The D.C. Riots: K.H.S. Student Thoughts & Opinions

Names have been removed from the quotes and summaries of opinions included in this article for privacy purposes.

*Warning- some images in this article may be upsetting and/or disturbing


As I am sure many of you know, on January 6th, 2021, a group of Trump supporters gathered to demonstrate at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This demonstration quickly took a turn for the worse, with rioters breaking and entering the Capitol building and defacing the rooms inside. Although I will continue to give factual statements (as I have just done), I am not here to argue over facts or the events that transpired, but rather to provide you with Kennebunk High School students’ thoughts on the intentions of the demonstration, and the way the situation was handled by the United States federal government.



It seems essential to begin with what students believe to be the motivators behind the riots. Some students believed that the riots were rooted in anger, stemming from the way rioters felt they were being silenced by the United States government. One student argued that the anger was derived from the way rioters felt silenced by the results of the 2020 Presidential election, saying the riots were “generated from anger that [Donald Trump] lost the election”. However, many other students saw it from a different perspective, making the argument that the riots stemmed from racism. These students first said that anger over a lost election was not powerful enough to motivate insurrection, many of them referring to the way that anger following the 2016 Presidential elections did not inspire a raid on the Capitol. A large number of these students built on their point by mentioning the presence of Confederate apparel as signs of racist motivation, with one saying “Confederate flags were being waved. This is not about an election”. This student also went on to mention that the word ‘anger’ was sugar-coating the rioters’ motivation, defining the aforementioned anger as a “cover for racism”. 


A rioter walks through the Capitol halls with a Confederate Flag


Another subtopic that was widely discussed was whether the riots were intended to be peaceful. Though a few students agreed that some people present at the demonstrations intended to be peaceful, most of the students agreed that the rioters arrived at the Capitol with violent intentions. Many of them pointed out that protesters were armed, suggesting that if the protest was truly intended to be peaceful, weapons and make-shift handcuffs would not be necessary.  Additionally, many of these students went on to state that the violence was intentionally incited by President Trump, almost all of them referring to his “Save America” speech (given at a D.C. rally just a few hours before the riots) for proof. They advocated that the president’s language, especially when he suggested that his supporters “fight like hell”, encouraged something more violent than a protest. The suspicion many KHS students seem to feel about Trump’s role in the riots is largely acknowledged across the country and is currently being argued for on a federal level. 


President Trump at the “Save America” rally, just over 1 hour before the Capitol riots.


A concept that seemed most passionately regarded by students was the treatment of rioters at the Capitol. Each of the students stated that they saw the treatment of the rioters at the Capitol as being far too lenient, with many using the word “inadequate” to describe the way the government handled rioters. These students brought up the police presence at the Capitol during the time of the riots (approximately 340 out of the 2,300 Capitol officers were present), and said that even though there were low numbers of officers, the rioters were treated too much as if they were innocent. One student emphasized the point by mentioning that the on-duty officers were seen taking selfies with rioters.


A Capitol officer was filmed posing for a selfie with a rioter. A $20,000 has been placed for the officer’s arrest since.


 A majority of the students also spontaneously mentioned the differences in the way that the government handled the Trump supporters that rioted at the capitol in comparison to the way they treated Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C. These students said that Black Lives Matter protesters were treated unjustly and violently in comparison to the Trump supporters that raided the Capitol; many of them suggesting that had Black Lives Matter advocates done what the Trump supporters did, the government would have had a stronger and more disciplinary response. One student said that “had these been Black Lives Matter protesters, regardless of the number of on-duty officers present, officers would have tried harder to restrain them,” while another expressed that police presence would have been more aggressive: saying “had it been Black Lives Matter (protesters), they would have been shot.” 


A peaceful protester at the Black Lives Matter march in June 2020 is restrained by an officer, while others are tear-gassed in the background.


Many other students said that they were not entirely informed on the issue, and did not have the resources to make an informed opinion. It seemed that a large number of students wanted to be able to participate in conversations about the riots in D.C., but did not have the resources to help them understand what happened (or the time to find reliable sources). If you are curious about the events that transpired or want to be able to develop a more informed opinion, here are some resources: