Foss: We must prepare for future violence

Barricades block State Street between South Swan and Eagle streets near the Capitol building in Albany Thursday
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Barricades block State Street between South Swan and Eagle streets near the Capitol building in Albany Thursday

I took a spin by the state Capitol in Albany on Sunday afternoon, and it was as quiet as it usually is on the weekend.

But there was at least one indication that all was not well: State Street near the Capitol was now closed, blocked off to traffic by imposing concrete barriers.

The increased security is a response to last week’s ugly and frightening assault on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump mobs and a similar, albeit much smaller, rally outside the New York State Capitol, where two people were stabbed in a clash between suspected Proud Boy members and Antifa supporters in Albany’s East Capitol Park.

It’s also in response to some ominous online rumblings that more violence might be brewing nationwide.

According to an internal memo obtained by ABC News, armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols and at the U.S. Capitol, starting this week and running through at least Inauguration Day.

“The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, D.C., on 16 January,” the bulletin read. “They have warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS via the 25th Amendment, a huge uprising will occur.”

Even as we pick through the wreck of last week’s insurrection, processing and digesting the terrible events of that day, we need to brace ourselves for the possibility that the attack was not a one-time event, but a harbinger of things to come.

The anti-democratic forces that fueled last week’s violence haven’t gone anywhere, and it would be a tragic mistake to dismiss the siege of the Capitol building as an isolated incident.

Republican calls to move on and heal aren’t just misguided – they’re dangerous, downplaying the very real threat of future violence and the need to hold those responsible for the carnage of Jan. 6 accountable. A lack of serious consequences for those involved will be viewed as weakness, and interpreted as a license to commit more violence.

Don’t be distracted by the clowns who were part of the crowd – the goofy-looking guy in Viking garb, the smiling man photographed carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.

Look closer, and you’ll see far more serious people, people clearly intent on causing real harm.

People decked out in paramilitary gear, armed with flex cuffs – some have speculated the plan was to take hostages – and perhaps carrying guns or bombs.

These people didn’t just get swept up in the moment last Wednesday – they prepared for it.

And when you consider what they might have been planning, it’s absolutely chilling.

National security experts and academics have warned for years that homegrown, far-right, white supremacist groups are a growing threat, and the throng that descended upon the U.S. Capitol appears to have included members of the extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, as well as adherents of the bizarre conspiracy theory Q-Anon.

Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security employee who authored a report on the dangers of right-wing extremism in 2009, told the online news magazine Slate that the insurrection at the Capitol will likely radicalize more people.

“This is the beginning of the new revolution of these people,” Johnson said. “… This event is not the culmination of a decade’s worth of right-wing extremism and then suddenly it’s going to die out now because they did this.”

I’d like to think that Johnson’s wrong, but a failure of imagination is partly what got us into this mess.

One of the more baffling mysteries of the riots at the Capitol is why the police weren’t better prepared, given the proliferation of clues on social media platforms that something big was in the works.

I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened on January 6.

I hope we don’t.

But underestimating the threat posed by those who invaded the U.S. Capitol would be a big mistake.

Better to prepare than be caught flat-footed and overwhelmed a second time.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Sara Foss

One Comment

The recent violence at the capital was outrageous, and requires a swift and affirmative response. Unfortunately, this piece doesn’t say anything about all the violence from the left wing of last summer. Burning, looting, and rioting were common, and equally egregious, but never got any similar response of condemnation. Why? Were those protesters grievances deemed to be more meaningful so able to be tolerated? ALL violence is wrong, and must be addressed irrespective of which side of the political spectrum it emanates from.

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