Not Everyone Was Surprised by the Attack on the Capitol

Black Americans and social justice workers are plenty familiar with mob violence, the Reverend William Barber explains

Rev. William Barber II at an interfaith service in 2020.Amy Katz/Zuma

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The January 6 attack on the Capitol was, for many Americans, an unthinkable and shocking attack on democracy. For the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, it was old hat.

“I was just screaming at the TV when people said, ‘We’ve never seen this but twice in America,'” Barber said in a conversation with Mother Jones earlier this month. “Are you out of your mind? Poor folk, Black folk, labor, people fighting for women’s suffrage, abolitionists all knew this mob violence, this attack on our bodies and sacred place.”

“What we saw, what the world saw,” he said, “was what finally happens when you seed racism and lies.”

In a wide-ranging discussion of America’s reckoning for racial justice amid a pandemic that has disproportionately infected and killed people of color, Barber, who is the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, is joined by his two daughters, social epidemiologist Dr. Sharrelle Barber and public policy graduate student Rebekah Barber. The discussion, hosted by Mother Jones columnist and reporter Nathalie Baptiste, was originally recorded on February 4.

Watch the full conversation below:

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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