Thoughts on the mob

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | January 13, 2021 1:00 AM

There is no doubt that Jan. 6 will be a day of infamy in American history. Watching a mob storm the capitol building and ransack the place was both surreal and not entirely unexpected.

The President has spewed incendiary rhetoric since before he ran for office and he sure as heck didn’t stop last Wednesday.

Even when he finally told people to go home after they ransacked the joint, he told them how much he loved them.

But while the events that transpired are sickening, I was heartened that Congress came together just a few hours later, and did their work of certifying the election.

Democracy, despite Trump’s best efforts, or perhaps, worst efforts, prevailed.

“The United States Senate will not be intimidated,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, after senators were escorted by a heavy police presence back into the chamber. “We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats.”

“We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts,” he added, “and we’re going to do it tonight.”

And they did it that night. Yes, many Republicans objected to either votes in Arizona or Pennsylvania or both, but the rule of law prevailed.

One of those was our own Congressman, Republican Matt Rosendale, just days into his first term. Of course, he rode into that term on Trump’s coattails, so what did we expect him to do?

Sen. Steve Daines had also planned to object to votes from some states, but the mob apparently changed his mind.

It’s great to roil up folks, a little scary when they turn on you, huh Senator?

At any rate, everyone in the end “condemned” the violence, when if they hadn’t subscribed to, and promoted baseless claims of election fraud, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Now Daines is griping that Twitter shouldn’t have banned Trump. Yes, the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. But Twitter is a private company and if they want to ban Trump for inciting a riot, then so be it.

The President has plenty of other ways to get his message out. Presidents communicated with the public in a myriad of ways long before unsocial media, Sen. Daines.

But I want to end this on a positive and personal note. I’ve been accosted as a photographer just doing my job over the years — screamed at and threatened on more than one occasion. I’ve learned when I get to a scene to take pictures and take them quickly, just in case things run afoul.

During the mobbing of the Capitol, Associated Press photographer John Minchillo was taking photos from the capitol steps when some members of the mob attacked him, pushed him down the steps and over a ledge, even though he clearly had press credentials.

After others in the crowd helped him, Minchillo kept doing his job — taking pictures.

He declined to comment for a Washington Post story.

But this is what he said on Twitter: “Never become the story, that’s the core principle. If I could ask for something? Don’t linger on the outrage for too long.”

New York Times photographer Erin Schaff had an equally harrowing experience.

“Grabbing my press pass, they saw that my ID said The New York Times and became really angry. They threw me to the floor, trying to take my cameras. I started screaming for help as loudly as I could. No one came. People just watched. At this point, I thought I could be killed and no one would stop them. They ripped one of my cameras away from me, broke a lens on the other and ran away,” she recalled for a story in the newspaper.

Schaff would hide what cameras she had left, but she still continued to work, taking pictures with her phone.

She would later be held at gunpoint by police, who didn’t believe she was a journalist because her credentials had been stolen.

Other journalists came to her aide and she was let go.

It was a tough day at the office for these photographers and many others. I appreciate and laud their efforts. There’s no telling what the narrative might have been, had the free press not been there to witness the events.