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Recent immigrants in Vermont take stock of Capitol riot

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 5:22 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:52 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Wednesday marked two weeks since the violent attacks in Washington. While the theme at Wednesday’s inauguration was healing and unity, the images from the mob taking over the U.S. Capitol still linger. Our Ike Bendavid spoke with Vermonters who emigrated to America to get their take on the current state of the country.

Ahmed Arem says he came to the United States in 2009 from Iraq seeking freedom. “I don’t have any freedom there,” he said through a translator. “Here, in United States, they have everything.”

Arem says the riots in the nation’s capital were shocking. But compared to his home, he believes that the United States has a system of accountability for those responsible. “He is saying that this isn’t like Iraq. This is the United States. These people can’t get away with what they did because we have a court system, we have Supreme Court, judiciary branches.”

“Wow, I was surprised,” said Dodit Tshimbamba, who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He says there is shock in the community of new Americans that now call Vermont home. That shock, he says, was a reflection of why many people left their home country. “When I saw that here I was like, okay the country we have taken as the model, the country we have learned everything -- and it can do the same thing that we don’t like to see in our country,” he said.

Islam Hassan, the Imam for the Islamic Society of Vermont, says that members of their community have also been reflecting on the recent events. “It has been a tough time for everyone here, especially for the immigration community,” he said. “A lot of people were telling their children when they saw the riots at the Capitol -- all these images were something that we actually ran away from and we didn’t expect to see them here happening.”

Hassan says in his home country of Egypt, the media reports of what happened have been celebratory against America. “Here is the American democracy they have been bugging us with -- look at them, this is what is happening, they are storming their capital,” he said.

Hassan says he denounces those views and that even if it looks a little different right now, he believes in American unity. “We hope law and order will prevail and things will be back to normal. We are happy to say everything is secured in our nation’s capital, but in the meantime, we are a little sad that we have to see 25,000 thousand troops in the nation’s capital, in our own homeland,” he said.

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