Manitobans with ties to the U.S. shaken by Capitol siege

WINNIPEG — Manitobans with ties to the United States are expressing their shock over Wednesday’s chaos in Washington.

Pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

People watched in horror as a violent mob overtook the U.S. Capitol.

Four people died, including one woman who was shot and killed by police. Officials said three others died from medical emergencies.

The images of rioters shattering glass, roaming the halls, and occupying the offices of top politicians left Trisha Kamani shaken.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Kamani, a former Californian now living in Manitoba. “I couldn’t believe that there were so many people engaged in such disorder, not dissent.”

Kamani said she used to work for U.S. Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris when she was District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco and is hoping for a peaceful transfer of power. It’s something she worries about given what happened Wednesday.

“It should’ve been a day of celebration and, frankly, it wasn’t,” said Kamani, pointing to two victories this week for the Democrats which will give the party control of the U.S. Senate.

Paul Lawrie, an associate professor of history at the University of Winnipeg, said the unprecedented violence was incited by Trump himself who urged supporters to protest the approval of Biden’s victory. 

“It is in many ways not unexpected and in some ways, perhaps, even inevitable given the tone of the president and his supporters,” said Lawrie. “As many others have said this is a day that’s going to live in infamy.”

He said the siege was fuelled by disinformation, stemming from Trump’s baseless and repeated claims of election fraud.

“It was historically unprecedented in the history of the United States. Not the contestation of elections but the violent means in which that was carried out,” said Lawrie. “This was the worst breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812 when British and Canadian forces occupied Washington and burned the White House and parts of the Capitol.”

Among those expressing concern is Gary Doer, Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S.

“It was just horrible to see what was happening,” said Doer. “Demonstrations, protests…it happens every day, it’s part of democracy but a violent takeover of the Capitol is unprecedented, and it was just horrible to see in that beautiful building.”

Doer said he went to the Capitol building up to ten times a week while in his former role. He’s surprised there wasn’t more security to stop rioters from breaching the building.

“The heads-up was given in not very subtle ways by Donald Trump over the last week,” Doer said.

As inauguration day looms, Ben Miller with Democrats Abroad Winnipeg worries about the tension and polarization that persists in a country that remains divided.

“If it means militarizing the front of the Capitol building and other government buildings in Washington, well, then that may be what it has to be until this settles down a bit,” said Miller, who now lives in Manitoba.

Trump has said there will be a peaceful transfer of power, but he hasn’t conceded the election.

There’s ongoing talk of removing Trump from office before his presidency ends. Lawmakers are continuing to examine their options. 

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