An anniversary divided: Jan. 6 in those who were there

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Washington

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, after pipe bombs were found on the outskirts of the U.S. Capitol complex, congressional staffer Anthony DeAngelo got word that a nearby office building had been evacuated and the building right next door was being evacuated, too. He could see the police blocking roads from a fourth floor window.

He looked at his boss, Rep. Andy Kim from New Jersey. He was interested in running for the office.

“No. I came here today to vote,” stated Representative Kim, a Democrat, who was there with the rest to certify the electoral votes of the states.

SCIENCE NEWS: Why This

Was Written

The Monitor interviewed almost two dozen people who were present at the Capitol Jan. 6. They explored the variety of perspectives and what they say about America’s future.

Outside, Virginia state Rep. Dave LaRock was navigating through the throngs of Trump supporters who had come to hear the president speak at a Save America rally and then trekked up to the Capitol to register their deep distrust of the election results.

“I’m sure that all of you will soon march to the Capitol building to peacefully, patriotically and make your voices heard,” President Donald Trump had told the crowd ,. He also stressed the importance “fighting” for political victories as well as against an “corrupt” election. He said, “We fight like hell – and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to be able to have a nation anymore.”

As Mr. LaRock walked through the Capitol, he heard that something was “very, very wrong.” There had been a break-in at the Capitol. Someone had been killed. He could smell smoke in the air, probably tear gas. But he didn’t stay long enough to discover.

Inside of the House chamber, Rep. Bennie Thomson’s phone rang. It was his wife. She asked, “What’s the matter?” “What’s the matter?” she asked. The Mississippi Democrat had entered the Capitol through underground tunnels, but hadn’t noticed the large crowds outside.

“They broke into the Capitol!” she said.

As hundreds of protesters poured into the building through shattered windows and doors, rioters – some in military-style goggles and vests – assaulted Capitol Police, beating them with flagpoles and their own riot shields. Others stood on the steps of the Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence,” who as vice president had been overseeing the vote certification before being whisked off the Senate floor.

The House side saw lawmakers take off their escape respirators, remove the lapel pins that identified them as members and prepare to leave. Two protective officers pulled guns from their faces as protesters broke the glass in one chamber door. Capitol Police officer Michael Byrd shot Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed Air Force veteran, as she attempted to climb through a broken glass door panel.

Sgt.

Sgt. Rioters called him a traitor, and demanded that he be executed.

U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant. Aquilino (left) and U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant. Harry Dunn stand after a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 27, 2021. Sergeant Gonell, one of more than 150 Capitol Police officers injured that day, is still recovering.

All of them were telling me, ‘Trump has sent us.’” Sergeant Gonnell said.

Anhour after the initial breach, GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher posted a video from his office to Twitter. “Mr. “Mr. “This is bigger that you, it’s larger than any member or Congress. … It’s about the United States of America.”

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar took it a step further.

“I am drafting Articles of Impeachment,” Omar tweeted. “It’s about preserving our Republic.” One year later, ex-President Trump lives in Florida. Hundreds of rioters face prosecution and a congressional committee uncovers crucial information about those events. Many who were present at the Capitol Jan. 6 still have questions about what happened, how it happened, and why.

The storming at the Capitol was a dangerous step in American democracy. It was a result of a false election by Donald Trump that threatened to override the checks and balances that have protected the United States for hundreds of years.

Many Trump supporters believe that the citadel of democracy was breached prior to Jan. 6. The events of Jan. 6th are seen as a result of years-long efforts by an elite press corps and an established bureaucracy, to undermine Mr. Trump’s legitimacy. This effort is still ongoing.

Understanding these views is key not only to putting together a fuller picture of that day, but also to discerning where America may be heading. In that sense, Jan. 6, 2022, is not just an anniversary but a flashing red marker on the path of a country that’s increasingly divided about how to move forward.

Ms. Omar was able to get her articles of impeachment but is eager for those responsible. Sergeant Gonell, one of more than 145 Capitol Police officers injured that day, is still recovering.

