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

Published 8:50 am Friday, January 8, 2021

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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.”

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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.

“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.

“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.”

We also asked our online audience to share their insights, here’s what they said:

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 Capital 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.