University Comments on D.C. Capitol Riot


A pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the election.

The U.S Capitol building had to be evacuated on Wednesday after supporters of President Donald Trump breached police lines and stormed the building. They were there in protest of the ceremonial count of electoral college votes taking place in Congress. 

A large crowd gathered at the Capitol amid baseless claims from Trump and some Republican lawmakers that the presidential election was fraudulent and that Biden’s victory was illegitimate. 

The protest became more aggressive after Trump gave a speech earlier that day near the White House calling the election an “egregious assault on democracy” and encouraging his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol,” according to the New York Times. Some rioters broke through locked doors or climbed walls to access the building, with some even breaching the House and Senate chambers, according to CNN.

Videos and photos from the scene captured physical altercations between protestors and police both inside and outside the building. One woman was shot in the chest by Capitol Police during the riots and rushed to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to the New York Times. At least three others died in the surrounding area on Wednesday, according to Capitol Police.

As the protest raged on, Fordham University President Joseph McShane sent a mass email to the university community condemning the violence in Washington. “What we are seeing in the Capitol this afternoon—right now—is an assault on democracy,” he wrote. “This is a moment in which we should all stand with our elected representatives who are trying to do the people’s business, and stand up for the rule of law.”

“As members of a Jesuit, Catholic University community, we repudiate the forces of unreason which have stormed the Capitol,” McShane continued. “We oppose mob rule, and those who propose to subvert the electoral process.” 

Monika McDermott, a Fordham political science professor, called McShane’s statement to the community “reassuring” and said, “It is his responsibility as a community leader to help us navigate difficult times.” 

In a joint statement given via email, the Fordham College Republicans executive board said they disagreed with McShane’s decision to comment on the protests and called his statement “unnecessary and needlessly inflammatory.” “The job of the university is to teach, and within reason comment on social issues commensurate with Christian teachings, not provide political punditry,” they wrote. 

However, executive board members maintained that they disapproved of the violence that took place at the Capitol. “We were disappointed in the actions of both the protestors who disrupted one of our most sacred processes as a democracy, as well as those in the government who used their public platform to inflame the already volatile situation instead of allowing cooler heads to prevail,” they explained.  

Claire McDonnell, FCRH ’21, the president of the Fordham College Democrats, said she felt lawmakers were largely responsible for the actions of protestors. “I absolutely believe that Trump and the Senate Republicans opposing the certification of the election results are to blame,” she said. “After similar occurrences over the summer, like when the Michigan state capital was stormed by armed protestors, it was not suprising to me that Trump’s supporters would commit an act of terrorism in his name.” 

The College Republicans were also critical of how Trump handled the situation and condemned the president’s initial encouragement of the protestors on Wednesday. “It is more than likely that if Trump had not made these direct calls to action, his most extreme supporters would not have been motivated to descend upon the Capitol,” they wrote. 

Later that afternoon, Trump took to Twitter to encourage protestors to remain peaceful. He also posted a video message (since removed by Twitter) to his supporters, delivering a confusing statement that instructed protesters to go home while continuing to affirm their false belief that the presidential election had been stolen. “I know your pain, I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” Trump said in the video. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace, we have to have law and order.”

The College Republicans said they were unsatisfied with Trump’s response to the rioting later that day. “While he did explicitly direct his supporters via Twitter to refrain from committing acts of violence and to respect law enforcement, he should have gone further and encouraged them to end the protest entirely, as violence often becomes inevitable at protests of this size, as we witnessed this past summer,” they explained. 

McDermmot also said she personally believed Trump’s delayed response was not appropriate. “He should have immediately condemned any disorder (although peaceful protests are fine) that resulted after he spoke to the crowd,” she said. “Every politician, regardless of party, should condemn what happened today. It was an attack on democracy and on duly elected representatives. That has no place in our republic.” 

McDonnell said she was especially disappointed by the seeming lack of preparedness and strong response from police on the scene. “As we all saw only a few months ago during the BLM protests, the Capitol Police and national guard should have no problem controlling a large crowd like there was today, but seemed to take a much more relaxed approach today even in the face of real violence,” she said. “The police response, or lack thereof, is one of the most striking takeaways from today’s attacks on the capital.” 

The rioting ground proceedings in both chambers to a halt, forcing members of Congress to wait several hours before the building was secured and the electoral vote count could resume. Biden’s victory was certified by Congress at 3:45 am after several more hours of debate, according to the New York Times

Many lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also used the time to condemn those who had stormed the Capitol and interrupted proceedings. 

Trump issued a statement on Thursday morning on the electoral certification. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” he said. The president’s Twitter and Facebook account have been temporarily suspended, with both platforms citing policy violations, according to CNN.

Dr. Robert Hume, another Fordham professor, said the events at the Capitol left him disheartened. “In my political science classes, I try to teach my students how to speak constructively with people you disagree with. We seem to have lost this skill as a country,” Hume said. “What troubles me, looking at social media feeds this morning, is that the violence yesterday is making people not want to try anymore. I hope we are able to work past it, but I am afraid it is just going to push us further apart.” 

The College Republicans said they hoped that, going forward, claims about the illegitimacy of the election will be put to bed. “It is our sincere hope that violent protests such as these will not continue for the sake of our Republic and its already-beset citizens,” they wrote. “Hopefully, the nearly-universal condemnation of today’s events will drive protestors to reconsider what they are fighting for—the ego of a ‘loser’ President, or the long-term health of the United States.”