Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and the January 6th, 2021 Insurrection of the Nation’s Capital

The insurrection of the U.S. Capitol many of us witnessed on January 6th 2021 was a large contrast to the non-violent protests Martin Luther King Jr. And John Lewis participated in during the 1950’s and 1960’s. A small similarity between the two, was the act of marching.What started on that day as a rally and march to the Capitol building became a riot and attack that resulted in death, injuries, and damage that is now considered an act of domestic terrorism.  

The larger contextual commonality between what happened January 6th and the Civil and Human rights movements of King and Lewis involves the social position of Black people in America. It is no coincidence that a placard memorializing Congressman John Lewis was destroyed on January 6th in the Capitol. What happened at the Capitol was not a recent phenomenon stirred up by President Trump, but part of the long tragic story of America, a country built on the exploitation of non-white people here and around the world, through colonization. 

People often think of the Civil Rights movement as something that happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but it began hundreds of years ago when the first person resisted coming to America and continues now in such movements as Black Lives Matter, which John Lewis was supportive of. The 2020 protests of the killing of George Floyd brought debate over the effectiveness of non-violent and violent group actions. One can imagine that Martin Luther King Jr. would have much to be proud of now but would be deeply disappointed by the lack of progress in civil rights and the polarization of American citizens. 

King and Lewis were working towards freedom and democracy for all American citizens in general, Black people in particularTrump supporters involved on January 6th were working for Trumps authoritarian rule, an un-American anti-democratic, White Nationalist agenda. The peaceful transition from one president to another is a symbol of the health of American democracy. 


Does your definition of protest include rioting?  


Does rioting go against what a protest is?  


When it comes to the positive evolution of humanity, which has a larger impact, violence or non-violence? 

24 thoughts on “Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and the January 6th, 2021 Insurrection of the Nation’s Capital

  1. Hello Bryan, I found your connection to the work of Dr. King and Senator John Lewis to the events at the capitol to be quite intriguing. It tells a lot about the history of America that one group of people is so mistreated that they have to protest and fight for their rights while the other group of people choose to protest simply because they are not getting
    their way. It is quite a shame that the Civil Rights Movement began 70 years ago and we are still having discussion about social injustice. The America we live is one in which a section of people have to fight to be seen as equal and treated fairly while the other group fights to hold more and more power and cause disruption in society. Now to answer your question. My definition of a protest does not include rioting, however I do understand why it can be a part of some protests. I do not advocate for violence and in no way shape or form encourage people to go out there and destroy communities, but I do understand how the years of frustration over not being heard can cause people to lash out and just do things to finally garner attention and illustrate their rage. I think the biggest problem with rioting during a protest is that it allows the other side to shift the narrative in their favor and only focus on the rioting thus failing to bring proper awareness for the reason behind the protest. To positively evolve as humans I think it is better to be able to resolve issues in a non violent manner. Violence will just lead to a continuous cycle of hatred that prevents progress from transpiring thus having no little to no impact on truly causing change.

  2. Hi Bryan!
    I think currently, we are living in a time period very similar to that in the 1960’s. The death of George Floyd and the march on the capitol are events that we would’ve seen in the history books. I think the phrase, “History is bound to repeat itself”, is shown by these events. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them. In regards to your question, I believe that my definition of protesting does not include rioting. There have been many successful protests that don’t have violence included whatsoever. In my opinion, I think rioting is the opposite of protesting. Rioting involves violence and causing disruption, meanwhile protesting can be non-violent and taking a stand. For example, Gandhi protested with civil-disobedience and was non-violent toward the opposition. When talking about the evolution of humanity, I think there have been more positive changes due to non-violent events. Violence can only cause hate.

