Several Indian American supporters of President Donald Trump — including some who attended a Jan. 6 rally outside the Capitol Building that devolved into mayhem — denounced the mob violence that afternoon, as protesters jumped through barricades to enter the building and freely roamed the House and Senate Chambers.
Hemant Bhatt, founder of Indian Voices For Trump and the South Asian Republican Coalition — who attended the rally with a group of Trump supporters from New Jersey — told India-West: “We never expected this to happen. We expected a peaceful protest.”
“I am a patriot, a Republican. But this is not what America is about,” he said.
The violent protest, at which four people died including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit, who was fatally shot by Capitol police, occurred as the House and Senate met to certify the Nov. 3 election victory of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The certification of the vote is a largely ceremonial procedure. However, since Election Day, Trump has denounced the results, saying the election was “stolen from him,” and “rigged” and that vote counts were “fraudulent.” He has challenged the results in several lawsuits, but the courts thus far have found no evidence of fraud.
On Jan. 7, Trump’s personal attorneys handling cases of alleged fraud in the Georgia and Pennsylvania election quit. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Mick Mulvaney, special envoy to Northern Ireland; and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump; all quit the White House, along with a raft of others, citing Trump’s blatant encouragement to his supporters to head to the Capitol.
The House and Senate resumed proceedings Jan. 6 evening and declared Biden and Harris victors. Several members of the Senate who had previously announced their intention to challenge the results, did not do so.
Bhatt said he watched the proceedings from a distance near the Capitol Building and told India-West he had already gone home as the mob entered the building. However, in a widely-circulated tweet taken from a message Bhatt sent on WhatsApp, the Indian American businessman wrote: “I am here. Thousands and thousands of people are here. The stormed (the) Capitol Building.”
“I witnessed history which (has) never happened in America. I addressed the crowd. I have pics and videos,” wrote Bhatt, whose message has been widely forwarded to other WhatsApp users.
Bhatt said he went to the rally because he believed the election had indeed been rigged. “There is so much information about election fraud. Definitely something is there.”
A video of an Indian flag circulating amid the protesters has gone viral on social media. But Bhatt said he did not know who was carrying the flag.
Amar D. Amar, founder of Indian Americans for Trump, did not attend the rally, but told India-West he was very disappointed by the outcome, which — he said — drew attention away from the issue of election fraud. “Smashing windows and violent demonstrations gain enemies,” said Amar. “These election results were fraudulent and manipulated and resulted in an unfair election without transparency,” he said, noting, however, that senators who had vowed not to certify the results ending up doing so because of the violence.
Sampat Shivangi, president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education and a delegate for Trump, told India-West: “I am totally against what happened. Taking over the Capitol is unacceptable.”
He also contended there was election fraud, citing lists with names of voters who were dead and manipulated ballots.
Saying Trump deliberately incited the violence, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have called for Trump to be impeached or for invoking the 25th Amendment, which is used when a president is no longer able to perform his job. Vice President Mike Pence would then assume the office until Jan. 20, when Biden and Harris are sworn in.
But Shivangi said he was against both means of removing Trump from office. “He has promised a peaceful transfer of power.”
Attorney Harmeet Dhillon, the Republican National Committee’s chairwoman from California, tweeted: “This scene at the US Capitol is shocking and disgraceful. The mob violence the left has habitually engaged in these past years is despicable, but in no way excuses these crimes.”
“We are a nation of laws, not anarchy. We are all Americans first,” she tweeted, adding that two pipe bombs had been discovered at RNC headquarters, forcing staff to evacuate. The pipe bombs were subsequently detonated.
“Whoever is behind this terrorist act must be found and prosecuted,” tweeted Dhillon.
IANS adds from New Delhi: The extraordinary situation that engulfed Washington after thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters, egged on by his speech, rioted in the U.S. Capitol, made the day for the Twitterati. The formal, boring, administrative capital city of the U.S. turned into a spectacle for a day as mobs indulged in rioting in the citadel of democracy.
Amidst a global shock and dismay at the ungainly scenes, Twitter erupted with myriad reactions at the violent conduct Trump's supporters displayed in the Capitol building – the temple of democracy. India Narrative collects reactions of prominent Indians both in the U.S. and India.
All four Indian American members of Congress reacted to the event, as previously reported by India-West (see India-West report here: https://bit.ly/35iyaYn). Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who was caught in the melee inside the Capitol, in her tweets made it clear that Trump has to resign. Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted his prayers for the injured people. His tweets made it clear that Trump had been rejected by the people, by the courts and also in the elections. Rep. Ami Bera too renounced the violence that had taken over the Capitol.
Vinod Khosla, technology guru and entrepreneur, retweeted former President Barack Obama's complete statement on the violence. He also retweeted another statement which said: "… And we should all agree to not work with Trump and his supporters, even if that is expensive personally."
One of the most devastating tweets has come from author and publisher Anand Giridharadas, who said: "What we're witnessing in the Senate is what we saw in much media coverage in the Trump years: processing extraordinary events through ordinary rituals, language, and formats unwittingly normalizes them. The president just incited a terrorist attack on democracy. Speak like it."
Dinyar Patel, assistant professor of South Asian history at the SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, associated with the Mittal Institute at Harvard, said, “In DC yesterday, bigots and conspiracy theorists were pushing the agenda of a megalomaniac who lost the popular vote twice."
Vindu Goel, Emerging Platforms editor for The New York Times, kept a flurry of retweets from prominent media institutions on the developing situation.
Nidhi Razdan, associate professor of journalism at Harvard University, too retweeted prominent Twitterati and media organizations for the latest developments. Among her prominent retweets was one by Reuters that played a video statement by Vice President Mike Pence, condemning the violence by Trump supporters in an attempt to block certification of the presidential election results.
Parry Ravindranathan, global media executive and an angel investor, kept his Twitter account alive with the developing situation. One of his prominent retweets emphasized the stunning fact that Republican leaders were veering round to the view that Trump should be removed from office before his term ends.
The spotting of an Indian flag outside the Capitol did not go unnoticed.
It was made fun of by stand-up comic Vir Das. In his usual witty style, he said: "Dear random Indian dude waving Indian flag at the #CapitolRiots. Every large crowd IS NOT A CRICKET MATCH!"
Indian politician Priyanka Chaturvedi too tweeted her objection: "Whoever is waving this Indian flag should feel ashamed. Don't use our tricolor to participate in such violent & criminal acts in another country."
Many social media users have expressed their bitter feelings that the U.S. forces were lenient on the rioters as they were white. People were wondering if the police would have used tear gas or force to break up the crowd if it were not white.
Twitter handle Asian in America, @Asian_Amerikkka, managed by "a brown multicultural Asian intersectional feminist immigrant…" retweeted a video saying: "Super nice of that cop to help a MAGA terrorist down the steps of the Capitol." (The IANS content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com.)