Watching what unfolded in Washington D.C. on Wednesday night from thousands of kilometres away, Sonya Hilsendager said she felt “embarrassed as an American citizen.”
Hilsendager, who is from Houston, Texas and now owns a business in North Battleford, said her embarrassment quickly turned to anger and disappointment.
“I couldn't believe that people would do that,” she said. “So many emotions going on, it is happening so quickly that it was overwhelming.”
The feeling she says she did not experience was surprise, watching a mob of people storm the Capitol Building, break windows and eventually make their way inside.
“This has always been here,” she said of the vitriol and division that exists in American politics and society. “But it was masked, it was hidden.”
Marcus Grundahl was born and raised in Saskatoon, but holds dual citizenship after going to school at Columbia University in New York studying international affairs, and living there for nearly 20 years.
He says he was glued to the television on Wednesday, first to get updates on President-elect Joe Biden’s certification and then to witness the ensuing riots.
“My old classmate from school and friend, Elissa Slotkin, she is a congresswoman from Michigan,” he said. “And so I was eager to see her, anytime they have something on TV. And then the panic hit once the mobs hit congress and, you know, my concern for her.”
Grundahl says he’s familiar with the Capitol Building, having to lobby with members of congress and the senate for his schooling.
“I know the layout of the Capitol, and so I kind of knew where they were going to take most of them, which is the Hart Building, which is where most of the senators have their offices. It's an underground, actually a little train commute, and walkway.”
University of Saskatchewan political studies lecturer Jason Zorba believes authorities in Washington D.C. weren’t “prepared for the mob to attack the Capitol Buidling,” explaining the apparent ease at which they were able to get inside.
“I think the police weren't prepared for it, lawmakers obviously weren't prepared for it on both sides. Democrats, Republicans, nobody anticipated that the mob would actually turn violent and turn on the buildings themselves,” he said.
Hilsendager points to the Black Lives Matter protests, and ensuing reaction from law enforcement at the same location, as reasons why they should have been more prepared.
“If you look at that and then you look at yesterday, and you compare the difference in what how law enforcement were in full force for Black Lives Matter, where yesterday they weren't there's something there. And people can deny it all they want to, but it's there.”
With just under two weeks until the inauguration of Biden, there’s uncertainty as to what are the right steps to take and what could happen next.
“When something tragic happens like this, we have to all kind of be the parents in this,” said Grundahl. “We have those moments, but we have to go ‘Okay, what are the next steps, what do we do together.’ And I think Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the right people to make that and help the country mend.”
“I'm really afraid on the day of the inauguration there will be people there who are going to still have issues and probably do some rioting and looting like they did yesterday,” said Hilsendager. “One of the things that was questioned on the news last night is, ‘Is this is this the end, or is this the beginning?’ We don't know.”