Washington DC Riots

The extraordinary events in the United States overnight deserve careful reflection both in the US and here in Australia. It’s clear that something has gone very wrong, social media is involved, democracy was put at risk, and in response change of some form will be coming.

Here’s what we know.

The Save American March

A march in support of Trump and his claims of rigged elections was arranged, by President Trump, for January 6th. This was a protests against the certification of the presidential election results which was to be taking place in the Senate at the same time.

It spread online

Calls to join the march spread online and support was requested not just from Trump supporters in the US, but from supporters internationally. Those involved in MAGA and QAnon (and there is a large overlap between them) supported this push. Thousands turned up.

Trump’s Video

Following the march Trump posted a video to social media in which he called on protesters to go home, even as he repeated his message wrongly claiming the election “was stolen” and that his opponents would “take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country”.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all removed the video out of concern that it would feed violence and fake news.

Now that events in the US Capital have calmed down, here’s the transcript of the removed video:

“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home at peace. “

TRanscript of President Trump Video message, 6 January 2021

Storming of the capital

It was entirely predictable that the more extreme supporters at the march would try to storm the capital. One Twitter user predicted it the day before.

Protesters stormed the Congress pushing their way through three layers of security and into the chambers.

Sessions in both houses of Congress were suspended and security evacuated members of Congress who sheltered in their offices and in other undisclosed locations.

One woman was shot dead on Capital Hill and three others are reported dead around the Capital. Pipe bombs were found and disarmed. Molotov cocktails were found near the congress. Order was eventually restored and the sessions continued.

Where to next?

Twitter eventually disabled President Trump’s account.

Several high ranking White House officials including the National Security Adviser, Deputy National Security Adviser and the Deputy Chief of staff among others are considering resigning after today.

There is discussion among Republicans about removing President Trump using the 25th Amendment. If Trump appeals against it, then it would go to Congress.

The spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories, primarily through social media, and resulting breach of the Congress is leading to discussion about further regulation of social media.

UPDATE (11pm):

You can comment on our Facebook thread about this post.

We’ve just moderated the thread and removed a number of people who were trolling or seeking to promote conspiracy theories. We’ve document those we’ve removed and why, see that article here. It includes a look at efforts to spin a new conspiracy theory blaming ANTIFA for the violence today.

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