Immigrant Journalists Reflect on DC Insurrection

Journalists Mark Kurlyandchik and Ali Harb talk share their perspectives regarding the Jan. 6 violence that erupted in Washington DC.

Watching the events of the violent coup attempt in Washington was hard for most of us. But, it was even harder for immigrants who left the countries of their birth fleeing oppressive regimes.

“It’s sort of the ultimate disappointment in a place that you thought was going to deliver better.” — Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press

Many of them came to America because this was supposed to be a place with a strong democracy that would not easily fall into autocracy. This is a country of free and fair elections that result in peaceful transitions of power. But — at least for a few hours — what was flashing before our eyes on TV was more like the failed states many of these immigrants wanted to leave behind.

Listen: Two immigrants from southeastern Michigan share their perspectives on the Capitol insurrection.


Mark Kurlyandchik is a Detroit Free Press restaurant critic. He wrote an op-ed in the Free Press titled, “My family fled the Soviet Union 30 years ago to avoid days like Jan. 6.” Kurlyandchik says that this moment of division and violence in the United States is “sort of the ultimate disappointment in a place that you thought was going to deliver better.”

He recalls the uncertainty of leaving his home country as a young person in search of something better. “We had fled one regime for the hope and promise of freedom and stability in one country only to be faced with the same images of chaos and instability,” says Kurlyandchik of his internalization of the events that played out in early January. 

Ali Harb is writer and reporter for the Middle East Eye based in Washington D.C., who covered the violent pro-Trump mob at the Capitol. He wrote a piece for Middle East Eye titled, “Our house’: Inside the Maga riot that rocked America.” 
“If I were to compare the MAGA riot to the Lebanon protests that I covered late in 2019, an incredible contrast emerges. In Lebanon, which has a very weak and fragile state, the protesters couldn’t get within a mile” of the seat of power, says Harb. As a journalist covering the insurrection in DC, Harb was able to talk with a man named Kevin that day, who was parading the Confederate flag around the Capitol. “This is a person who is holding up a symbol of racism… It was one of those moments where I couldn’t stay out of the picture as a person of color,” says Harb. 

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