I feel some small measure of Empathy for the Non-Violent Protesters on Capitol Hill, Washington DC last week

Updated 17 January 2021

Last Wednesday evening ( 6 January 2021), I clicked on the CNN channel giving unbroken news coverage to the protests at Capitol Hill, which had the unqualified support of President Trump. For the next hour, I watched the drama unfold and then switched off the TV. Tens of thousands of Trump supporters stayed outside the government building  while a few hundred enraged supporters stormed into the corridors and centres of power.

Within a couple of days, the police announced that five people died in the protest–a woman protestor, a police officer and three others. Ambulances took people to hospital due to wounds and injuries. Violence expressed the ugly side of this Washington protest.

White Supremacists, a wearer of a Camp Auschwitz tea-shirt, a gallows erected outside Capitol buildings, shouts of ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ QAnon, Satanic beliefs, claims of demonism in Hollywod/Washington engaging in child abuse, finger pointing at ‘the communist’ Democrats confirmed mind sets saturated with violent reactivity.

We witnessed foul anger and mental sickness among protesters who were dead set on inflicting harm and destruction.  Millions of sincere Republican voters must have felt as disgusted as anybody else.

I feel some small measure of empathy for the non-violent speech and non-violent action of Republican protesters on Capitol Hill on 6 January. They did not behave in an abusive and violent way despite the anger and violence of others. They stood outside the building and left the area by 6 pm when the curfew started. They believed their President who told them the Democrats had ‘stolen the election.’ I have been in demonstrations in London where violence arose. The majority of us refused to walk away from the event  and we continued our non-violent protest.

The storming of Capitol Hill might linger long in US history, but the politicians need to sit up and take notice of the comprehensive range of causes and condition for this intense political madness in the air including the frequent violence of street demonstrations in America, the massacres taking place regularly in schools and gang warfare. Trumpism aggravated the violence and simmering resentment already present in the body of America.

The self-righteous verbal and written attacks of the middle classes on fanatical ideologues add to the atmosphere of violence rather than contributing to resolve the issue. Some attribute violence to a single cause (Trump, fascist ideology, conspiracy theories, denial, social-economic deprivation etc). I regard grasping onto a single cause as simplistic, a symptom of a reactive mind unwilling to look deeper.

Politicians, mainstream news channels and columnists used the language of riots, attempted coup, sedition, rebellion, uprising, revolution, insurrection and revolt. They can’t all be right as these words have different meanings.

The USA has to look at itself. I regularly hear an American claim that the USA is the greatest country in the world to live in. Where did that view come from? How many Americans have lived and worked in other countries? A holiday in the Mediterranean or a five star hotel for a business conference hardly qualifies as a basis for comparison with another country.

The same politicians on Capitol Hill who condemned the violence upon their institution, voted for the violence inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, other Arab countries and their institutions.  Viewing from this side of The Pond, I cannot distinguish the Republicans and Democrats in foreign policy.

The same politicians turn a blind eye towards the violence in the USA inflicted on people of colour, state executions and treatment of legal and illegal immigrants, both adults and children.

The wars and insurrections that the USA and NATO have inflicted on other nations now comes back to haunt the USA. The country has the potential to tear itself apart just like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other countries. The current outcry in the USA against Trump reveals a certain karmic justice. His ‘lock her up’ mantra of 2016 has become in so many words a ‘lock him up’ mantra in 2021.

He ends his four years of presidency with millions of Americans calling for the authorities to impeach for ‘inciting an insurrection.’

There are numerous deep issues to address which have brought about such fragmentation in America.


The lack of attention to causes and conditions for the protest on Capitol Hill reveals a form of denial. The President-elect, the Democrats and the liberal intelligentsia went into denial.

“Let me be very clear,” President-elect Joe Biden said Wednesday. “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.”

I have a response to the President. Mr. President-elect, I believe you should be very clear. The scenes of chaos at the Capitol reflect the true America as much as anything else that goes on in your country. This is who some of you are.

We do not have to be a psychologist or a mindfulness teacher to know that denial functions as a defence mechanism when a person cannot bear the reality he or she faces. When a situation appears too hard to deal,  then the mind reacts to such a perception. Denial confirms a state of powerlessness. The inflammation of powerless can increase into individual and collective hatred of the ‘other.’

The mindset of denial blocks the potential for the politicians to address the deep crisis and listen to the protesters who can communicate without the rage.

With Joe Biden and others, Capitol Hill represents an idealised reality, a kind of Cathedral of Democracy. Mr President-elect told Americans upon winning the election, “I promise you this: “I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not.”

The protest on Capitol Hill called upon the President to listen and represent all Americans. Instead, he went into a state of denial. Who does that remind you of?

