'History repeating itself': Immigrants know what political violence looks like. Capitol riot has many shaken.

‘History repeating itself’: Immigrants know what political violence looks like. Capitol riot has many shaken.

Originally Published in USA Today

N'dea Yancey Bragg and Michelle Hanks - January 8, 2021

WASHINGTON – Vesna Jaksic Lowe expressed frustration that her American-born friends were surprised when rioters supporting President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol after "four years of nothing but warning signs."

When she was 13, her parents saw the signs of growing political tension and decided to leave Yugoslavia just months before civil war broke out.

This moment is a good opportunity for Americans to learn from immigrants and refugees, said Jaksic Lowe, a nonprofit communications consultant who also runs a newsletter on writing by immigrants.

"As immigrants, we know that fascism and nationalism and racism and the culmination of violence that it often leads to can happen everywhere," said Jaksic Lowe, who now lives in Connecticut. "I don't think we have this American exceptionalism that blinds us from seeing that.

"It’s sad to see history repeating itself all over again."

After months of Trump refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election, thousands of rioters overwhelmed police and breached the Capitol in an unprecedented assault on the Democratic process Wednesday, resulting in at least five deaths and more than 60 arrests, according to police.

Wisam Asal, 53, said he moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, from Iraq as a refugee in 2010 because his city was unsafe and some of his friends had been killed and kidnapped. Asal, co-owner of the Jasmine International Store, said the chaos was "unbelievable."

"We usually see these things happen like in other countries," he said. "I think it was no safer what happened here or in my country."

Felix Stetsenko said he felt a "deep pit" in his stomach as he watched a livestream of rioters storming the building from his home in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington. Stetsenko, a consultant who works in the transportation industry, said he has seen violence like that in Ukraine, from where his parents emigrated from, but never thought it could happen here.



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