  3. Bryan,
    I found your comparison between the January 6th insurrection and the Civil Rights movement both bold and clever. The point I latched on to was the fact that we need to stop acting like the Civil rights movement exclusively occurred in the 1950s and 60s. Furthermore, because the 1950s and 60s were admittedly very important, our understanding of that era should not be reduced to Dr. King and Rosa Parks. Even further, our scope of Rosa parks should not be limited to an old lady that sat on a bus. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, she continued to press for change in the criminal justice system, in school and housing inequality, in jobs and welfare policy, and in foreign policy. Now your questions. I think protest can include rioting. I think that is the fundamental difference between a peaceful protest and a violent protest. I see how rioting is used by the other side to minimalize what the protest was originally about, but violent protests have made impacts in social movements of the past. One example is the Suffragettes in the UK who were fighting for Women’s vote. They used to burn down buildings and blowup mailboxes to get their message across,

  4. Hi Bryan,
    Your connection of the peaceful protests done by King and Lewis to the domestic terrorism done by Trump supporters was very interesting and quite frankly-very true. I completely agree with you that the peaceful protests done by the BLM movement were completely different from the Trump rioters, especially in the way they were handled. The fact that the Trump supporters riot turned into a domestic terrorism issue just goes to show how inequality still exists in this country. Rioters were able to walk in all the way inside the capital and not be harmed, on the other hand George Floyd was killed due to having a counterfeit bill that wasn’t even counterfeit. All these events just sound like something that come from a history textbook. It’s sad really that history is repeating itself. It’s like nothing has been learned from the past.
    To answer your question, my definition of a protest is marching for a cause peacefully, no riot should be needed to bring you point across. There is no need to promote violence with violence. Violence just leads to more violence which prevents the advancement of change. In my opinion, rioting does go against the whole concept of protesting. Rioting is a disruptive form of protests and just never leads anywhere.

  5. Hi Bryan,
    I thought your connection between the events at the Capitol this year and the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis was informative. I also thought it was interesting how you said the events at the Capitol were not something new that President Trump caused, but instead it was due to the history of America. I think this is a current example of history repeating itself. I believe that protests should not include rioting, but instead be peaceful in order to show that you are responsible and should be listened to by whoever you are trying to get your point across to. I think rioting does go against the point of a protest. Rioting involves violence and in some cases death, but in the end, there is more damage done than good. When it comes to the positive evolution of humanity, non-violence has more of a larger impact on society. However, the violence is what everyone will remember.

  6. Hi Bryan,
    As we know and have seen, injustice and unrest has caused various types of protests throughout history. Dr. King and John Lewis were both advocates of peaceful protest and although their efforts required time and discipline, they were for the most part, successful. I believe when we look at current events that have involved more violent forms of protest, we have seen less success. The insurrection at the capitol for instance, achieved nothing more than a slight delay on the daily activities of the capitol building. It did not change the inauguration of president Joe Biden and it did not reverse the results of the election. Going back to the novel we read about John Lewis, the police used violence against the peaceful protestors and although they were physically harmed, they still ended up successful. I will not say that violence never wins because I am unsure if that is true, but from what we have seen I believe peaceful protesters often achieve more of their goals then those who implement violence.

  7. Hello Bryan! I thought your connection between Martin Luther King Jr. and what happened at the United States Capitol building was very interesting. I feel that what happened at the Capitol was a result of the far right and was not a fair judgement of all Republicans. This shows the damage our country has continued to face because of the radicals on both sides of each party. I do not think protesting includes rioting whatsoever. Rioting is out of hate and anger and MLK would be completely disappointed. He preached peace and love and because of that, they have made huge strides in the Civil Rights Movement. When we lose love and peace is when our country takes major step backs as it has recently which is extremely upsetting and heartbreaking. Violence will never solve problems because it will only create more. Violence also gives another reason for people to be upset and defeats the purpose of whatever is being protested. This is not a political idea either. This has nothing to do with politics, it has everything to do with the evolution of humanity. Peace and love brings people together and our country needs to be brought together by more peace and more love.

