Michelle Obama followed her husband’s stern Wednesday rebuke of Donald Trump by also lashing out at the outgoing president for inciting his supporters to unlawfully force their way into the U.S. Capitol while the state electoral presidential votes were being certified.
Five people – including a Capitol Police officer – died in the aftermath of the disturbing riots. Earlier in the day, Trump had addressed the crowd of protestors in the nation’s capital and encouraged them to “walk down to the Capitol” to contest what he claimed was a fraudulent election.
In a lengthy statement released Thursday, the former first lady lamented on how the happenings the previous day left a bittersweet feeling. “I woke up yesterday elated by the news of Reverend Raphael Warnock’s election victory,” she started. “He’ll be Georgia’s first Black senator, and I was heartened by the idea that the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church—the home parish of Dr. King and a spiritual and organizational hub during the Civil Rights Movement—would be representing his state in the United States Senate.”
Obama, however, said that feeling of excitement dissipated following what happened at one of the most iconic buildings in the United States. “My heart had fallen harder and faster than I can remember,” the 56-year-old said.
“Like all of you, I watched as a gang—organized, violent, and mad they’d lost an election—laid siege to the United States Capitol. They set up gallows. They proudly waved the traitorous flag of the Confederacy through the halls. They desecrated the center of American government.”
Obama, who also mentioned how the rioters weren’t brought to book for illegally besieging a state building and security zone, laid the blame on an “infantile and unpatriotic” Trump as well as his enablers. During and after the election that saw President-elect Joe Biden emerge victorious, Trump had repeatedly made baseless claims of fraud.
“The day was a fulfillment of the wishes of an infantile and unpatriotic president who can’t handle the truth of his own failures,” Obama said. “And the wreckage lays at the feet of a party and media apparatus that gleefully cheered him on, knowing full well the possibility of consequences like these.”
She also touched on how police response could have possibly been more aggressive had the rioters been Black and reflected on how “brute force” was used against the largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters last year.
“It all left me with so many questions—questions about the future, questions about security, extremism, propaganda, and more. But there’s one question I just can’t shake: What if these rioters had looked like the folks who go to Ebenezer Baptist Church every Sunday? What would have been different?,” she asked.
She added: “Seeing the gulf between the responses to yesterday’s riot and this summer’s peaceful protests and the larger movement for racial justice is so painful. It hurts.”
“And for those who call others unpatriotic for simply taking a knee in silent protest, for those who wonder why we need to be reminded that Black Lives Matter at all, yesterday made it painfully clear that certain Americans are, in fact, allowed to denigrate the flag and symbols of our nation. They’ve just got to look the right way.”
The Becoming author then went ahead to appeal to Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling Trump’s “monstrous behavior” and “go even further than they have already by permanently banning” him and “putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation’s leaders to fuel insurrection.”
Facebook and Instagram moved to block Trump “indefinitely” and until at least after his presidency after they concluded his since-deleted posts urging the rioters to leave the Capitol were rather inciteful. Twitter also moved to delete three of his tweets and temporarily blocked him for twelve hours. After he regained access to his Twitter account, Trump posted a video Thursday night condemning the violence and appearing to concede defeat.
Despite the chaos that ensued, Obama said she remains hopeful. “The work of putting America back together, of truly repairing what is broken, isn’t the work of any individual politician or political party,” she wrote.
“It’s up to each of us to do our part. To reach out. To listen. And to hold tight to the truth and values that have always led this country forward. It will be an uncomfortable, sometimes painful process. But if we enter into it with an honest and unwavering love of our country, then maybe we can finally start to heal.”