6th form SGA leaders react to Capitol riots

From+left+to+right%3A+Co-President+Sasjha+Mayfield+%2721%2C+Co-President+Andrew+Chirieleison+%2721%2C+Rep.+Jamie+Olson+%2721%2C+Rep.+Poppy+Otten+%2721.+Student+headshots+courtesy+of+The+Headmaster%27s+Office

From left to right: Co-President Sasjha Mayfield ’21, Co-President Andrew Chirieleison ’21, Rep. Jamie Olson ’21, Rep. Poppy Otten ’21. Student headshots courtesy of The Headmaster’s Office

*Editor’s Note: After the insurgences at the Capitol and subsequent coverage of the events led to significant social media uproar around the country and the world, The Hill News contacted SGA 6th form leaders for a statement or interview regarding their point of view on current events as well as how it relates back to the student body. 

SGA Co-President Sasjha Mayfield  ’21:

Los Angeles, CA

*This interview was conducted over phone on the evening of Jan. 6

In the past, you’ve been a pretty outspoken leader on campus. What do you have to say about what has been going on all day?

Firstly, I would like to put it into perspective and say that it is a show of the systemic racism in this country that Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home and right-wing extremist terrorists broke into the Capitol Building and the National Guard was only deployed maybe 30 minutes ago. I think that is a really important perspective to take. 

It is so telling of the Republican Party and Trump supporters that for months all they’ve been talking about is wanting a free and fair election and shouting voter fraud and election fraud but on the day that we’re going to get a solidified answer and the day that the voices of the people are going to speak, they break into the Capitol showing that they don’t actually care about the citizens of this country having a democracy but just having their way or nothing at all. They would rather become violent against the country than see everyone’s voices heard. 

What do you think this means for Hill? 

I’m really happy to see on Instagram that so many students are paying attention to the news and calling this what it is– an attempted coup and a disgusting show of disdain and contempt for American democracy– and I would like to think that some of that had to do with the preparation we had and having some of these conversations at school, but I also think we didn’t talk about it enough. To be blatant and frank, Will Thompson and Will Lesko, President and Vice President of the YRC declining to make a comment at all… I always like to say standing for something is better than nothing at all and I feel like we can do a better job at Hill at preparing students to back up their opinions and their political beliefs.

*Editor’s Note: At the time of this interview (6:15 p.m. EST, Jan. 6), Thompson and Lesko had both declined to make a statement on behalf of the Young Republicans. By 10 p.m., Cooper Sugden ’21 and Izzy Tabarrini ’21 sent The Hill News a statement from the club but Thompson and Lesko remained with their initial decision. The following night (Jan. 7) on the  Transcendence podcast, the YRC along with the YDSA and YDC issued live statements. In a follow-up conversation with Mayfield on Jan. 11, she requested to maintain her earlier statements. See all club statements here.

I’m glad we’re not on campus for this. I think the election, obviously a very charged time, and we weren’t able to have effective political discourse the way I and so many others would have liked to have happened. I think being at home for this is so much better because it allows us more perspective since we’re not in a bubble but it also shows us who took things away from the conversations we had at school and who didn’t.  

SGA Co-President Andrew Chirieleison ’21: 

Pottstown, PA

It was disheartening to watch the tragic events that unfolded yesterday. The storming of the Capitol Building is an embarrassment to our country. Those who participated yesterday did not conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the values and standards of our nation’s finest ideals. We must do better, and it starts with holding each other accountable and taking the necessary steps to move forward and grow inclusively as a nation. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were affected by yesterday’s events and the aftermath.

SGA 6th Form Senator Jamie Olson ’21:

Boyertown, PA

*This interview was conducted over phone on the evening of Jan. 6

What were your general impressions while watching the events at the Capitol and, as a student leader, what would you like to say to the student body?

I’m happy and relieved to see most of my conservative peers at school condemning what has been going

on but I am kind of shocked and appalled to see that some people are in support of what has taken place because it’s not a partisan issue of left vs. right this is an issue of democracy, really. It really is an insurgence; there’s nothing else to call it. What this is showing is that the people who are partaking in this would rather live under this president than live in a democracy and that’s scary. It’s important for people on this side of the political spectrum who claim to support the rule of law and the constitution so much… it’s so contradictory to go back on that and throw it all away. It makes me wonder what some people’s true intentions and priorities are. I challenge people to, no matter who they support politically, to understand that this is not normal and that democracy was put under threat today. I’m kind of at a loss for words. 

Your work with the SGA has been particularly focused on fostering healthy discourse this year with the election and racial injustice on everyone’s’ minds. What does this experience tell you about what’s going on today? Is the goal the same?

For the presidential election, I was willing to listen to other people’s political beliefs if I find them valid and civil and we really tried to promote civil discourse during that time but today, anyone who supports or agrees with what has happened today… those views will never be valid. As an educated member of society, they should be better than that. At the moment there’s really no discourse to be had. 

Headmaster Lehman released a statement earlier this afternoon. In your eyes, how do you think the administration reacted?

Yeah. I believe they learned their lesson from the summer and the Instagram incident. I’m glad he got the message across; I think that was the right thing to do. I think the school has an obligation to react to something like this because today is history. If someone tried to make an argument that it isn’t enough than I would listen but I have no negative comments for this statement. I’m glad the school feels this way and it’s a viewpoint that I stand behind as well.

At the time of the interview, Olson said that the SGA had no plans to hold an event or meeting like they had planned on in November. but stated he would reach out to other leaders to discuss the possibility. 

SGA 6th Form Senator Poppy Otten ’21:

Amsterdam, Netherlands

*This statement was also submitted in video form and posted on our Instagram. Watch the full clip in our Jan. 6 story highlight here.

“Yesterday, we once again saw that democracy is a fragile institution. It is an institution that requires respect and integrity. It requires sacrifice and honor. The events that transpired yesterday cannot, and will never, be resembled as an act of democracy. For someone who has had big opinions on the way world leaders deal with their countries, I believe it will be interesting to see how this will be prosecuted.  It is disappointing to see the vast difference in the response to this “protest” compared to protests during the ongoing BLM movement. I am pained for my fellow students and especially my American peers, because this was another hard day to watch. However, I am afraid that this battle will not end here.”