US citizens, Republican and Democrat, need to remind the new President of his promise. That means he visits the poor and marginalised of America. Invite some to the White House. Listens to them. Find out their needs. Takes action to address their needs.

We listened to President-elect Biden. He said, ‘I’m going to be an American President. There will be no red states or blue states – just the United States of America.”

This is denial. Reality shows red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, city and rural, Christians and non-Christians, black and white, super rich and incredibly poor.

The President elect may regret making empty promises. His one-liners might give comfort to the urban liberals who wish to feel good about themselves. Widespread discussion on the way forward alongside action on the ground matters.

What can we learn from Capitol Hill protest?

The Republicans and Democrats have neglected millions of their constituents. Pressure on the body politics arouses a major health issue in parts of the body. Parts of the USA need major attention including providing respect, financial support, work opportunities and renewal of the environment of poor whites and millions of others. In the caste system of the USA, poor whites also find themselves treated as the underclass. The white community are people of colour, too.

The protesters took their one last chance to make a statement before Trump’s exit from the White House. Did they need Trump to urge them to march on Capitol Hill?  He surely is a condition that incited an insurrection. Perhaps a substantial number of the protesters have decades of neglect and rejection behind them, so they may not have needed Trump to urge them on. Perhaps a minority have money, run businesses, feed notions of superiority and base life on survival of the fittest. The poor and well-off can despise equally others who have a different view of society. Trump employed violent rhetoric such as “be there, will be wild,” ‘fight much harder,” and “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

There is growing concern that the protest on Capitol Hill will trigger more violent protests in state capitols. The social/economic issues/deprivation/denial/cultish views and conspiracy theories form some of the causes/conditions for violence on elected representatives and government buildings. Hollywood movies often contain an orgy of violence and horror as another factor impacting on minds, which absorbs so-called entertainment like a sponge.

We easily get the impression that far too many city dwellers, urban liberals, middle classes, establishment, Washington set, mainstream media and more have engaged in decades of stereotyping low-income white people. The middle classes and those who enjoy countless privileges can think of the poor, rural white people as lazy, rednecks, hillbillies, yokels, uneducated, alcoholics, illiterate, gun-carrying trouble-makers, white supremacists, violent and white trash, especially in the rural south. That’s another condition for anger alongside alcohol abuse, despair, domestic violence and crime.

Far too many urban liberals in the USA look down upon certain communities because of their conservative values, evangelical Christianity and accent, especially southern or rural or both. This shows a denial of another blind spot–we treat our values, beliefs and accent as superior. Notions of superiority  form a condition for anger. There is more than one type of supremacist.

In 2016, Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said during her campaign “half of Trump supporters fall into the basket of deplorables” – a deplorable view of more than 30 million Republicans disillusioned with the Clintons and Washington.

We all have to take responsibility for the way we treat each other. I live in a small rural town, home to liberal minded citizens, environmentalists, supporters of diversity and anti-consumerist. People in the town (Totnes, Devon, England) engage in protest too against the establishment. We get stereotyped as hippies, self-indulgent spiritual seekers and idealists to marginalise the concerns regional and global of lots of people in the town.

Will the new President return to same old ways of the Washington set, cling to power and do nothing about Wall Street and the social media manufacturers of public opinion, who increasingly deny a range of views?

The protests in Washington shocked the heart and soul of America. Capitol Hill building, which the protesters broke into, functions as the location where the government debates, passes and writes laws. The Hill contains the US Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Officials in these buildings need to wake up.  The President-elect can called the protesters ‘domestic terrorists’ but such language will not bring about the United States of America.

The Police

White Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Non-white, Non-black lives Matter. Yes, Congress can decide whether to hold Trump accountable but the rage at Capitol Hill and on the streets of America reveals a crisis far bigger than a president, who seems to live in a fictional world.

Working in DC, the police know full well that the powerful, the rich and their lawyers get away with criminal behaviour involving power, sex and money. Lawyers can manipulate the justice system to the advantage of their clients. Abuse of the law contributes to the views of reactionary political cults.

No wonder the poor occupy the jails. American citizens are not all equal under the law.

  • Perhaps Washington DC police showed pro-white racism
  • Perhaps the authorities ignored the warnings of a violent march on Capitol Hill
  • Perhaps the police in the buildings of Capitol Hill acted with immense bravery
  • Perhaps the Washington DC police also felt empathy with the protesters
  • Perhaps senior police officers failed to take control of  the invasion
  • Perhaps the police were afraid to try to keep the violent protesters out of the building
  • Perhaps there were too few police officers to take charge of the situation
  • Perhaps it was some or all of the above
  • Perhaps…..

One view may not reflect the situation. DC police need investigation starting at the top.

The lawmakers in Capitol Hill like to speak of endemic racism in the police force. They may be right in some locations and incorrect elsewhere.  The police force are public servants. The government of the day has to take responsibility for the police force and develop a force worthy of trust in all communities.