Republicans who spoke out against Mr. Trump have mostly kept quiet since – or, if not, faced his wrath. Representative Gallagher voted for President Joe Biden’s victory, but he did not support his impeachment. He also voted against a bipartisan bill that would have established a national commission to investigate Jan. 6.

Mr. Thompson is chairing a Jan. 6 select committee made up of Democrats and two GOP critics of Mr. Trump, which has so far interviewed 300 people and collected 30,000 records. By the largest margin, Mr. LaRock was reelected to the Virginia statehouse.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, Democrat from Mississippi, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, Republican from Wyoming, of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, testify before the House Rules Committee at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 14, 2021. Former President Donald Trump’s White House chief staff Mark Meadows was being charged with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena. Later, the House voted to hold Meadows in contempt and referred the charges to Justice Department.

And Mr. DeAngelo, whose boss was photographed quietly picking up debris after the riots’ aftermath, an image which quickly went viral, quit his job to join the National Democracy Institute. Now he runs a program that matches members of Congress with legislators in emerging democracies.

“When you look at the challenges that aspiring democracies face with disinformation and rising extremism in their own peoples, you realize that this is not just an American struggle right currently,” states Mr. DeAngelo. “It’s something that a lot of governments, a lot of democratic institutions are facing – that loss of faith in those institutions, attacks on the basic functionalities of those institutions, and a drop in trust and faith in institutions that carried those democratic ideals.”

SCIENCE NEWS: “Those old demons of bigotry”

Raphael Warnock was not in the Capitol on Jan. 6. He learned in the early hours of the morning that he was the first Black senator from the former Confederate states. Protesters later that day launched a violent attack and marched through Congress bearing the Confederate Flag. He believed this was an attempt to disenfranchise voters who had disproportionately voted Mr. Biden.

“Jan. 5 is what’s possible here in the country,” states Senator Warnock. Warnock is a senior pastor at an Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. “Jan. 6 [brought out], people driven by hate and division mythologies. In a real sense, that’s where we live – between the ideals, our highest ideals, and those old demons of bigotry.”

Indeed, many on the left see that day as a rebellion of mainly white men, fueled by resentment of their own declining status amid the country’s rapidly changing demographics. One University of Chicago study last spring found that of the people arrested so far in connection with the riot, 95% were white, 85% were male, and they hailed disproportionately from counties with the greatest decline in white population. The conviction that democracy was already being subverted drove those who came to the Capitol. With Donald Trump refusing to accept an electoral defeat, Democrats claim that the GOP has encouraged and exploited the false claim of a stolen vote, passing a series of laws that will limit voting access for those of lower socioeconomic status and people of color.

“The big lie that motivated that attack is being repeated in state legislatures around the country,” says Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who was on the 2016 Democratic ticket as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s VP pick when Mr. Trump won. “The best way to respond to that is to vigorously protect people’s voting rights and to disable schemes or power grabs that undermine electoral integrity,”

Senate Democrats tried several times to pass broad voting rights legislation over the past year but were blocked by Republicans due to current filibuster rules.

Representative Gallagher, the Wisconsin Republican who urged Mr. Trump to call off the rioters on Jan. 6, says if the federal government gets more involved in managing elections, the nation may become more susceptible to a power grab.

“There’s a good reason why elections are run by not just states but really localities – it creates a natural defense in depth against anyone who would try to meddle in our elections or commit fraud,” says Mr. Gallagher.

People prepare to evacuate from the House gallery as rioters try to break into the chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Many legislators wore escape respirators similar to gas masks that were kept under the seats.

He argues that America’s election system has become so threatening and the fights over reform have become so toxic because of the federal government’s already excessive power.

” Every four years, we wait for the arrival of some supremely powerful president figure who will do all things through executive fiat,” he said. This, in turn, worsens the dysfunction in [Congress].. And members then get disillusioned, because they’re sitting here in a feckless institution.”

SCIENCE NEWS: An insurrection? Or is it something else?

