Proteus Fund Statement:
Siege of the U.S. Capitol & the State of American Democracy

As we saw in the January 6th siege of the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob–and law enforcement’s response to it–American democracy is in tatters. Since the November election, we have witnessed a coordinated attempt at a coup for the first time in American history. This moment is the culmination of unbroken centuries of white supremacy coupled with a parallel long-brewing anti-democratic/pro-authoritarian streak in our population, politics and politicians. 

 

Fascism is defined as “a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, and insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.”

The events leading up to and manifested by the takeover of the U.S. Capitol, especially when contrasted to the police response to Black Lives Matters and other racial-justice protests, should make it clear that we are dealing with a coordinated mobilization of white supremacist fascism. It is nothing less than this –the videos don’t lie.

Fundamental democratic norms and institutions have been battered by the events and inaction of the last four years. Despite this, in no small part due to the work of decades of judicial independence advocacy, federal and state supreme courts have followed the rule of law, and did not bow to political pressure to undermine this third branch of our democratic system.

As if to demonstrate just how pernicious this movement has become, several states, including Florida, are actually using the events of this week to introduce or re-introduce legislation to criminalize peaceful protest. In fact, in the last four years, 40 statehouses have introduced bills to severely restrict and even criminalize peaceful protest and dissent. We cannot allow elected officials or security forces to criminalize social-justice protesters peacefully demonstrating against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and inequality.

Although we all have much urgent work ahead to build an inclusive, multi-racial and robust democracy, the following immediate actions are essential to ensure accountability, the rule of law and protection of democratic norms and institutions:

  • The Vice President of the United States and the Cabinet should immediately invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office based on his role in undermining the electoral process, including fomenting the violent actions that led to the siege of the U.S. Capitol.
  • The Congress should also impeach and convict the President on charges of insurrection, sedition and incitement to insurrection, sedition and violence–18 U.S. Code Chapter 115.
  • Congress should censure those Members who supported the unconstitutional, baseless and reckless efforts to overturn the electoral votes of particular states, thus attempting to disenfranchise tens of millions of American voters and legislate a coup.
  • The new Congress and the incoming President and Vice President must work with all deliberate speed on a comprehensive and transparent inquiry of the events of this week to fully understand who and what failed to protect the entire elected Congress of the country, including the growing presence of white supremacists and other fascistic actors within police and other government security forces.
  • The incoming President and Vice President must work with the new Congress to quickly develop and pass a series of reforms–with deep input from democracy advocates–to strengthen all critical elements of our democratic institutions; see, for example, the last Congressional session’s For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

This moment must serve as a wake-up call to American philanthropy to prioritize the building of an inclusive, multiracial and robust democracy at every level of government. This will be the only effective antidote to the rise of white supremacist fascism. This is not and cannot be classified as “partisan work” or any other characterization that enables inaction.

If we fail to take the necessary actions and confront another moment like this in the future, the chances are better than not that that it will succeed. The question for philanthropy is: Is this a risk we are willing to take?

Paul Di Donato

President & CEO

The Proteus Fund

Open Letter: Philanthropies Condemn Political Violence, Call on Leaders to Protect Democracy and Get Back to the People’s Business

As representatives of nonpartisan philanthropic institutions, serving rural, urban, and suburban communities across the nation, we condemn the violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol this week. The events in Washington are a stain on our nation’s history and a painful break in the peaceful transition of power that has been a defining hallmark of American democracy for more than 200 years.