  8. Hey!

    Protest for me should not include riots but they can. If rioting needs to be violent to get a point across I can understand protesting but peaceful protests should be the more what people strive for. Peaceful protests usually end up being violent and end up being more of a riot than a protest. Looking back at the June protests in Columbus, it was way out of control for the situation. Yes, what happens can be bad and make people feel unheard or misrepresented but as Americans we should not feel that smashing buildings and hurting others will make things better. Riots is not in my definition of protest because you can resolve situations without it.

    The line between rioting and protest can be thin sometimes but what I think makes the difference is the level of violence that occurs or if the protest become hostile and out of control. Rioting does not go against protest as it is trying to achieve the same thing as a protest but it should not happen.

    In the case of positive evolution of humanity, non violence has made the biggest impact of society. Going back to the the 60s with Martin Luther King Jr, violence was used to stop a peaceful protest and it did not work as segregation was demolished by one person leading a big group. I would not consider those actions a riot but a protest as the majority of the time the people were not being violent.

  9. Hi Bryan,

    I really enjoyed reading your comparisons between the recent insurrection of the Capital and the Civil Rights movement. In the many contrasts and comparisons that can be drawn between the two, I like how you pointed out that the core issues are still the same today. I feel like it’s very interesting that we are still fighting the same battles today that started hundreds of years in the past. For as much as we have grown and improved in terms of technology and science, the social issues are still severely lagging behind. This is especially evident in the social position and standings of black Americans in the country today. I would be very interested to hear the thought of Dr. King on the situation that we find ourselves in today and to have his guidance throughout this time in history. In my opinion, we need a figure to spearhead the movement once again to advance in society. To do the Job of a Martin Luther King Jr or a John Lewis. Someone able to take bold and decisive action and demand change. I believe that there is different types of protest. Peaceful protest does not include rioting or looting. The other type of protest would be non-peaceful and include rioting. I believe that to advance in society and make real social progress we must go forward peacefully. Humans have a long and terrible history of violence to make a change. Over this time, the social standing of people of color has not progressed and no meaningful change has been made.

  10. Hello Bryan! I found your post about the events on January 6th at the capitol and the protests that involved Martin Luther King Jr and John Lewis to be very interesting. It’s so sad to see John Lewis’s placard destroyed on the January 6th. That, the breach of the capital building, the injuries, and even deaths on that day shows just how violent a protest can turn. I think that protests can be violent. There have definitely been a lot of protests turn violent this past year. Some protests may have the intent of violence, while most do not. Recently, I believe like groups like antifa used many black lives matter protests as cover to cause mayhem and damage across the country. I think protests turning into riots goes against what the protest sought out to achieve. I see non-violent protests having a larger impact on moving forward so that they aren’t categorized as radical or extremist.

  11. Bryan, I appreciated the way you attempted to draw connections between two very seemingly different acts of protest. Particularly, I found it interesting that you pointed out that the MLK/John Lewis era protests and the January 6th insurrection are both in response to the social standing of black Americans. This statement is obvious when considering the former, but the latter is more loosely connected, but I think it is important to discuss. The January 6th riots at the Capitol were undoubtedly a response to a rally held by sitting President Donald Trump, however, other relevant factors include; the Georgia run-off results, deeply-seeded resentment towards the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in the summer of 2020, Vice President Kamala Harris’ presence on the elected ballot, the destruction of John Lewis’ placard. It is impossible to ignore the white supremacist undertones of these acts, the domestic terrorists present on that day were were flaunting clothing and flags that intentionally diminish the lives, cultures, and religions of millions of people. The more I think about these two eras in conjuncture, the more it saddens me the lack of change that has been made.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful criticism which points out that I attempted to draw connections to current to loosely. The main challenge for me here is to be short and concise, so I wanted to get much more into the present but failed to do so. Your post here really helps to fill in current events and that is important for us all to internalize this discussion. Thank you!

      And thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments here. It make me hopeful for the world to see the grasp you all have on these topics.

