The Chicago-based Hellenic American Leadership Council issued a strongly-worded statement, not only against the violence during the armed insurrection against the United States Capitol on Wednesday, January 6— but also pointing the finger directly at President Donald Trump, his words and actions, as well as those of his collaborators and supporters.
HALC’s full statement follows:
The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) joins the ranks of Americans of good conscience who have spoken out against the violent riots and attacks on Congress perpetrated yesterday.
We are appalled that the President of the United States openly instigated yesterday’s incidents, encouraged the anger and conspiracies that led to the violence, and made only half-hearted attempts to defuse tensions and safeguard American democracy and American lives.
On September 11, 2001, the heroes of Flight 93 gave their lives and prevented Al Qaeda from flying the jet into the U.S. Capitol. That evening, the U.S. Congress – Senators and Representatives, Republicans and Democrats – stood united on the steps of the Capitol, gave voice to their resolve, and sang “God Bless America.” That those scenes of unity and resolve at this altar of American democracy were replaced with scenes of violence, anarchy and disdain for democracy make January 6, 2021 a day of infamy in American history.
Let us be clear, while we join the ranks of those condemning the attacks on American democracy, our condemnation is not limited to what we witnessed yesterday.
Over the last several years, American democracy has been threatened by conspiracy theories, normalization of behavior and ideologies that belong in the ash heap of history, and levels of complicity and cowardice that are unworthy of America.
As we learned that the woman who was shot dead yesterday was a QAnon adherent, we recall that four years ago Edgar Maddison Welch drove 360 miles from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. with three loaded guns – a 9-mm AR-15 rifle, a six-shot .38-caliber Colt revolver, and a shotgun. His target was Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, a place that Welch and others had delusively identified as central to a fictitious child abuse network.
Less than one year later, self-identified members of the alt-right, neo-Nazis and white supremacists paraded through Charlottesville, Virginia – carrying the Nazi flag, the Confederate flag, torches, and yelling racist and antisemitic chants. One of them used his car as a ram against counter protesters, killing one and injuring 35. President Trump responded by declaring that there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville.
This past October, the FBI announced the arrests of 13 suspects accused of involvement in a domestic terror plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and attempt to violently overthrow the government of Michigan. Instead of condemning these domestic terrorists and their ideology, President Trump attacked Governor Whitmer on Twitter.
And just last month, the disgraced but pardoned Michael Flynn – who has still not been held to account for being an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey – took to the airwaves to speculate about President Trump imposing martial law and invalidating November’s election. We are still waiting for President Trump to disavow these dangerous musings.
Yesterday’s outrage was the culmination of four years of appeals to the worst instincts in Americans. Once again, outrageous rhetoric was accompanied by violence. While several members of Congress finally realized the dangerousness of indulging conspiratorial movements and undermining our democratic tradition of a peaceful and orderly transition of power, we regret that 147 members of Congress – even after the trauma caused by yesterday’s attempted coup – continued to enable those that would falsely and disingenuously attack American democracy merely to cater to a portion of the electorate.
Ultimately, American democracy held. Some Republican members of Congress belatedly realized that they had to openly defy Trump, and they did. Federal judges across America demonstrated that their loyalty lies to the U.S. Constitution, not to the individual that appointed them. Republican state officials courageously faced down political threats and threats of violence to protect the integrity of one of our most sacred institutions – our elections.
Democracy, however, by definition requires more from the people. Unity will not result merely from us willing it. We will increase our public education programs, our civic activism, and undertake more voter registration and voter protection initiatives than we ever have.
We will encourage dialogue and debate, while vigorously challenging baseless conspiracy theories. We will condemn those who – like some of yesterday’s protesters – introduce neo-Nazi symbols and t-shirts with 6MWE (“6 Million [Jews] Weren’t Enough”) into American public discourse. Finally, we will hold our commitment to the rule of law front and center and will hold public figures accountable on this front.
The road back is not a short one, and it is not the responsibility of a single Administration or a single Congress. As Odysseus Elytis wrote in “The Axion Esti”: για να γυρίσει ο ήλιος θέλει δουλειά πολλή/For the sun to turn it takes a lot of work.
We are ready for the work.
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