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The U.S. had an earlier coup before Jan. 6. Here’s the story


A common perception of the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol is that it was the first time in American history that a band of criminals tried to stage a coup d’état against the U.S. government.

We’re used to coups, both successful and unsuccessful, occurring in banana republics and authoritarian regimes. The idea of a coup in a democracy like ours was shocking. But it shouldn’t have been. Jan. 6 was the second coup in American history. The first occurred back in 1898, in Wilmington, North Carolina. Nor should it come as a surprise that the people who pulled of that coup were of the same ilk as those who attempted the Jan. 6 coup. “White militias – including a group known as the Red Shirts, so named for their uniforms – rode around on horseback attacking black people and intimidating would-be voters,” reports the BBC.

The 1898 coup plotters were egged on –just as the Jan. 6 rioters were egged on by trump—by a white nationalist rabble-rouser named Alfred Moore Waddell, who “gave a speech demanding that white men ‘do your duty’ and look for black people voting.” The phrase “do your duty” is precisely the kind of incitement that trump gave to the Jan. 6 crowd, immediately prior to the assault on our government. “We are going to have to fight much harder,” he harangued them, adding, “Let’s walk down to the Capitol.”

What prompted the white militias of 1898 to engage in their coup? The era was Reconstruction. The South had lost the Civil War. Republicans had outlawed slavery and passed numerous laws granting freedom and civil rights to Black people. Southerners bitterly resented this intrusion into what they regarded as their “state’s rights,” and nowhere were they more upset than in North Carolina, where Reconstructionists had taken over state government. The Democratic Party back then was the party of white supremacy. With November elections just days away, North Carolina’s racists feared that Blacks would consolidate their power. In urging his crowd to “do your duty,” Waddell gave them this explicit instruction concerning Black people: “And if you find one, tell him to leave the polls and if he refuses, kill, shoot him down in his tracks. We shall win tomorrow if we have to do it with guns.”

That prompted the rebellion. Two thousand white supremacist militia members stormed the city, “expelled opposition Black and White political leaders…destroyed the property and businesses of Black citizens…and killed an estimated 60-300 people…”. It was, says Wikipedia, “the violent overthrow of a duly elected government.”

The coup plotters of Jan. 6 were the mental descendants of the 1898 coup criminals. They even had the same color, red, for their marking: 1898 was red shirts, 2021 was red MAGA hats. Same old same old: pissed off, angry, fearful white men, willing, even eager, to resort to violence in order to bring about their illicit ends. The irony today is that, for all their complaining and fear-mongering about the radical left and Antifa, it’s always white supremacists that launch coups d’état against the U.S.A.

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