Hamden High Alumnus James Sasso Reveals His View on the January 6th Riots 

By Morgan Collins

On the last school day before spring break, I had the honor of interviewing Hamden High alumnus, James Sasso. Amidst the chaotic pre-break excitement, he spent his time discussing a chaotic time in recent history – – the January 6th riots. I sat among Mr. Coss’ AP Government classes as they listened to the unique story of a man who was once in their shoes. While attending Hamden High School, Sasso admits that he was never an exceptional student; however, he did have two passions in high school: basketball and cooking. His original ambition was to attend culinary school in hopes of becoming a chef. Little did he know that his future career would be a little more intriguing. Once enrolled in college, Sasso made the pledge that he would apply himself more than he had in high school. His pledge paid off and by the end of his four years of college he ended up applying for his PhD and law school simultaneously. Law school required him to enroll in an internship, consequently launching his interest in politics. Through a friend, he became eligible to apply for a position on the January 6th committee. Although Sasso joked that he would not recommend going to law school and getting a PhD at the same time; ultimately, it was what placed him ahead of the other applicants. 

Sasso found himself on the staff on the January 6th committee with 9 elected officials and 60 staff members. The committee consisted of multiple teams that all examined individual components of the events that transpired on that day. Sasso was placed on the Red Team, viewing the accounts of the rioters themselves, many of whom were members of extremist groups. Sasso states the information he gained through the interviews was shocking; the majority of the rioters engaged due to the strong influence of social media. He found that people either went in support for President Trump or to recapture the society they felt was falling apart. Sasso found that many of the rioters believed themselves to be patriotic heroes saving the democracy they felt was slipping from their grasp. He recalled that many of the rioters stated that they honestly did not believe the riot to be deadly and instead a necessary reclamation of power. Sasso received many responses that he admitted conflicted with his personal political viewpoints; however, he said, “You have to talk to people who disagree with you to get the full story.”

Continuing the interview process, Sasso recollected interviewing an older man who believed that he had done nothing violent nor even trespassed since he entered through the window and not the door. He also recalled interviewing a 19-year-old girl who went to spend time with her mother and admitted to the potential wrongdoings of the incident. From these interviews, Sasso recognized his own misapprehension regarding the case. He had two conflicting viewpoints concerning the case. On one hand, they overthrew the fundamentals of democracy, and on the other, they were acting upon what they perceived to be right. When asked what the hardest part of the committee was, Sasso responded by saying, “Watching hours of the police body camera footage,” when the police attempted to hold the rioters back while they were being pushed and trampled by the masses. Sasso also admits that a low point in the committee was the daily death threats he and other members of the committee received as consequences of a leaked email.

Ultimately, Sasso found that the reason for the riots to be the abnormal amount of power the government allowed the president. He stated that the president has the power to mobilize the country and in this instance it was mobilized for malice. People simply acted to take back an election and democracy they believed was stolen. Sasso said that it was crucial that America fix democracy by enacting better voting laws and limiting the power of elected officials. Sasso admits that it will be challenging to fix the entire system, but educating younger generations is the first step. When the committee came to a close, Sasso published an article in The New York Times with the title, “Donald Trump isn’t the only one to blame for the Capital Riot. I’d know” where he goes over what he believes to be the culprit of the riots. During the interview, Sasso says that what was not included in the article was the slow simmer which brought the riots to its boiling point. He blamed Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, and other presidents who manipulated the American people in addition to polarized political parties and a divided Congress. Sasso stressed that Donald Trump did not simply appear out of nowhere and this event was a long awaited event. It is difficult to point a single finger at the cause of the January 6th riots; however, Sasso’s message was clear; it takes more than a single person to ensure that a similar riot does not take place in the near future.