By Maya Shavit '22
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
On January 6, 2021, an insurrection beyond the wildest dreams of American citizens overran the Capitol building. While Congress members were doing their sworn duty to carry out the wishes of the people, a riot was initiated. This riot was the first of its kind, as the United States Capitol building had not been physically damaged since 1814.
The Capitol building is home to American artwork that follows the history of its people over the time span of hundreds of years. Despite the worries of art historians and civilians alike, including the frescos that adorn the ceiling of the structure, most of the art was not affected by the riot. Multiple pictures were taken off the wall and stolen, but an official count of affected art pieces is yet to be released by the Capitol’s top art curators.
However, the works that were damaged or not accounted for, including the building itself, were intentionally destroyed with charged passion.
Among the pieces of work impacted was the bust of President Zachary Taylor that was covered with what curators assumed to be blood. Many rioters taped their vandalization and posted footage to their social media accounts during the insurrection. Americans can see images of one rioter stuffing an image of the Dalai Lama into his backpack and another of a man smoking marajuana in a room with a map of Oregon on its wall. With a simple web search, any person can find a plethora of surreal images of these disgraceful moments and others.
The greatest piece of artwork the rioters vandalized was likely the building itself. The Capitol’s construction began in the late 1700s under the leadership of Dr. William Thornton, but lasted until 1826 when Boston architect Charles Bulfinch finished construction. At the unprecedented riot, multiple windows were smashed and a number of protestors scaled inner and outer walls.
To commemorate this tragic moment in American history, Anthony Veerkamp, a former director of policy development for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told The New York Times that some physical damages should be kept as-is to serve “as a reminder that our monuments, our institutions, and our values are all vulnerable, and must be constantly cared for.” Nevertheless, the rioters must not get the message that they won in any way by inciting the violence and damaging treasured historical pieces.