Blog | Jan. 15, 2021

Amid Pro-Trump violence and white supremacy, accountability and justice must prevail

This week, President Trump became the first President to have been impeached twice, this time one week before he leaves office and with bipartisan support. On the charge of ‘incitement of insurrection’, his second impeachment follows months of false claims of a stolen election that fueled a riot at the US Capitol where five people died.

On January 6, 2021, as Congress met to certify the Presidential election results, insurrectionists and white supremacists in support of Trump forced their way into one of the most iconic institutions of US democracy. Images of this mob attempting to siege the Capitol flashed across every news network and live social media feeds, and yet many appeared to simply walk away from the scene without being detained by police.

We must call this what it was: an explicit and violent attack on US democracy, rooted in white supremacy, and incited by President Trump and Republican allies who are complicit in this siege on the US Capitol by perpetuating false, self-serving accusations of election fraud.

The insurrection of January 6 showed us clearly who authorities consider to be threats or "criminals" in the US. As rioters stormed the Capitol amid scant law enforcement, it was impossible not to draw stark comparisons with the militarized response to the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests over the summer and the police raids and brutality that met Standing Rock water protectors over the Dakota Access pipeline.

There is not even a pretense of equality in the way security forces or systems of justice are implemented. Activists of color and Native land defenders are rarely afforded the luxury of freedom these insurgents saw.

As the US braces for more potential violence ahead of the Biden-Harris inauguration, and authorities vow to take this threat seriously, we must unequivocally demand further accountability and protection of those most vulnerable to white supremacy and systems of oppression.  

Global Witness calls on US authorities to hold the insurrectionists involved in the Capitol riots accountable for their crimes. That includes President Trump and the Republican officials who have incited violence through their rhetoric and perpetuation of conspiracy theories falsely claiming there was election fraud. We stand by Representative Cori Bush’s resolution calling for an investigation into the attempts by Republican members of Congress to overturn the election results and disenfranchise millions of voters – as well as the expulsion of those public officials found responsible.

An entire system entrenched in white supremacy has enabled these elected officials, including corporations and their influence peddling in the halls of Washington. The politicians who helped to incite this violence have been propped up by corporate money, often by the fossil fuel industry. Big Oil is complicit in this by flooding the campaign coffers of members of Congress who helped fuel the Capitol riots, including Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley who led the way.

Some companies are now pledging to halt political spending on all sides, but for business leaders to truly reckon with their role in these assaults on democracy, we must end all corporate money in politics. To start, that means halting funding to politicians peddling lies and undermining democracy, such as those who voted to overturn the election in the immediate aftermath of the riots. We support the effort led by Action Center for Race and Economy (ACRE) calling on corporations to stop funding fascism and working to hold corporates accountable for propping up and enabling white supremacists and insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol.  

As American democracy teeters on the brink, we must not lose sight of how the combination of a deadly pandemic and the growing climate crisis wreaks havoc on the world, particularly impacting working families and communities of color. We need dynamic, fearless, and bold leadership that is responsive to the call of grassroots movements fighting for progress. We need action to dismantle racist systems and to hold accountable those who facilitate hate and have enabled Trump and his white supremacist supporters. And we need commitment to real investment in our communities and action on the climate crisis that centers equity and justice.

Biden has promised to Build Back Better in his plan to kick off his presidency and jumpstart economic recovery from the pandemic. To truly build back better, this must include taking the lead from those people most impacted by the violence and brutality of white supremacy, democratic attacks, and climate breakdown.

Global Witness joins a movement of over 100 climate, racial and economic justice groups calling on Biden to Build Back Fossil Free starting on day one. This means tackling the urgent climate crisis in a way that doesn’t just rely on transitioning our economy to clean energy, but that actively protects and invests in the Black, Indigenous, Brown, and working-class communities that have borne the brunt of fossil fuel pollution and climate disasters. It means rejecting new fossil fuel projects, eliminating giveaways to oil, gas, and coal corporations, and ending the era of fossil fuel production including for export abroad. And it includes launching a national climate mobilization to Build Back Fossil Free, deliver jobs, justice, and opportunity for all.

In this fragile moment, when American democracy hangs in the balance, we must adamantly reject the systems of oppression that embolden perpetrators of violence and hate. The work for a just and equitable future continues.

Listing image credit:  Win McNamee/Getty Images