Saturday, September 23, 2023

Student news roundup: Assault on US Capitol


Wednesday, the day rioters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington, was “a sad day for Americans,” one sophomore at Annandale High School in Virginia was quoted as saying in The A-Blast student newspaper.

Washington, July 2016 — protests after the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile
(Joseph Gruber/iStockPhoto)

“What took place in our nation’s capital is a shame. Over the summer, Black Lives Matter protesters were attacked by officers with tear gas, and yesterday I watched officers take selfies with members of the mob and mock the death of George Floyd.”

Here we present a roundup of student commentary from high school newspapers in our home states of Maryland and Illinois, as well as Virginia, where schools, like many in Maryland, were a stone’s throw away from the riots. In all cases, we have deleted the names of the student speakers as well as the authors of the articles, but most are available by following the links to their school papers.

Another Annandale student: “If I had to describe the people who marched and swarmed the Capitol yesterday, I would simply call them terrorists. They were violent thugs with a twisted corrupt belief that sparked terror and fear into the people of our nation.”

From the Charles E Smith Jewish Day School in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland: “While I don’t think anything bad will happen to residents’ homes, there are cases where people are injured. … Even though I am not at [the Capitol], I feel like there is always a possibility that people could come here and something could happen.”

At Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, where teachers devoted extra time Wednesday night to discussing the incident with students, one senior expressed gratitude: “It’s encouraging to see the acknowledgement that the youth are not naïve and able to have these difficult conversations. I am appreciative of Whitman and [Montgomery County Public Schools] administration.”

“The Capitol is a place I absolutely love,” said another student. “It was terrifying and upsetting to watch, and Capitol Police should have been tougher.”

Yet another student speculated on the precursors to the unsurprising events: “These acts of terrorism are the culmination of the past four years of Donald Trump’s presidency,” that student said.

Using a combination of selective news reporting and editorial license, the editorial board at Hinsdale South High School in Darien, Illinois, reported, “Many believe that President Trump instigated the attack on the Capitol, due to how he continuously would spark the flames of his supporters’ fury with false claims that the 2020 presidential election was ‘stolen’ and then later stating to his supporters: ‘We will never concede.’ He fondly referred to the rioters as ‘special people’ and told them ‘we love you.’ His remarks towards the breach spiraled so far out of control that both social media platforms Trump avidly uses, Twitter and Facebook, temporarily suspended his official account as a result.”

The editorial board at St Charles North High School, also in Illinois, wrote, “We were greatly disappointed to see our government in disarray with representatives of Congress in danger and the Capitol building compromised.

“It was very disheartening to watch the Capitol fill with rioters donning Confederate flags and Camp Auschwitz t-shirts. Throughout our lives, we have been taught about the brutality of slavery and the Holocaust, and we never believed we would witness symbols of some of the greatest human rights abuses in history being paraded with pride inside our nation’s Capitol. … Additionally, a majority of the people were not wearing masks during the height of a pandemic.

“We were taken aback on Wednesday by how easily the rioters were able to enter the Capitol building and even more surprising to see videos of them taking selfies with the police. Wednesday’s riot had 52 arrests in comparison to the 427 arrests at the summer Washington DC BLM protests.”

From the hometown of the site of other riots during the presidency of Donald Trump, at Charlottesville High School in Virginia, a letter from the editors declares, “As Charlottesville residents, we remember a similar experience of this in our hometown on a smaller but just as harmful scale. Although we were young, we all vividly recall the fear and chaos of August 11th and 12th, 2017, when a similar group gathered in our streets.

“We also remember the failure of law enforcement to stop the violence and prevent death and destruction before it was too late. Similarly, the events of yesterday could’ve been stopped or contained had law enforcement acted as more than a bystander. These events should not be as common as they are now in a country that holds itself to such a high standard in the world stage. We as a generation should not be so familiar with these events happening so frequently and so close to our homes. We can no longer dismiss them.”

On Thursday, many teachers at the University of Chicago Lab School made many of their classes optional to provide students with space for discussion. An extensive report quotes several students who felt strongly about Wednesday’s events, including this one: “I didn’t know if anyone else was also staying up late last night watching all the news and reading articles, and I think it was nice to see that other people were doing that. I learned a lot from some of my classmates, about what they had to say, their opinions, and how they correlated or concatenated with what I was thinking.”

Taking a mental break worked for some students, including this one: “I was definitely a little bit nervous, but, like, at the end of the day I knew I wasn’t in the right mindset. Like this morning when I woke up, I really struggled to even get out of bed and knew I wasn’t in the right mindset to attend academic classes. And so I personally did what I think was best for me, and I’m happy that I was given the opportunity to do that.”

And this one: “I thought it was really nice to take my mind off of the events and be around other people who felt the same way as me.”

Writers at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, still had questions, including these: “Why did the rioters make it into the Capitol building? Where was the militant force that shot rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protestors this summer in DC? Why wasn’t that same force seen yesterday to stop a domestic threat to our government officials in a secure government building?”

Perhaps some answers come from Riverside Brookfield High School in Illinois: “Yes, rioting because of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Jacob Blake, or others is still wrong. A peaceful protest is the correct response. But those who rioted after those killings at least had a viable excuse.

“Those who did so yesterday do not. Those who think the election was stolen do not have a shred of evidence to back their claims up. They simply cannot get over the fact that Trump—who has morphed into some kind of cult leader—lost, so they threw a temper tantrum. If you advocate for riots without having any evidence to support your reason for rioting, then you are an anarchist, plain and simple.”

It is plain and simple, but what is to come in the next two weeks? Students at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, expressed some hope: President-elect Joe “Biden’s inauguration will be held in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 20. In the meantime, a shaken nation holds its breath in anticipation of what’s to come.”

While you’re holding your breath, the editors at Thomas S Wootton High School in Potomac, Maryland, have about 20 resources that might be useful to you, including inspiring podcasts, Apple Music and Spotify playlists, poetry, and mental health and well-being sites.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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