Capitol Chaos Brings Unwelcome Memories for New Americans

The deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol delivered a sobering lesson to Gigi Mei, who graduated last May from Columbia University in New York.“Democracy is really fragile, and it takes a lot of efforts and energy,” said Mei, a 25-year-old from China. “And it needs people from all aspects to sustain, protect and practice.”Mei was among dozens of U.S. immigrants or first-generation Americans who spoke with VOA after thousands of rioters surged past U.S. Capitol Police in an unsuccessful bid to block lawmakers from certifying Joe Biden’s election win over Donald Trump as the next president.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.Uncomfortable realityTo Boukary Sawadogo, who teaches African film studies at the City College of New York, the scene of rioters storming the Capitol “seemed out of a Hollywood film” — not a reality he’d ever expected in the seat of American political power.Sawadogo, raised in Burkina Faso, said it reminded him of mass protests in 2014 that forced out the West African country’s president, Blaise Compaoré, after 27 years. “Demonstrators took over the parliament, burned the building,” he said. The lawmakers “fled for their lives.”U.S. lawmakers were rushed from their chambers, too, but returned within hours to complete the election certification on schedule.Members of the group that took over the Capitol said they had a right to protest U.S. election results.“We are there to demand the truth,” said Tuan Anh La, a U.S. Navy veteran originally from Vietnam. “It is impossible for us to accept a certain result when half the voters are in the limbo” over the Nov. 3 vote.Electoral College ballot boxes are carried to the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.Individual states took days, even weeks, to count ballots. In the end, This image released by the FBI on Jan. 8, 2021, shows protesters in the US Capitol on Jan. 6, in Washington, DC. The FBI is seeking to identify the protesters.More than 70 people have been charged in the attack and prosecutors are Roba Bulga, who studies conflict resolution, visits the Capitol Reflecting Pool days after the U.S. Capitol siege. (VOA Horn Service)Political parties should “put aside” some of their differences, said Roba Bulga, a Brandeis University graduate student in conflict resolution who came from Ethiopia. He called this “a time of reconciliation, a time of bringing everyone together as a country.”He urged looking beyond U.S. borders, saying, “A threat to democracy here can be a threat” to other parts of the world.A protester lights an American flag on fire during a demonstration, Nov. 4, 2020, in Portland, Ore.Thavin Keo also pressed for more civility, fretting over “a lot of hate everywhere. … Look at Portland. Look at Seattle,” she said, citing months of Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year that sometimes featured bloody clashes. The 67-year-old retired government contractor came as a refugee from Cambodia in 1981, settling in northern Virginia.President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during an event at The Queen theater, Jan. 14, 2021, in Wilmington, Del.To Sonam Zoksang, a small business owner in New York’s Hudson Valley, “the democracy has shown strength, but it needs protection.”Born in Tibet, he came to the U.S. in 1995 via Nepal, where his parents fled after China occupied their motherland.He said he looked to Biden, the incoming president, to deliver on his message of unity and healing.“I believe this new administration and some good Republicans can work together. The world is looking up to America.”This report includes contributions from multiple VOA services: Afghan, Cambodian, English to Africa, French to Africa, Horn, Korean, Mandarin, Somali, Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese.

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