U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, compared Wednesday’s uprising on the U.S. Capitol Building to the Battle of Fort Sumter in 1861 that started the Civil War.
“Our challenge for all of us as American citizens is to figure out how to come together and recognize our common decency and our common humanity without going through a Civil War,” Casten said during a virtual town hall meeting on Sunday. “I’m not being hyperbolic. Those are the stakes of what we’re in right now. I am optimistic about our ability to do that.”
He labeled the people who participated in Wednesday’s attack as “terrorists and seditionists.”
“They represent a minority of the American people who are trying to overturn the will of the majority of the American people in an election,” Casten said. “They are not the majority. The majority of people who voted for Donald Trump were not there. The majority of people who are registered Republicans were not there. This was a minority of a minority. We need to recognize that as much as there has to be accountability for those who participated in those events, they do not reflect who we are as a country or who we are as political parties in this country.”
In responding to questions from callers worried that more violence might follow ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 – including a possible march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols – Casten said there will “absolutely be extremely heightened security around the inauguration.”
One caller wondered why those who participated in the uprising on the Capitol building are being labeled as terrorists.
“These are our citizens,” the caller said. “Why are we referring to people that are protesting, and in some cases, unfortunately rioting, terrorists and our enemy?”
In reply, Casten said it was completely fair to call someone a terrorist “who invades a hall of government of the United States, takes it over, kills people, intends to kidnap people and steals things. There is no question that this was an act of terrorism.”
Casten has called for the impeachment of Trump following the attack. In doing so, Casten said Trump incited a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol and then intentionally delayed sending in the National Guard.
“That is an act of treason,” Casten said. “There has to be accountability.”
Casten said the attack was “extremely” well planned in advance. He also questioned the motives of some of the members of the U.S. Capitol police force responding to the rioting.
“Some members of the Capitol police appear to have been comprised and that made it easier to break through,” Casten said. “Most were not.”
But despite what took place at the U.S. Capitol building, he doesn’t believe the nation is as polarized as many would think. He blamed social media for creating that perception.
“We have a social media environment that has created hyper polarization and it has created echo chambers,” Casten said. “And that has been made much more difficult by the reality of [COVID-19]. …These were people who were completely disconnected from any factual reality, but had evolved a completely internally consistent set of facts based on those social environments they lived in.”