By Carol Rose

A day that began with a historic victory for voting rights in Georgia and the nation ended with an assault on our democracy. The attempted coup on the Capitol, at the urging of Donald Trump, has led to widespread calls for his removal as an imminent threat to our constitutional order.

However that plays out next week, this much is clear: the Biden administration and Congress must take immediate, concrete steps to ensure that future would-be tyrants and their cronies are not permitted to seize power by unconstitutional means. They must also ensure that we know the whole truth about what happened on January 6, and that those responsible—from civilians to the president himself—are held to account.

Public outrage over the coup attempt is palpable. We watched live as violent mobs roamed the halls of Congress with impunity, waving Confederate flags in the U.S. Capitol and ransacking offices of elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They entered the Senate chambers, making a mockery of election certification proceedings, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, that were proceeding just moments earlier.

This was more than vandalism; this was targeted violence in the name of white supremacy. Intruders breached some of the most secure parts of the Capitol building in pursuit of elected officials, who had to flee for their own safety. Explosives were found nearby at the headquarters of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees. A television crew from the Associated Press had their equipment stolen and destroyed. Five people died, including a woman who was shot by police outside the House chamber.

But most shocking of all was the ease with which this group of violent insurrectionists threatened officials, broke through police lines, smashed their way into the heart of our government, and in many cases simply walked out without a care in the world.

Imagine if the people storming the Capitol were Black. Compare the timid response to this assault with the overwhelming show of force at more peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies in Washington, D.C., and we are left with so many questions. Why were police taking selfies with the intruders and reportedly giving them directions, on a day when one of their own colleagues was killed defending the building? Why were two Washington Post reporters arrested while doing their jobs? Why did it take hours for the National Guard to get called in to deal with an insurrection? Why were requests for support reportedly denied by the Department of Defense? Why, in short, was any of this allowed to happen?

The government’s response to this coup attempt will determine the future of our democracy—and the likelihood of similar events in the future. Many have issued calls for national healing and reconciliation in the wake of this horrific event, but that can’t happen while so many questions remain unanswered. Without truth and accountability, there can be no justice. Without justice, there will never be peace.