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Capitol siege is past, but white supremacy threat lives on | [Orlando Sentinel OpEd by Norma Henning]

By Norma Henning, Esq.; CAIR-FL Government Affairs Coordinator, For Orlando Sentinel, On 21 January 2021, Read Original
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JAN 21, 2021 

Discoveries of acts and omissions, outright derelictions of duty and violations of oaths of office that collectively led to the would-be coup at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 will continue to dominate the news cycle for the foreseeable future. The sad thing is, to those who have warned of exactly this outcome, this is really not surprising.

The creation of the divisive environment that we have witnessed over the past years is a piece of the puzzle that usually falls into place when a dictator wants to hold on to power. Shocking, but not surprising to those who have spent years connecting the dots and pointing to the fact that our democracy is just one Reichstag event away from authoritarianism.
Minority community advocates have been canaries in the coalmine for a long time, dismissed as “alarmists,” as “negative” and — perhaps worst of all — as ‘unpatriotic’ for raising the specter of fascism in the land of the free. Now we have to come to terms with the reality that the result of this collective effort could have been far different if all the pieces had been in place, and all the players had played ball.

Instead, “his judges” refused to hand Donald Trump his victory. State election officials stood up to the weight of the office of the presidency that pressed them to defraud the country. Those missing pieces, together with ambitious Congress members willing to violate their oaths of office by providing a backdrop of legitimacy to outright lies of voter fraud, just might have tipped the scale.

The base was there, as buses — including some from this state — transported the angry mob to Washington. A mob which was fed lies and then let loose on Congress and a vice president, who — after years of faithful enabling — suddenly remembered that he had sworn no oath to Trump.

Like white supremacist mobs throughout U.S. history — mobs that dragged people out of their homes and businesses — this mob went looking for satisfaction in the halls of Congress. In a mob, not everyone has to hold the rope. Most people — the good people — just watch and cheer. And make sure the sheriff just happens to be out of town. How American.

The good news is that it didn’t work. The bad news is that people died, our image as a country suffered even more, and all the canaries know it’s far from over.

The coup failed, but the threat that right-wing white supremacists present to the country is real. Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant acts of violence and threats are up, encouraged by the same kind of rhetoric that sicced an angry mob on Congress. These acts need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which in Florida, leaves much to be desired.

Instead, our Legislature will consider a bill that was drafted to punish civil rights protesters and intends to make “disorderly protest” a crime. A felony. No bail. No vote. It’s the new loitering law for protesters who do not march in formation. Incidentally, it also takes away cities’ budgeting powers. It’s in the small print. Or in plain sight — like the would-be coup — for those who want to see.

Norma Henning is the government affairs coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida.

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