  12. Bryan,
    I think that protesting and rioting are two completely different things. When people want to make actual change, they will protest. Rioting on the other hand creates a negative association with the event, so it can cause the media, people, and the government to take a movement less seriously. People who cause riots still want to make change, but they way they go about it isn’t right. During the protests, people in my hometown were protesting in the streets of our down town area one night. Everything was fine until people in white vans showed up and let off fire works, started robbing stores, and creating madness. It was so upsetting because white people started the riot, and their intentions were to make the black lives matter movement seem violent. It was frustrating because our town had a new idea in their head about protesting, even though the rest of the protests that consisted of purely our town resulted in no riots. Personally, I think that we have a long way to go with equality and justice for everyone in the US. There is so much systematic racism in our government, white washing in our history classes, and under representation of colored people in our media and films. If Americans taught US history with the real truth on what happened, I think it would be a start to more equality.

  13. Hi Bryan!
    I think that you did an amazing job on your context research presentation information. I like how you are connected events and information from the 1960’s to current events within the United States. Just by the information that you provided and events that are current, it shows that throughout history there have been movements towards making changes or movements for inclusion for everyone. Now to address the questions that you provided. My definition of protest does not include rioting. My definition of protesting is making a peaceful stance towards something that you support and believe in. I think that the reason that people should be protesting is to support a movement or change they want made in the government or in the world. The definition that I provided for protesting or jus the general idea of protesting should not involve rioting. Thus I believe that rioting does to against the idea of protesting. In the terms of positive evolution of humanity, I think that non-violence has a greater impact on making change. I think that if violence is involved it could cause more problems that change the focus of the movement that was trying to be made.

  14. Hello!
    I enjoyed your post and how you made connections of the Black Lives Matter Movement to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. I also liked how you pointed out the differences of the insurrection on the capital from other protests. My definition of protest does not include rioting, but I do think that in certain protest where lots of anger has been built up for hundreds of years, for example the Black Lives Matter movement, that some tension is bound to rise and that some acts of violent are going to happen. Whether that is between police and the protesters, or somebody who is at the protest for the right reasons and begin to riot. I think that it rioting should not be apart from protesting, but if a riot does break out during a protest at some point it should not invalidate the protest as a whole because most of the time the riot is not most peaceful protestors intentions. For a positive impact on humanity I do believe that protest need to remain nonviolent, as long as the oppressor or whoever we are protesting against sees the point and understand the seriousness of the circumstances. I think that in order for a protest to be successful that the oppressor has to be more empathetic and feel the protestors emotion they are giving off while peacefully protesting.

  15. Hello!
    I also think of the stark contrast of the messages John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. spent their lives spreading and the events of January 6th. The insurrection at the Capitol, which was a result of years of hatred and division, was drastically different than the peaceful protests and narratives that MLK Jr. and John Lewis promoted in their battle for civil rights. The basis of the protests from the civil rights movement and the riot on the 6th in my opinion cannot be compared other than to contrast the causes and behaviors.

  16. Hi,

    I agree with the stark contrast between the Marches in 1050s an 1960s and the March on the Capitol building in January 6th. Not only in the way they protest, but in the values that they were supporting with their protests.
    I think rioting does go against the protest because it turns people who might have been on the edge of the argument into people who dismiss what the protests are trying to fight against. These are the so called “moderates” that King refers to as being more of a stumbling block than the KKK and other groups who strongly opposed the rights of the black population in America.
    With that being said, I believe that non-violence has a bigger impact on the positive evolution of humanity.

  17. Hey Bryan,
    Great context presentation. I liked your connection and the noticeable differences you were able to find between the troubling times during Martin Luther King Jr.’s days with the major discrimination and modern day events. Regarding my definition of protest, it doesn’t include rioting. Protests are meant to achieve a goal whether it be equality or for something else and to achieve that goal both sides must be open to negotiation and discussion or the protest is for not. I believe rioting shows that they’re past the stage of discussion and leads to more harm then good which is why rioting goes against protest. If you go into a protest with intent to hurt or destroy it goes against actually wanting change but rather wanting revenge for mistreatment. I believe non-violence leads to a positive evolution of humanity because with violence, there will be retaliation from the other side, and the retaliation will continue into a cycle of attacks from both sides onto each other.

