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Capitol riots: Nearly 60% of those who took part in violence faced financial hardships, says report

The Washington Post reported that the trouble-makers faced challenges such as bankruptcies, bad debts, notices of eviction or foreclosure, etc
UPDATED FEB 12, 2021
According to the experts, Trump’s grievance-style politics which resulted in his allegations about voter fraud lured people, who had no experience in violence, to act (Getty Images)
According to the experts, Trump’s grievance-style politics which resulted in his allegations about voter fraud lured people, who had no experience in violence, to act (Getty Images)

The attacks on Capitol Hill on January 6 by former President Donald Trump’s furious supporters to protest the victory of President Joe Biden in the 2020 election have been denounced at all quarters and even the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection. Five people, including an air force veteran and a police officer, died in the clashes.

Now, the Washington Post has revealed in a report published on Wednesday, February 10, that nearly 60 percent of those who have been charged for their alleged involvement in the riot have had a history of financial hardships. According to the Post, the financial troubles that the arrested rioters suffered from included bankruptcies, bad debts, notices of eviction or foreclosure or unpaid taxes of up to $40K that went back by more than two decades. 


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The Daily looked through the financial history of 125 defendants and found that the group’s bankruptcy rate remained as high as 18 percent, which is nearly twice the average rate for Americans in general. The report also revealed that while 25 percent of the group had been sued for money that they owed to a creditor, 20 percent faced the danger of losing their homes at one point. An analysis of the January 6 attacks that was conducted by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago found that 40 percent of those who were accused of taking part in the protests are business-owners and White-collar workers. 

It was also found that the unemployment rate of those charged with taking part in the protest was only nine percent. Though experts claimed that while the unemployment rate was low, the participants’ earlier financial hardships may have seen them getting influenced by Trump’s claims about election fraud and feel encouraged to attack the Capitol. A number of people lost their jobs for taking part in the riots and that even included the CEO of a data analytics company in Illinois

Thousands of Donald Trump supporters storm the United States Capitol building following a 'Stop the Steal' rally on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

According to the experts, Trump’s grievance-style politics which resulted in his allegations about voter fraud lured people, who had no experience in violence, to act.

'Not just economic insecurity but deep feeling of precarity'

“I think what you’re finding is more than just economic insecurity but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation,” the Post quoted Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor who helps run the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University, DC, as saying.

“And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day.”

The Post identified some of the cases where a protester had a distrubed financial history. It cited the case of Jenna Ryan, a real-estate broker from Texas, joined the protest as a prominent face after flying to the location in a private jet. It was revealed that Ryan, 50, faced years of financial hardships and filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and facing an IRS tax lien two years before that. She had even lost her home to foreclosure at one point of time. At the time of her arrest, too, Ryan was paying off a $37,000 lien for unpaid federal taxes. Ryan said she believed Trump’s election fraud claim but accused the latter of using people like her just to boost his ego. 

Another protester —22-year-old Riley June Williams — who allegedly helped in the theft of a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, also had a troubled financial history. According to the Post, Williams’s parents filed for bankruptcy when she was a child and her mother’s residence faced foreclosure when she was in her teens. Also, Georgia attorney William McCall Calhoun, who was arrested for joining the riot, was hit with a $26,000 federal tax lien in 2019. He became a strong supporter of Trump after his financial troubles. 

Protesters at the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. (Getty Images)

Ashli Babbitt, the former air force veteran who was shot during the clashes at the Capitol, also had a history of financial difficulties. As per the Post report, Babbitt, 35, struggled to run her pool firm and four years ago, she was slapped with a $23,000 judgment by a lender. There were also people among the rioters who belonged to extremist groups, like the Proud Boys, and also suffered from financial woes. 

Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, had an explanation for the protesters having a common history of financial troubles. He said it is the mix of financial concerns and worries over the future as Trump kept on making the claims that saw the rioters acting over their anxiety over impending damage. “It’s hard to ignore with a Trump presidency that message that ‘the America you knew and loved is going away, and I’m going to protect it’,” Haider-Markel told the Post, adding: “They feel, at a minimum, that they're under threat.”

“Somehow, they’ve been wronged, they’ve developed a grievance, and they tend to connect that to some broader ideology,” he said. 

Factors like the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic woes caused by the shutdowns and restrictions also added fuel to those people’s grievances, the experts added.