What can we expect from Pa.'s new House Freedom Caucus?

OP-ED: If you attended Capitol siege, write check to begin amends

John S. Brenner
Former mayor of York City
Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The destructive, violent and appalling acts at our U.S. Capitol building last week profoundly saddened me and so many other citizens who care deeply about the United States of America and its institutions.

Our right to peacefully protest is a time-honored right protected by the first amendment of our Constitution. Incited by the sitting president and his enablers, this spectacle, however, was not peaceful. A Vegas handicapper could have predicted as much a day before. Days prior, the social media maelstrom, not to mention the pattern of belligerent, dog-whistle rhetoric by the sitting occupant and his enablers, led to an inevitable chain of events resulting in destruction, deaths and the defiling of the Capitol, one of the world’s greatest institutions and symbols of self-governance.

As former mayor of York, I understand what it’s like to have to coordinate multi-department and agency responses to protesters. This event was altogether different in tone, context and result. “Protesters” don’t wear riot gear and bullet proof vests. Protesters don’t carry pipe bombs and molotov cocktails. Protesters don’t carry assault rifles. Protesters don’t break into government buildings. The assault, damages, and lack of adequate response from responsible agencies have opened deep wounds of resentment, disgust, economic and social disparity, and unequal treatment for our fellow citizens that will take enormous amounts of time and energy to try to heal and recover.

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In the meantime, we can start that healing process now. To those from our York County and from all over Pennsylvania who attended to “peacefully protest,” I encourage you to look deeply into the mirror and your own consciences – and into your own wallets and pocket books. Vitriolic words in a tinderbox situation contributed. The momentum of callous disrespect for our governmental institutions and officials contributed. Willfully disregarding the facts of free and fair elections contributed. Not taking responsibility for one’s own actions contributed.

I encourage you to own up and take responsibility. I encourage you to take it upon yourselves to help cover the enormous costs of the destruction of our historic people’s house of democracy, as well as the increasing cost of ongoing security that will be needed going forward. Freedom and democracy are not free. Neither is the defilement of one of democracy’s greatest buildings, institutions and symbols. U.S. taxpayers should not bear the brunt of these costs that were thrust upon us as the House and Senate were trashed by hooligans, bullies, miscreants and knuckleheads.

If you attended any part of the rally in D.C., write a check and make a donation to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society (www.uschs.org). It is not enough to say you attended and that you don’t support violence and destruction. Put your money where your mouth is.