When political scientist Robert Pape began to study the issues that motivated the approximately 380 people arrested in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, he expected to find that rioters were being driven to violence by the effects. Persistent from the Great 2008. Recession.
But instead, he found something very different: Most of the people who took part in the assault were from places, his polls and demographics showed, which were inundated with fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants crowd out white rights in American politics and culture.
If Mr Pope’s initial findings – published in the Washington Post on Tuesday – are true, they would suggest the attack on Capitol Hill has historical echoes dating back to before the Civil War, he said in an interview in the weekend. In the short term, he added, the study would appear to link Jan.6 not only to the once-marginal right-wing theory called the Great Replacement, which argues that minorities and immigrants seek to take over the country, but also to events like the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where crowds of white men marched with torches chanting, “The Jews will not replace us!”
“If you look back in history, there has always been a series of far-right extremist movements responding to new waves of immigration to the United States or to civil rights movements by minority groups,” Mr Pape said. “You see a common pattern among the insurgents on Capitol Hill. They are mostly middle class to upper middle class whites who fear that as social changes occur around them they will see their status decline in the future.
One fact emerges from Pape’s study, conducted with the help of researchers from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, a think tank he heads at the University of Chicago. The counties with the largest declines in non-Hispanic white population are most likely to produce insurgents. That conclusion was true, Mr. Pape determined, even taking into account population size, distance to Washington, unemployment rate, and urban or rural location.
Law enforcement officials said 800 to 1,000 people entered the Capitol on January 6 and prosecutors have spent the past three months hunting down many in what they described as one of the largest criminal investigations in US history. In recent court documents, the government hinted that more than 400 people could ultimately face charges, including illegal entry, assault on police officers and obstructing official congressional activities.
In his study, Pape found that only around 10% of those charged were members of established far-right organizations like the Oath Keepers militia or the nationalist extremist group the Proud Boys. But unlike other analysts who have made similar findings, Mr Pape argued that the remaining 90% of “ordinary” rioters are part of a still-freezing right-wing mass movement that has come to a halt. shown willing to put “violence at the center of his concerns. “
Other mass movements have emerged, he said, in response to large-scale cultural change. In the 1840s and 50s, for example, the Know Nothing Party, a group of Protestant nativists, was formed in response to huge waves of predominantly Irish Catholic immigration to the country. After World War I, he added, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a revival brought about in part by the arrival of Italians and the first eddies of the so-called Great Migration of Black Americans from rural South to North. industrialized.
In an effort to determine why the crowd that formed on January 6 turned violent, Mr. Pape compared the events of the day with two previous pro-Trump rallies in Washington, on November 14 and December 12. Street fighting after the first two rallies, Mr Pape said, the number of arrests was fewer and the charges less serious than on January 6. Records also show that those arrested in November and December largely lived within an hour of Washington, while most of those arrested in January came from much further away.
The difference at the rallies was former President Donald J. Trump, Pape said. Mr Trump promoted the Jan.6 rally in advance, saying it would be “wild” and increase attendance, Mr Pape said. He then encouraged the crowd to walk on the Capitol in an effort to “show his strength.”
Mr Pape said he was concerned that a similar crowd could be called again by a leader like Mr Trump. After all, he suggested, as the country continues to evolve into a majority minority nation and the right-wing media continue to stir up fear of the Great Replacement, the racial and cultural anxieties that lurk under the riot. at the Capitol do not disappear. .
“If all of this is really rooted in the politics of social change, then we have to realize that it will not be solved – or solved alone – by law enforcement,” Pape said. “This is political violence, not just ordinary criminal violence, and it’s going to require both additional information and a strategic approach.”
Mr. Pape, whose career has focused primarily on international terrorism, used this approach after the 9/11 attacks when he created a database of suicide bombers around the world. His research led to a remarkable discovery: most bombers were secular, not religious, and had committed suicide not out of fanaticism, but rather in response to military occupations.
U.S. officials ultimately used the results to persuade some Sunnis in Iraq to break away from their religious allies and join the United States in a nationalist movement known as Anbar Awakening.
Recalling his early work with suicide bombers, Mr Pape suggested that the country’s understanding of what happened on January 6 was just starting to take shape, just as its understanding of international terrorism slowly developed after the 11th. September.
“We are really still in the early stages,” he said.