To repeat: The country has numerous issues to address and causes and conditions to look into and change. There are politicians, public servants, policy, rich, middle classes, poor, the media, commentators and people of colour – we have to look at ourselves and express changes needed outside of ourselves.

Like other nations, USA experiences a spiritual crisis in democracy with huge egos in the political/corporate world determining public discourse.

The Impact of Years of Rejection on the State of Mind

Here is an example of causes and conditions that influence a mindset. When majorities keep putting down minorities, the minority will internalise the views of the majority. This triggers a harmful impact on the emotional/mental well-being of the minority with consequences to their social, economic and cultural life. The minority feel ashamed of themselves and their communities. Feeling poor, they see themselves as a failure if they stay in their local neighbourhood. They want to move to locations where the majority live to prove to themselves they are ok.

Rejection of people, through a stereotyped perception, produces a lack of self-worth and sometimes leading to self-hatred. The state of mind influences every area of their life, including their political views. They reject communism and socialism, seeing it as patronising.

Here is another condition for violence .The internal pressure connects with others with the same internal violence and generates cults of violence, weapon carrying groups, the militia etc. We witnessed expression of this on Capitol Hill among a minority of the protesters.

The vast majority of protesters made no attempt to enter the building and the violent protesters were eventually expelled without massive bloodshed and death. It was violent, ugly to watch on our TV but the vast majority stood outside the building, waved banners, shouted, cursed but were not motivated to invade the building to bring about death and destruction.

The Democrats are as much responsible for the Disunited States of America as Trump, the Republicans, the owners of social media and the billionaires who form the unelected ruling class.

In the past 30 years, the Democrats have ruled America for 16 years out of 30 with eight years of President Bill Clinton  from 1993 to 2001 and eight years of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.

Did white lives matter for either of these Presidents?

Did black lives matter for either of these Presidents?

Did the city and rural poor matter?

Trump received 62.9 million votes in 2016–a reaction to the Obama years in Washington and a desire for real change. He then increased his vote to 74 million in November 2020. Do Trump voters rely on him to give them back some measure of self-esteem. What do the Democrats have to offer?

We read President Trump has expressed his Big Lie on numerous occasions, namely the Democrats “stole the election.”

The Big Lie of Trump is not the biggest lie in American history. Capitalists have perpetuated the Biggest Lie in America from one generation to the next. What is the name of the Biggest Lie?


The American Dream tells Americans anyone can achieve success, be upwardly mobile and get rich. Where is the evidence?  If that is the true, then why do tens of millions live in desperate hardship, face endless debts, experience failing health and find themselves addicted to medication?

On top of all of this, Republicans, Democrats and other citizens have to deal with 23 million cases of Covid-19 and approaching 400,000 deaths in the space of a year.

I believe the time has come for America to wake up from their American Dream. The country needs to concentrate and develop the best of American values of decency, initiatives, generosity, artistic creativity and critical analysis. The two-party system has an unhealthy grip on democracy in America. An authentic diversity starts with democracy and a comprehensive diversity in the public and private sector.

I loved my three decades of visits across the Pond. I feel sad watching the country embroiled in this crisis.

It is time for the USA to launch a new era.

Then the protest on Capitol Hill and the violent deaths of five US citizens will not have been in vain.

Thank you.

Relevant Background of the Writer

I have engaged in, given support to and been involved in organisation of street non-violent protests/demonstrations/peace marches in four continents, including years ago making a protest on the steps of Capitol Hill. I have had the privilege of Interviewing leaders of non-violence. Some of these interviews were published in two books and various publications. Years of study of the history/practices of non-violence, continue to provide insights and inspiration.. Spending six years in Thailand and India as a Buddhist monk, I had the opportunity to reflect, meditate and inquire into the causes and conditions for anger, revenge and violence. I stood for Parliament twice for the Green Party. Incidentally I have a subscription to the online New York Times and read online, The Guardian, The Independent and other news networks.  For this article, I watched CNN, Al Jazeera, RT, BBC News and other news channels.

My interest in the USA goes back over 40 years. I taught retreats in the USA twice a year for over 30 years with 60–100 participants on the retreats. I listened to a wide range of mindsets of Americans  – admittedly mostly from a privileged section of white society. I appreciated the kindness I received in many visits.

Note to reader.

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3 thoughts on “I feel some small measure of Empathy for the Non-Violent Protesters on Capitol Hill, Washington DC last week”

  1. At last a nuanced view that attempts to reflect the reality of the situation. People do things for a reason & to refuse to unravel & reflect upon that reason sows the seeds of further discontent. As does characterising millions of people with an pejorative tag thereby dismissing their grievances as not worth thoughtful consideration & remedial action. Perhaps the American Dream should be rebranded the American Nightmare

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