January 9, 2021 at 1:15 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Activists around the world react to Capitol siege
Supporters of President Trump stand in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Activists around the world say the U.S. Capitol siege demonstrated white supremacy remains a pervasive problem in the U.S.

Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA), an LGBTQ advocacy group in the Philippines, on Saturday told the Washington Blade “the attack on the U.S. Capitol was not a revelation, but a confirmation of what America is really is: A hotbed of structural, institutional and systemic racism.”

“After the massive protests brought about by the death of George Floyd, it was saddening to see that not much has changed in terms of white supremacist, toxic masculine aggression and violence and how easily these can be mobilized under a macho-fascist leader like Trump,” said Fontanos.

Tarek Zeidan, executive director of Helem, the oldest LGBTQ rights group in Lebanon, on Friday during a WhatsApp interview from Beirut cited the “scandalous double standard at how the same police dealt with the Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer.”

“This was a huge eye opener,” said Zeidan.

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern echoed Zeidan in a statement to the Blade.

“Can you imagine how Black Lives Matter activists would have been treated if they attacked the Capitol,” she said. “Without a doubt, Wednesday’s events confirmed America’s double standard when it comes to race, again and again giving white people special rights.”

“The incoming Congress, president-elect and all of us must do better,” added Stern. “If the U.S. doesn’t respect human rights and democracy at home, we don’t have a leg to stand on internationally.”

Ahmed el-Hady, a queer Egyptian activist who lives in New York, during an interview with the Blade on Friday said the “biggest white militia in the United States is the police.” El-Hady added law enforcement’s response to the siege was not a surprise.

“It wasn’t really surprising who has privilege in this country,” he said.

Sally Goldner — a veteran transgender, bisexual and pansexual activist in the Australian city of Melbourne, in an email to the Blade said she watched the siege “with feelings of shock, sadness, disbelief and also feeling overwhelmed in a sense of feeling deluged.” Goldner, like el-Hady and others, also raised the issue of privilege in the U.S.

“I suppose people with all the privilege — in the case of the terrorists who stormed the Capitol, being cisgender, white, predominantly male and presumably heterosexual feel so threatened at the idea of losing power and privilege as they attempt an insurrection,” said Goldner.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among the world leaders who condemned the siege that began as members of Congress were certifying the Electoral College results that confirmed the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Trump supporters marched to the Capitol after the outgoing president spoke at the “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse.

The “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021 before supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Brian Sicknick, a member of the U.S. Capitol Police Department, died on Thursday after rioters attacked him with a fire extinguisher during the siege.

Another Capitol Police officer shot and killed a Trump supporter outside the U.S. House of Representatives chamber. Three other people died of “medical emergencies” during the siege.

The Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday announced on Twitter that it has so far arrested 68 people, recovered six firearms and two pipe bombs in connection with the siege. CNN reported the Justice Department has charged 13 people, including an Arkansas man who was photographed sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)’s desk.

Social media users continue to identify rioters once pictures of them inside the Capitol go online.

“The mob assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 shocked the world,” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis told the Blade on Friday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday in a statement said the siege “demonstrated clearly the destructive impact of sustained, deliberate distortion of acts, and incitement to violence and hatred by political leaders.”

“Allegations of electoral fraud have been invoked to try to undermine the right to political participation. We are encouraged to see that the process has continued in spite of serious attempts to disrupt it,” added the former Chilean president. “We call on leaders from across the political spectrum, including the President of the United States, to disavow false and dangerous narratives, and encourage their supporters to do so as well. We note with dismay the serious threats and destruction of property faced by media professionals yesterday. We support calls from many quarters for a thorough investigation into Wednesday’s events.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, echoed Bachelet.

“The attack on the Capitol will hopefully be the last on (sic) a series of acts systematically destined to undermine the respect for human rights, the rule of law and the separation of powers,” said Madrigal-Borloz on Thursday in a tweet.

Siege ‘will forever be a stain’ on US

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster in a statement to the Blade noted the U.S. “has been the beacon of democracy that other nations admire.”

“The images of the assault on our democracy and our Capitol, led by a tyrannical president, with our government leaders inside, will forever be a stain on that beacon of democracy by the outside world,” he said.

Brewster added the world on Wednesday “did see our leaders stand strong against the president and the other insurgents.”

“Our democracy was not deterred and our Constitutional work by our leaders moved forward to certify the electoral votes and to confirm Joe Biden as the next president and Kamala Harris as vice president,” he told the Blade. “In challenging times is when a democracy shows its strength. We showed that strength!”

Tamara Adrián, the first openly transgender woman elected to the Venezuela’s National Assembly, on Friday largely agreed with Brewster.

“The existence of anti-democratic elements in any level of public life can exist in any country,” Adrián told the Blade. “A democracy’s maturity and solidity, however, is measured by its institutions’ capacity to resist these claims of democracy’s destruction. The U.S. has given a lesson of institutional maturity and solidity in the face of the pretenses of democratic destabilization.”

Venezuelan Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián in D.C. in 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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