Before January 6th
Dear Friends and Family,
Today is the day we will learn details about the first well-organized, well-armed, well-financed and executed attempt to overthrow our democracy. To be sure, there have been other attempts — Wilmington Massacre of 1898 and the Wall Street Putsch of 1933 — but neither of those rose to the same level of planning and execution that we saw on January 6, 2021.
The Wilmington Massacre was carried out by a gang of white supremacist who wanted to take back the government from recently elected Black officials even if they had “to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” And they did.
Using a Colt machine gun capable of firing four hundred and twenty bullets a minute, they killed up to 60 Black men and forced city officials, including the police chief, to resign. That coup was confined to Wilmington, North Carolina and kept secret for 100 years.
The Wall Street Putsch, however, was a planned attack on the sitting president, FDR. As Sally Denton writes:
In a climate of conspiracies and intrigues, and against the backdrop of charismatic dictators in the world such as Hitler and Mussolini, the sparks of anti-Rooseveltism ignited into full-fledged hatred. Many American intellectuals and business leaders saw nazism and fascism as viable models for the US. The rise of Hitler and the explosion of the Nazi revolution, which frightened many European nations, struck a chord with prominent American elites and antisemites such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. Hitler’s elite Brownshirts — a mass body of party storm troopers separate from the 100,000-man German army — was a stark symbol to the powerless American masses. Mussolini’s Blackshirts — the military arm of his organization made up of 200,000 soldiers — were a potent image of strength to a nation that felt emasculated.
A divided country and FDR’s emboldened powerful enemies made the plot to overthrow him seem plausible. With restless uncertainty, volatile protests and ominous threats, America’s right wing was inspired to form its own paramilitary organizations. Militias sprung up throughout the land, their self-described “patriots” chanting: “This is despotism! This is tyranny!”
The coup was sponsored by a group who controlled $40bn in assets — about $800bn today — and who had $300m available to support the coup and pay the veterans. The plotters had men, guns and money — the three elements that make for successful wars and revolutions.
The group failed because its leaders selected the wrong retired general to lead the coup. Rather than go along with the plan, US Marine Corps Major General Butler reported it to J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI, who reported it to FDR and the coup was stopped before it began.
So, yes, there have been other well-planned, well-financed, well-armed insurrections, but none have come so close to destroying our democracy as did the one on January 26, 2021.
Now, finally, we are going to hear the details of that coup attempt. I hope we will listen and learn.
Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and loved, most important loved.
Originally published at https://www.lesliepoynor.com on June 9, 2022.