Open in App
New Haven Independent

“Protesters”? Or “Terrorists”?

By Dylan Sloan,


Rhonda Caldwell didn’t see “protesters” rampaging at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in an effort to violently overturn a democratic presidential election.

“Those people absolutely were not protestors,” said Rhonda Caldwell. “They were domestic, homegrown terrorists.”

Caldwell, a Hamden social justice advocate, offered that take Thursday night during a 90-minute Zoom “Post-Insurrection” forum organized through the Hamden Action Now organization.

She offered that take in response to a statement made the night before at a local leaders’ event on the subject held outside New Haven City Hall, at which Mayor Justin Elicker denounced “protesters” who took over the Capitol building. (Elicker in fact called the group “terrorists” and “anarchists.” He began his remarks by describing how “a large group of anarchists violently took over our Capitol building.” He proceeded to say, “Our president and some others endorsed and encouraged a group a white protesters that became anarchists and effectively terrorists take over the Capitol.”)

Caldwell and other participants in Thursday night’s event, including lawmakers and community organizers, argued that the New Haven City Hall event didn’t go nearly far enough.

Caldwell invited a dozen Black and brown local community leaders to share their insights.

Such incidents of domestic terrorism are not isolated to Washington, and our own state’s institutions are just as susceptible to being targeted, the participants argued. The invasion gave face to the pervasive racism and white supremacy that saturate our institutions, our national identity, and our democracy, they said.

Ultimately, they argued, it will be lawmakers and organizers of color who will be the ones forced to take action.

As the mob was marching from the White House down the National Mall Wednesday, a pro-Trump protest crowd had also gathered at the State Capitol in Hartford as new delegates were set to be sworn into office. New Haven State Rep. Robyn Porter described earlier in the day, on WNHH’s “Love Babz Love Talk” program, how she saw one of the protesters spit at one of her colleagues as he was being sworn in.

“It was really disheartening that one of our colleagues being sworn in was actually spat on by an unmasked person,” Porter said on “Love Babz.” “As we were walking over from the Legislative Office building to the front steps of the Capitol, I was overwhlmeied by what I was hearing. The verbal assaults. Their being out there and being allowed in close proximity to us. How crazy was it?

“It didn’t get that far in Connecticut yesterday. After watching the massive security failure in DC, what is the message to those people who showed up in Hartford yesterday? What is the message to that woman who spat on that person in Hartford yesterday? What’s next?”

She repeated the story at the Thursday night Action Now forum.

“I want us to be very mindful that we had a taste of this in Hartford,” said Porter. “And we’re not talking about what was happening in your backyard, this was happening in your front yard. It was a surreal moment. It didn’t escalate like [it did in Washington] in Hartford yesterday, but could it?”

The speakers stressed that had it been Black citizens storming the nation’s Capitol, they would have been killed before coming anywhere near the doors, as opposed to the apparent inaction or, in some cases, alleged sympathy of law enforcement officers towards the overwhelmingly white mob.

“If the people were from BLM [Black Lives Matter] or Hamden Action Now or Bridgeport Action Now, they’d be in a morgue in D.C. right now,” said Caldwell. “It was a living disgrace.”

“Yesterday showed that law enforcement does, in fact, know how to use nonviolence,” said Hamden Legislative Council Member Justin Farmer. He drew a parallel to a BLM protest he attended this past summer outside New Haven’s police station, where officers pepper-sprayed demonstrators. “I particularly noted the irony at Mayor Elicker’s press conference last night when he called these people ‘protesters’ when we had people being pepper sprayed and pushed with riot shields this summer,” Farmer said, “whereas yesterday all our elected leaders were at risk.”

D’Juan Eastman, of Citizens Opposed to Police States from Farmington, criticized commentators who branded the mob as “protesters” and frame the political climate President Trump has created as about merely “rhetoric.” That serves to disguise the fact they are forms of terrorism targeting populations of color, Eastman argued.

“We need to acknowledge that we have put the non-white population of the nation and the world under four years of stochastic terrorism,” said Eastman. “Trump has been a white Osama Bin Laden.”

Participants in the forum called for removal of Trump from office either through the invocation of the 25th Amendment or impeachment.

For Catherine “CJ” John, organizer of Black and Brown United in Action, Wednesday’s events were shocking, yes, but also all too predictable. It took something as unimaginable as a mob storming our nation’s Capitol to illuminate the rampant white supremacy she has been surrounded by for her whole life.

“Connecticut, you need to open your eyes,” said John. “[White supremacy] is normalized in your policies and procedures. Agencies and nonprofits have been using and exploiting black and brown communities for years.”

“This shit didn’t start yesterday,” John continued. “You can’t handle it for two hours. How do you think we feel? We deal with it all day, every day. What happened yesterday was white supremacy on display. White people need to swallow that pill, just lie they made us swallow the world ‘slavery.’ The last time we got this level of animosity from white terrorists was when we got the right to vote. White people are privileged. They’re going to do it again.”

“Being an immigrant, and knowing what people do to be able to come to the U.S., I had family calling me from Jamaica and the UK asking, ‘What’s going on? Don’t you know that you’re the anchor, the last bastion of democracy?’” said Khallid Graham of Bridgeport Action Now. “I was frustrated by commentators saying this is something that happens in a third-world country. This isn’t what happened in Jamaica after their last election. We’re no longer the shining beacon. There are two Americas: white America and Black America. I don’t think they’ll ever be equal.”

“As black people, we are trying to protect a democracy that doesn’t protect us,” said Pamela Selders. “But if we don’t try to protect our democracy, then what else will protect us? Is what’s going on now a repeat of what happens every hundred years or so? The good white people against the bad white people? Because it’s never really about us. It’s only about us as a commodity. Even if we save our democracy, are we free?”

“We have to draw a line in the sand and say, what can I do?” said Graham. “That happens one meeting and one vote at a time. We need to make like Ms. [Stacey] Abrams and say, ‘We’re going to will change into effect.’”

Click above to watch Babz Rawls Ivy’s radio panel discussion on the Capitol insurrection, beginning in around the 8-minute mark. Guests include State Rep. Robyn Porter and Greater New Haven NAACP President Dori Dumas, among others.

Expand All
Comments / 0
Add a Comment
Local Washington State newsLocal Washington State
Most Popular newsMost Popular

Comments / 0