The Power of Our Politics
Communications Director Remmington Belford Shares His Experience Being on Capitol Hill the Day of the Insurrection and How It Was the Result of the Power of Our Politics.
Let me be very clear: what took place on January 6th in the United States Capitol building was an act of domestic terrorism, period. Witnessing the insurrection has dramatically altered the way in which I experience democracy and dramatically exacerbated my pride in being a Black man, a Black queer man who works on Capitol Hill.
I remember being in the Capitol that morning and seeing hordes of sycophantic supremacists protesting outside the Capitol. Working on Capitol Hill, you become accustomed to people exercising their First Amendment right and protesting regularly. I dropped off my boss, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, as normal, for a procedural vote and within minutes we noticed that the protesters had bypassed some of the primary barricades and had entered a space reserved for members of Congress. This was concerning, but at that point, I was certain there would be a considerable response that would halt this protest in his tracks. I thought this because — let's be frank — it was the United States Capitol. When Congress is in and out of session, we have an expectation of security. I had no doubt the Capitol would be protected by whatever means necessary.
After the procedural vote, my boss and I headed back to our office, when we encountered a Capitol Police Officer and heard a directive for all Capitol Police Officers to “man their posts”. What was most alarming was the tone that came over the radio — fear, concern, and urgency. Once we got back to our office, we closed the door and turned on the TV to watch in horror as these sycophantic supremacists pushed past the barriers put in place to protect members of Congress and the staff. Then a campus-wide communication system instructed us to “barricade ourselves in our offices, stay away from doors and windows, and to refrain from using technology”. In that moment my fear grew immensely. It morphed into grave concern for my life. On CNN we watched rioters fashion spears from flagpoles, which they used to shatter bulletproof glass, race into the Capitol.
What I want everyone to understand is when you work on Capitol Hill the general consensus is that you work in the most fortified and protected place in our nation, because of the gravity of the elected officials who work here every day crafting the laws that govern our democracy. To see this hallowed place in our democracy overtaken by a mob of incensed and crazed sycophants, as we barricaded ourselves in our offices fearing for our lives, was devastating beyond belief. It was an attack on our democratic principles. Full stop. I watched as they stormed the Senate floor, as United States Senators had to be rushed into a secret location for their safety. I watched as they read classified materials and hung from the banisters in a building built by slaves adorning Confederate flags in the United States Capitol. Yelling and touting their support for the lugubrious, twice-impeached previous occupant of the White House.
I remember images of members of Congress in the balcony of the House floor wearing protective gas masks, and members of Capitol Police facing these mobs head-on, taking bear repellant and vicious vitriol from point-blank range. There's a clip of Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, in the balcony, fervently calling on the name of God. She was praying that no harm would come to her and her colleagues — beseeching God to cover this place with his unfailing hands. Thank God for a praying Black woman. I firmly believe that’s what kept many of us truly safe. The devastation of that day, included five lives lost, countless injured, and many wrestling with newly inflicted mental trauma.
However, what resonates the most with me is how willing Republicans were to allow this to happen. They encouraged these mentally suspect sycophants to lay siege to the United States Capitol because of their fear of a peaceful transition of power. Disgusting. I was always taught that if someone is willing to fight to hold on to something that was never theirs to begin with, take note. It is valuable.
Many people in my generation and of my ethnic persuasion have become cynical about politics. Believing the lies put forth to promote our disinterest. While it’s understandable, it still breaks my heart. Call me an idealist, but I know that we matter in this political process. “They” launched an insurrection to overturn an election by removing voters and mechanisms that would allow voters’ voices to be heard, but they failed. Now they’re moving their efforts to state capitals ushering draconian voter suppression bills aimed at further disenfranchising our vote. But what I want us to remember is that we showed up in 2020. Messaging that suggests your vote doesn't count and the people elected to represent you don't give a damn about you is false. I want to go on the offense and turn this message on its head. I want to re-emphasize how important politics is to our everyday life. And I want to empower anyone who reads this to inform themselves about the issues that are important to them. I guarantee if you immerse yourself in an issue that is important to you, it's important to someone else. Find those people, mobilize and be the change you want to see.
While the insurrection was a devastating event that will resonate in the hearts and minds of Americans for the foreseeable future, it pales in comparison to the truth that motivated those sycophantic supremacists to attack the seat of our democracy. Their access to unfettered privilege and leadership is coming to a screeching halt. This is not to say a government controlled by Democrats will be blameless. There are still lingering issues of inequalities that need to be addressed. However, a more equitable, accepting future for those of all races, religions, sexualities and backgrounds is within our grasp. The light at the end of the tunnel is now visible.
Take for instance what took place in Georgia. Under the leadership and activism of the incomparable Stacey Abrams. Her work in the state of Georgia mobilized the Black vote in such an unprecedented way that not only Georgia flipped blue, but the entire balance of the Senate shifted. This was no small feat. This was a significant action that altered the political landscape nationwide. It serves as a reckoning for the naysayers and the oppressors who believe that their efforts could impede on the ability of democracy to prevail when we trust the brilliance of Black women.
Remember that the most hallowed place in our democracy was built by our ancestors — it was built by slaves. Remember that the elected officials that represent you were elected by you. Let Georgia be a shining example of what we can do if we collectively work towards a common goal. I was trapped in my office for more than 12 hours on January 6th. I feared for my life and still to this day experience the remnants of trauma inflicted on that day. But I refuse to allow that ugly display of racism and division to define my experience as a Black queer American man. I choose to be empowered. I choose to be involved. I choose to be active. It is my hope that you will do the same.
Written by Remmington Belford, MPS.