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On Last Week’s White Nationalist Coup Attempt and Siege of the U.S. Capitol

Updated: Mar 25


We are all still sifting through the images of last Wednesday’s violent and deadly siege by well-armed and highly coordinated domestic terrorists of the U.S. Capitol, aided and encouraged by the soon-to-be- twice-impeached President of United States.

Among the white supremacist rioters—the world is learning—were also retired U.S. military, off-duty police, state and federal elected officials, and even Capitol Police officers who aided and abetted this attempted coup. Ringleader Donald J. Trump is actively organizing future assaults on state capitals later this month as we approach the Biden/Harris Inauguration, making it clear this is not over.

Unfortunately, the infiltration of white supremacists into our country’s law enforcement and other institutions we have entrusted to uphold the law and preserve our rights comes as no surprise to those of us who have been directly impacted by the racist criminal legal system.

Former Ohio State Senator and candidate for Congress Nina Turner said what we all know to be true, “It’s no coincidence that the elected leaders who aided in Trump’s violent insurrection expect to face zero consequences. These are the same people who uphold a justice system where a kid arrested for smoking marijuana faces a lifetime criminal record. We must hold them accountable.”

That’s it right there. That’s why the Circle for Justice Innovations exists. This is why CJI grantmaking Circles come together to secure the funds and do the work so we can make critical investments in this movement’s most daring and focused leaders.

Accountability is called for. The president must be impeached and convicted. Any elected leaders who supported this insurrection must also be removed from office. Other agents of the President, some of them officers of the court, who ginned up the crowd with talk of “trial by combat” and calls for “wild” and “strong” action that day must also held accountable and disbarred where appropriate. The next few days will be dangerous.

If the safety of our elected leaders cannot be assured—a noose left behind for Mike Pence, menacing searches for Senators, murder threats against Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and an AWOL Sergeant-at-Arms who stymied multiple calls for the National Guard to protect Congress WHILE THEY WERE HUDDLED IN A BUNKER—then surely our folks on the front lines of the struggle for justice are also not safe.


We cannot rely on Biden to see the danger. His focus now is on “bringing the country together” and handling the pandemic and the economy in his first 100 days. President Biden may see impeachment and the necessary expulsions of complicit members of Congress as requiring too much energy or counterproductive. We must all redouble our efforts if we are going to force systemic change and influence what that change looks like.

Now, more than ever, CJI and the grassroots organizations we fund, need the renewed commitment of our allies and partners to protect our democracy, liberate and restore the rights of those who have been unjustly disenfranchised and abused, and dismantle white supremacy and the racist, inequitable systems it upholds.

Some people just want things to return to normal. But “normal” was killing us. Now is the time to demand real change. We can and will emerge from this crisis even stronger and with renewed resolve. We hope you will do what you can to support our work. Help us keep the conversation going in 2021 and spread the word about CJI.

Yours in solidarity,

Aleah Bacquie Vaughn

Executive Director

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