  18. Hi Bryan,
    I really like a lot of the points you brought up, and I liked that you were able to compare such stark different things to make your point. When you said “people often think of the Civil Rights movement as something that happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but it began hundreds of years ago when the first person resisted coming to America and continues now in such movements as Black Lives Matter” I really like that you brought that up because I often think the same thing, and when people say the Civil Rights movement has ended I feel like it is an effort at diminishing the equality issues and systemic racism we still see today. My definition of a protest does not include rioting, but I also don’t think there is one clear definition. Protesting is standing up for something you believe in, and I am not someone who believes that rioting helps prove a point, but I think some people do believe that. I also think that some people believe that rioting doesn’t go against a protest but in often cases I do. For example what occurred on January 6th shouldn’t be deemed a protest in my opinion, the whole time it was riots and it was evident that a lot of those people wanted to instill fear and cause violence, which they did, and I don’t think a protest is meant for causing fear, I think it is meant to bring awareness to issues and bring change. On January 6th I also personally don’t believe there was anything of injustice to protest, and by them rioting they were going against every value of democracy this country has, because it was essentially over people not being happy about election results. Overall when it comes to positive evolution of humanity I think non-violence has more of an impact and I think that can be seen when we talk about MLK or John Lewis and all the peaceful marches and protests they were apart of.

  19. Hi Bryan! Great context presentation! You brought up a lot of important and useful information. I especially liked how you made multiple connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Civil Rights movement. It is a fantastic example of the difference between systemic injustice and individual bias and hatred which is a big theme for this week in the class. It really shows how this is a deep rooted problem in society and not just something we can change within people, but something that should be changed in laws and social norms. It is truly sad to think how Martin Luther King Jr. would be disappointed by how little progress we’ve made given the amount of time that has passed, even though we have at least made good progress. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis once did, it is good that we try to follow their precedents of peaceful protest and marching for people’s rights.

  20. In my personal opinion protesting should not include rioting. I think that is a shameful way to go about getting your point across. I do believe rioting goes against what a protest is intended to accomplish. To me, the non-violent protests and parades practiced by Lewis and King are commendable. Their approach was very admirable and spoke mountains more than what I saw in many “protests” held over the summer months. I think violence is immensely unmeasurable to non-violence and is the positive reassurance this country is in desperate need of.

  21. There comes a time when holding signs and walking through the streets do not get a strong enough message across. My definition of protesting does lead to rioting if the initial protests are not taken as seriously as they should have been. As I stated in my first sentence, I think peaceful protesting can lead to rioting, thus I do not think that it goes against what a protest is. A protest can be in many forms and does not need to be peaceful. When it comes to the positive evolution of humanity, non-violence has a larger impact however it does not always bring about change and equality for all. Non-violence is what everyone wants because it makes everyone feel comfortable, however protests about human rights are not supposed to make people feel comfortable, they are supposed to bring about change.

  22. Hello, first amazing job of being brave and saying something true and that needs to be heard. I went to my first protest during the summer and I felt proud of my self to stand up against racism. I am black and it is terrifying that there is still a big problem in the world and that a lot of people do not see the problem with treating people poorly because they are minorities. I protested because another black innocent person was killed and racism in this world needs to end. I protested so that one day my younger black brother is killed just because he is black and there needs to be change. The protest that happened on January 6 happen because people were upset that Trump, who is a man who sees noting wrong with being a racist was voted out of office. There is a difference. I believe that while Trump was in office it gave people the excuse to be comfortable with being openly racist because he was openly racist. Amazing work

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