World Leaders React to Insurrection at U.S. Capitol


New York Times

Clockwise from top left: Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany; Clarín, Argentina; La Repubblica, Italy; The Chosun Ilbo, Korea; Adresseavisen, Norway; Dainik Bhaskar, India.

Hannah Connell, Co-Editor in Chief

An assault on American democracy sparks outrage from world leaders and undermines our nation’s image as a beacon for democracy. On January 6, 2021, scenes of domestic terrorists storming the Capitol were televised around the world. Americans and citizens abroad watched in horror as the events unfolded; documenting the darkest day of national politics in decades. The Tower investigates the media’s representation of the insurrection and the ripple effects it has on the world.

Britain: Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson condemned the ‘disgraceful scenes’ at the U.S. Capitol during a press conference Wednesday; calling for a “peaceful and orderly transfer of power.” UK politicians from both parties condemned Trump for encouraging the violent mob. Home Secretary Priti Patel held Trump personally responsible for comments that “directly led” to the insurrection; adding, “he didn’t do anything to de-escalate [the violence].” 

China: The riots at the Capitol came less than a day after 50 pro-democracy activists were arrested in Hong Kong. Supporters of the Chinese Communist Party used Wednesday’s events as an opportunity to bolster authoritarian control. “There are no rules at all and no respect for the law,” said one Chinese web user, “this is the ‘democracy’ they boast about.” Chinese state-media outlets have been quick to compare the Capitol riots to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests that occurred in 2019. For pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, the events at the Capitol undermine their efforts to advocate for democracy. There is growing concern among world leaders of continuing violence in Washington D.C. The Chinese Embassy has advised Beijing nationals to “exercise caution before going to public places.”

European leaders were shocked at the scenes from the Capitol of their democratic ally nation. French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement on the day of the riots exclaiming, “What happened today in Washington D.C. this is not America …We believe in the strength of American democracy.” Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte said, “Violence is incompatible with the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms.” He added, like many leaders, that he believes U.S. governing institutions are robust enough to withstand the assault. For Italian historians, the violence in Washington D.C. is eerily reminiscent of the rise of fascism that shaped the 1930s. The chaos at the Capitol evoked similar feelings of anger and sadness in German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany: Frank Walter Steinmeier, president of Germany denounced the violent riots saying, “The images have shaken us. We had to see how vulnerable even the oldest and most powerful democracy in the world is. These scenes we have seen, they are the result of lies and more lies, of division and contempt for democracy, of hatred and hatred incitement, even from the very highest level.” 

Canada: Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau was troubled by Wednesday’s riots saying, “As shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly saddening as that event remains, we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence has no place in our societies, and extremists will not succeed in overruling the will of the people.”

Venezuela: U.S. adversaries also shared their opinions, “With this unfortunate episode, the United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression,” Venezuela’s Ministry for Foreign Relations said.

Iran: “What happened in the U.S. shows how fragile Western democracy is,” … “When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates troubles for the world.” This was President Hassan Rouhani’s address on state-run television; highlighting the tense international relations since Trump took office in 2016.

Americans watched as images of violence flashed across their television screens; many feeling waves of shame and distress. For the more than 44 million immigrants living in the U.S., the events at the Capitol triggered complicated emotions. For decades, the U.S. has been a beacon of democracy and opportunity. Refugees that fled their home country seeking the promise of democracy are reminded of scenes of insurgency in their own countries. Many Americans are now asking themselves, is this the democracy America promised?