In the weeks, days, and hours ahead of the insurrectionist siege on the Capitol by President Donald Trump‘s overzealous supporters, the warning signs were clear: online posts from hate groups and right-wing provocateurs agitating for civil war, the deaths of top lawmakers, and attacks on law enforcement. As the dust settles and the country struggles to make sense of the violence that left five dead — including an officer with the US Capitol Police — experts warn that the calls for violence have only intensified ahead of Joe Biden‘s Inauguration.
After rioters charged through a barricade, assaulted police officers, shattered windows, and stormed into the hallowed building that was torched by the invading British military in 1814, Trump made a tepid plea for them to go home — although he repeated the falsehood that the election had been stolen. Republican leaders that night — including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — condemned the rioters in the strongest terms. The frightened pleas of Republican leadership appeared to have little effect on the radicalized right, as online threats erupted.
“Trump or war. Today. That simple.”
“If you don’t know how to shoot: You need to learn. NOW.”
“We will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents, and demand a recount.”
The online calls for violence had grown so rampant on social media app Parler that Apple and Google both removed it from their app stores, and Amazon ceased hosting it on their AWS servers. In addition, both Twitter and Facebook have become more aggressive with their policing of hate speech. The increased scrutiny on mainstream social sites has driven the insurrectionist to fringe sites such as TheDonald.win, a pro-Trump online forum. Their statements, such as “Trump WILL be sworn in for a second term on January 20th!! We must not let the communists win. Even if we have to burn DC to the ground,” are met with rousing support.
Words have power, and that power has consequences, as seen by the Electoral College Riot. After the assault on the heart of democracy, the government is not taking these threats lightly. For the first time in American history, there are more active-duty military protecting D.C. than in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan combined. Over 20 thousand soldiers are deployed with automatic rifles, body armor, and assault vehicles to defend against a domestic enemy that was born online.