There have been few events to unfold on live television that will be seared so indelibly into the nation’s collective memory as Wednesday’s mob assault on the Capitol building and Congress. The 9/11 attacks, of course, is one. But even that tragedy was inflicted on the country from without and was an assault on every American regardless of race, creed, political belief or any other distinction among us.
Horrifyingly, the storming of the Capitol by a crowd of President Trump’s supporters, who had been whipped into a frenzy by Trump, so-called attorney Rudolph Giuliani and others of Trump’s sycophantic enablers at a rally on the National Mall and sent off by them to march on Congress, was an attack on the nation and its values from within, by those claiming the very undemocratic right to impose their views on the nation when they had failed to do so at the ballot box or by other legal means. The immediate consequences were shocking — who can forget images of Vice President Mike Pence, senators and representatives being hustled to safety, of the Confederate flag being carried through the halls of Congress, of windows being smashed and congressional offices being looted? And they were tragic, with at least five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.
Now, in the aftermath, there surely must be other consequences as well. These should include holding accountable those responsible for inciting the rioting. Certainly, too, the response of law enforcement to the violence must be thoroughly examined, particularly when compared to how lawful and, in some instances, unlawful social-justice protesting last year was handled. And, without question, every one of the lawbreaking mob should be tracked down and suffer all appropriate consequences for their actions, including prosecution.
Which brings us to the case of Troy Police Chief David Ellis and calls for his resignation. Based on information available to date, Ellis attended Wednesday’s rally on the Mall at which Trump spoke and did so on his own personal time, without purporting to represent Troy or its police department. He also was quoted by N.H. Public Radio as stating he did not follow the mob all the way to the Capitol grounds, but instead headed off to begin his journey home. That involvement, and perhaps his strong pro-Trump views that he has not shied from expressing, led N.H. Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley to call for Ellis to step down, and Troy selectboard Chairman Richard Thackston told The Sentinel he had been contacted by several dozen, mostly from outside Troy, calling for the chief to be fired.
In response, Thackston has expressed support for Ellis and was quoted by NHPR as stating that “any public servant has the right to participate in political events without fear of loss of employment.” We couldn’t agree more. That said, the Troy selectboard owes it to the town to ascertain that the chief’s involvement was only what it so far appears to be. Assuming it was, there’s no reason his peacefully attending a protest rally should force him out of his job.
Our democracy — at least as understood by most of the country, though not by those who rampaged through the Capitol this week — is meant to tolerate and encourage a wide and peaceful expression of views. Everyone brings their experiences and opinions to their jobs, but, in the case of Ellis, it’s whether he acts appropriately in his professional capacity that matters.
If that weren’t the case, then, sadly, our democracy would not be as strong as the country’s founders intended, and Wednesday’s assault on Congress wouldn’t be as shocking and vile as it was.