The country watched in shock last week as a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in an effort to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. During the insurrection, the Confederate flag was paraded around the Capitol, Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s mail was stolen from her desk, and a tribute to late civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis was destroyed. Five people ultimately died as a result of the riot, including a Capitol Police officer.
While the Washington Post reported that dozens of people have since been arrested for their involvement and the FBI has issued an open call for information related to the event, it was quickly apparent that the pro-Trump mob was treated quite differently than the Black Lives Matter protestors who flooded the nation’s streets last summer. As President-elect Joe Biden said, “No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”
In the aftermath of the chaos, Helena Duke, an 18-year-old Massachusetts high schooler, retweeted a video that she says showed her mother among the crowd outside the Capitol. “hi mom,” Helena wrote, “remember the time you told me I shouldn’t go to BLM protests bc they could get violent… this you?” Her tweet quickly racked up more than 79,000 retweets and 410,000 likes, as many applauded the young woman for calling out her mother. Teen Vogue caught up with Helena to talk to her about Wednesday’s events, going viral, and what she thinks comes next for the country.
Teen Vogue: How did you find out your mother was part of the group at the Capitol?
Helena Duke: My cousin sent me the video of my mom [allegedly] harassing that woman and then getting punched in the face. I was in disbelief and it felt very surreal that she was actually there and the woman in that viral video was my mother. It was very overwhelming.
TV: What made you want to send that viral tweet?
HD: Definitely it was the fact that during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, I was told by my mother that I wasn’t allowed to go because she believed BLM was a violent organization…and the fact that she ended up going to [what became a] violent storming of the Capitol, harassing a woman and getting punched in the face, but when I went to peaceful protests, nothing happened to me.
[Teen Vogue reached out to Helena’s mother, Therese Duke, for comment. Helena’s cousin also identified Theresa Duke as the woman in the video.]
TV: What did you think when you found out about the siege of the Capitol on Wednesday? How do you feel about it now?
HD: I think a lot of people were in denial that there is a very serious racial inequality problem in our justice system. The extreme police brutality we have seen, especially [over the past] year towards African American people, while these predominantly white people have pictures and videos of them being escorted peacefully out by the police officers — I think the fact that there is this double standard is so obvious. Like, wow, America has really come to this. And the fact that our president replied to this violent attack telling these people that he loves and supports them was very disheartening. [It’s hard] to believe there are people that still stand by that man.