Note: New update including a statement from Peter one year later
Yesterday, DC and the nation were rocked by pro-Trump protesters/rioters/terrorists/insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol and broke inside in face of a woefully prepared (or worse) U.S Capitol Police force while Congress was debating the electoral college vote. This was upsetting to the majority of the country and certainly DC residents, particularly to see how these folks were treated compared to the violent show of force by DC Police and Federal forces this June at Lafayette Park and elsewhere in DC.
In the midst of this, a video shot by Norwegian journalist Veronica Westhrin went viral of a White DC resident yelling at Trump protesters to “Get the fuck outta town! Fucking treasonous pieces of shit!” and then engaging with a Black woman driving a vehicle about the clear racial disparities in how the authorities treated (“And it’s like nobody gives a shit! If that was Black Lives Matter there would be tanks roling down Pennsylvania Avenue! But they let these fucking crackers take over the goddamn Capitol….What the fuck is that?) (Here’s a short clip at the beginning cut off from the original video and a short clip at the end with more from the woman.)
The raw anger and emotion exhibited by the man and woman resonated with hundreds of thousands of people, being seen millions of times.
Using some Internet sleuth skills, I discovered (in about 10 minutes) the porch man’s identity is Peter Tracey, Senior Counsel (formerly a law firm partner) at the Big law firm Perkins Coie. I sent him an email last night with the Subject line: “Hero to all” and the body solely consisting of “Thank you.” He replied this morning: “Thank you, yesterday was a tough day but we got through it.” I followed up to see if he was interesting in speaking further about everything and to my surprise he called me to talk. Here’s what he had to say (not verbatim completely; bold is my emphasis):
“I agreed with the Mayor’s guidance that we should not engage. But I saw this couple walking back with the Trump flag unfurled. I just let them have it. I have done that a couple times at these last couple rallies and have let my thoughts be known. But it just happened that a Norwegian TV crew was outside and filmed the whole thing.
My general impression that this gave people a little bit of lift on a very bad day. I’m happy with it because everything I said is what I believe. I think the issue…needs to be focused on the disparity between the way that people of color would have been treated had they done the same thing versus the kid glove treatment that these guys got yesterday. I think that tells you all you need to know about the fundamental problems in this country. People say they broke in, but they actually acted like they owned the Capitol and pretty much were treated that way. As opposed to people of color who would have been beaten, shot, and absolutely massacred after something like that. That to me, is the fundamental issue that is going on here.
I just hope with the new administration coming in that people of color and White allies step up and really put this on the agenda because this has got to be addressed.
We’re so lucky here in DC. We got problems. We’re a diverse community. Yes there are tensions. Yes it’s not perfect. We have the advantage of regularly living among different backgrounds than us and I think we grow by that. Then these knuckleheads that come from out of town and they think they run the world and it’s so distressing.
When you live in DC you have to expect that people are going to protest that think differently than you…I get that. But the way this administration has handled this has been disastrous from soup to nuts and, at a certain point, and I think they crossed that point yesterday, everyone is basically complicit in crimes. I just hope that the city and Feds in the new administration be aggressive about pursuing these people….
This is exactly what white privilege is. You know what? I had white privilege to be able to sit there and scream that crap. I get that. But at the same time…nice thing about our neighborhood is that cars are close enough that I can talk to the people in the cars from my porch… I understand and I agree with guidance we got from city to not engage. Trump was looking for any excuse for a confrontation to do something like that to invoke the Insurrection Act. But I just let them have it.
I grew up in New England. One of my ex brothers-in-law came to this rally…Apparently he’s fallen into this weird QAnon, Democrats taking small children thing. He’s falling into this hole. It’s not that I have no connection to this. It’s sad to me. At same time you got to put your foot down…I noticed that the only people…who are raising the disparate treatment on TV are all Black people. White people need to be be talking about and engaging. Big mission of this next administration.”
Note I asked him if his fellow firm lawyer, Democratic Party elections lawyer Marc Elias had anything to say; he said he had not heard from him but all of his other colleagues who talked to him had no problem with it. UPDATE: In an email later today, Tracey stated “By the way, Marc Elias and other colleagues I have heard from at the firm have all been very supportive, and while my language may have been a little colorful, the values involved clearly are fully shared.” I also asked him whether he would be interested in running for DC mayor as people on the Internet had suggested. He talked about his experience litigating with DDOT over a historic tree that ended up being cut down and seemed to say he won’t do more than keep up with the local ANC. He also told me he is not a drinker currently, but does enjoy regular Coca Cola.
UPDATE 1/6/22: I asked Peter if he had any thoughts to share one year later:
It’s hard to believe that a year has already gone by since the January 6 Insurrection. Shawntia Humphries (aka “Woman in Car”) had dinner on Tuesday night and spent some time catching up. While January 6 was a terrible day in many respects, one bright spot was that I met Shawntia, and we have become good friends.
I’m traveling on business this week, and today I’m writing from western Missouri, which is about as “Red State” as you can get. Driving out from Kansas City yesterday afternoon, I saw Trump flags, Confederate flags, and “Let’s Go Brandon” flags. The local radio stations are full of denunciations of the current Administration and nostalgia for “the last guy.” That said, they do have Lil Nas X on their playlists out here, so perhaps there is some hope for humanity.
I have decidedly mixed feelings about the course of events over the past year. I am profoundly grateful that the Biden Administration has restored competence, decency, and democratic principles as elements upon which the federal government operates. I no longer have to wake up in the morning worrying about racist, xenophobic, and morally obscene tweets emanating from the White House. While COVID remains an ongoing problem (in large part because the prior Administration’s initial response was so grossly negligent), we are now addressing it through science, as opposed to recommending that people inject themselves with bleach. The country is at peace for the first time in a generation. With the Build Back Better program, we potentially have the elements for the greatest societal advancements since the Great Society.
And yet, we continue to face many challenges. Perhaps first and foremost is the war on voting rights that has become the flagship issue of the Trump Republican Party. Unfortunately, at the federal level much-needed legislation is currently held hostage to the questionable judgment and motives of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. The ringleaders of the January 6 Insurrection in the White House and the Congress need to be brought to justice, and I question whether the current leadership of the Justice Department is up to the task.
I could go on, but you see my point. I’m fundamentally an optimist. I remember the traumas of 1968, the Viet Nam War, Watergate, and September 11, 2001. I suppose that January 6 has now moved into that category. On that day, I was just a guy yelling on a porch, but Shawntia and I connected in a very meaningful way. And despite all of the many issues that we have to face, I truly believe that the future can be bright if we each take an active role in our democracy, stand up for our values, and do our part as citizens.