-shirts and hats. Since 2016, our relationships with them have been uncomfortable. Since the pandemic things have deteriorated further. Now, we cannot stand by idly, especially if they continue to support Trump.” — Heidi, Maple Grove, Minn.

“I’m worried about what Trump will do in the rest of the days before Biden takes over.” — Audery, Belle Plaine, Minn.

“I am disgusted and feel despair at the inability of conservative lawmakers to speak truth. Many continue to hide behind silence, apologetics or weak and qualified rebukes. They benefit from the mis/disinformation cycle churning within their base and media. How can we function as a society when intellectual laziness is harnessed to make money and secure power to the detriment of us all? This is not an America I want to live in.” — Christie, White Bear Lake, Minn.

“I'm pissed, not sad. It wasn't as traumatic as seeing 9/11 happen on TV, but it was actually more upsetting to see DC so poorly prepared for something like that. It's not like DC police didn’t know, because the whole country knew there was going to be a ‘protest’ by ‘patriots’ and storming the Capitol building was indeed mentioned on public forums. There was plenty of public knowledge about it, and the fact that hundreds of military and police officers were on the capitol steps for BLM protests — which erupted over a legitimate issue — and what looked like a handful of officers for Wednesday is just sad. … What we as a country witnessed on Wednesday was a domestic terrorist attack, plain and simple. It wasn't a ‘mob’ and they were not ‘patriots.’ Why was it not called a terrorist attack? Why was it OK to not use force for crowd control on white people upset over a conspiracy theory, but it was okay to throw tear gas and shoot rubber bullets at people sitting down in silence to protest a murder in Minneapolis? The U.S. needs to have some serious cultural rehabilitation, like Germany after WWII ASAP.” — Tiffany, Minneapolis

“The real and actual divide in our country is longstanding, albeit sometimes tame and silently acknowledged, war on each other will never be healed. This is a time to talk about truth and respect and equality. Compassion. Those who harm should be brought to justice. Those who want a better life, a good life and have only known struggle should have a voice now. More than ever.” — Jessica, Duluth

“Wednesday felt like it happened just down the street, in my house, to me. I felt invaded and vandalized for standing up to a bully, who had complete control over my life. Why did I feel this way? Because in our democracy elected public officials represent me. I have written to my congressman Pete Stauber several times regarding Trump’s assault on our elections and the toxic partisanship of the Republican Party. I have risked relationships with family and friends to stand up to what is right in front of us, toxic tribal politics fueled by a profit centered media. On the very same day I was so relieved and inspired by the people of Georgia who have valiantly voted despite being assaulted by the bully. Georgia’s Republican leaders proudly represented all of their citizens by speaking out publicly and forcefully the truth about their election process. This a frightening moment that brings clarity to what is the heart of America, who represents us matters.” — Heather, Zim, Minn.

“Embarrassed nation. People all over the world are watching civilians destroying the nation’s Capitol. Americans are now viewed as third-worlds minded.” — Asha, Minn.

“This is what I'm thinking: racism, white advantage, is the issue. It explains a man like Trump being in this office at all. Still being there after four years of outrages and now many thousands of unnecessary deaths. It explains a white mob allowed to do such violence and very few arrests. And on and on...” — Bronwen, Minneapolis

“Profoundly ashamed to live in a country that created this monster. Like other decent Americans, I struggle with those that knew what Trump was, and traded their dignity for nationalism and hateful policies. And as this cancer grew, his supporters cheered louder, their racist and insufferable behaviors now malignant. This insurrection was a result of one delusional old man's vanity, his brittle ego, and his vulnerable followers trudging blindly through the wasteland of fantastic lies. I keep thinking how he saw the same confederate flags, Camp Auschwitz hoodies and other vile symbolism. He understood exactly who he was talking to, and encouraged them, dared them to terrorize the Capitol. What lousy human beings.” — Darrin, East Grand Forks, Minn.

“Over the last four years, we have seen and allowed the unconscionable to happen. Watching the riotous mob rushing into the Capitol to disrupt a delicate, yet vital part of the democratic process made my heart sink. It felt like there were bricks inside my stomach. At the age of 29, this was another 9/11 moment for me. This is a direct consequence of some media outlets and congressional members knocking truth and decency for entitlement, tribalism, and blind loyalty to a man whose character is a grave threat not only on a national level, but on an international level. As “A City Upon a Hill,” what will be the reverberating consequences of this grotesque spectacle be, globally, to the democratic process? The difference between how BLM protestors were treated and these raucous rioters were treated is astonishing. It is reflective of how black and BIPOC are treated in the country. One group protests to survive and be equally respected. Another group riots with malice over conspiracy theories viewed as truths. This should be the wake up call for everyone.” — Michael, Cottage Grove, Minn.

“I just became a U.S. citizen. This process takes a while and happened during Mr. Trump’s presidency. As the months went by I was asking myself if I really wanted to be a member of this country. As so many say, Wednesday’s move was no surprise; from the day of the failed re-election Mr. Trump has spouted these incredible lies and he told us that there would be ‘fireworks’ at this particular event. How can the leader of the USA tear the country down — rather then to make it greater — with such self-serving behavior? Wednesday’s events were a culmination of his self-centeredness. And yes, he got plenty people to follow the lies. America needs to show to the world that it still adheres to democratic values, that it is a democracy and not on oligarchy How can people be brought back to seeing reality rather then fiction and self-focused delusions.” — Regina, St. Paul

“I have had three thoughts, questions actually, running through my mind for a while now and yesterday's events brought them up to a boil: 1) What good are oaths of office, vows to uphold the law or anything like that if those can be set aside at will and with no consequences at all, much less serious ones like losing licenses or jobs? The state and federal Congress are full of lawyers who are breaking laws and going against the constitutional ‘will of the people’ as indicated by ‘the fairest and most secure’ elections in history. … 2) The concept of regulatory capture is commonly applied to lobbyists and industry taking control of agendas and rule making of regulatory agencies. There seems to be a similar thing happening inside the Department of Justice, courts, law enforcement and all the military and security departments — yet only the conservative/right wing influence on the recent court appointments has been discussed in any meaningful way. … 3) Just what will it take before the enablers and supporters bail off the Trump bandwagon? It seemed nothing — until last night. At least some are starting to realize Trump and Co. have meant what they were saying all along about not conceding and it wasn't just an act for the TV cameras that they could shrug off.” — Diane, Lauderdale, Minn.

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