There is still some disagreement over what Jan. 6 actually was. Is it a coup? A rebellion? An insurrection?

So far, of the more than 725 individuals arrested, none have been charged with insurrection, though more indictments may be coming. One thing is clear: the sentiments that sparked the violence are not going away – they seem to be stronger and more widespread than ever. According to a Yahoo News survey from last month, 74% of Republicans agree with the statement, “The election was rigged and stolen from Trump.” Moreover, 64% said they disapprove of the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6, and 54% said they thought the courts were treating those who attacked the Capitol “unfairly.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold signs as they attend a “Stop The Steal” rally, protesting the outcome of the presidential election, at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore. Nov. 14, 2020 . After a 2020 election cycle dominated by conspiracy theories and false claims about voting, top election officials across the country are looking ahead to future elections and grappling with how they can counter a wave of misinformation that led to violent threats against them and ultimately a deadly riot at the Capitol.

In the weeks following the 2020 election, the Trump campaign challenged the results in dozens of court cases but failed to prove anything approaching the widespread fraud the president alleged. Then-Attorney General William Barr, appointed by Mr. Trump, said in December 2020 that the Department of Justice had not uncovered such evidence either. An Associated Press review published last month, which contacted hundreds of election offices in five battleground states, turned up only 475 instances of fraud – equivalent to 0.5% of Mr. Biden’s margin of victory.

Still, many Trump supporters remain unconvinced that Mr. Biden could have legitimately beaten their preferred candidate, when Mr. Trump got 11.2 million more votes than in 2016 – more than any presidential candidate in history, except his opponent. They argue that the rapid expansion of mail-in voting, which contributed to nearly 20 million more people voting than ever before in a presidential election, violated some states’ laws and that other pandemic-related changes loosened or eliminated procedures meant to ensure election integrity. Mr. LaRock claims that it was his distrust in the election results that brought them to the Capitol on January 6. He points to a case brought by the Texas attorney general questioning the constitutionality of changes to voting practices in four key swing states. For example, the suit claimed that Pennsylvania abused its authority by eliminating a signature requirement to absentee ballots and Wisconsin was in violation of its state law by allowing drop-boxes. The Supreme Court refused to consider the merits of this case and ruled that Texas did not have the legal standing.

Democrats, journalists, and election officials from both parties have pointed out the multitude of systems in place to guard against voter fraud. Many Trump supporters doubt these assurances after years of biased media coverage, partisan attempts to undermine him and his supporters.

GOP Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin said that frustration over the “Russia hoax”, unfair media treatment of Trump’s supporters for “tormenting” him for four years led to Jan. For example, the dossier that sparked the Russian collusion investigation into Trump’s campaign was not only false, but also paid for by the Clinton campaign.

” “It just kinda finally erupted,” states Senator Johnson. He also blamed journalists for failing to acknowledge that most protesters were not allowed into the Capitol building, and many of them committed no crimes. Their grotesque bias in covering Jan. 6 is evident. And truthfully, I would argue, their complicity in exacerbating the divide in this country.”

SCIENCE NEWS: “The worst I’ve ever seen”

Democrats have sharply criticized Senator Johnson and other Republicans for trying to “whitewash” the Capitol attack in the weeks and months that followed, making it sound more like a peaceful gathering than an assault on democracy.

Some Trump supporters have suggested that the illegal behavior was committed by leftist instigators. However, Christopher Wray, FBI Director, testified before Congress that there was no evidence to that.

” When you see people in brand-new Trump hats and not talking to anyone, it really stands apart,” says Suzzanne Monk. She is a District of Columbia resident who was there that day. She claims that antifa, an extremist militant group, turned a Trump rally in Chicago into a “riot”. “This is not the first time that we in the Trump movement are infiltrated by people who are not on our side and trying to cause conflict.”

This effort to recast the day’s events as more benign has been especially difficult for police officers like Sergeant Gonell and Officer Harry Dunn, who was called a racial slur by a woman in a pink MAGA shirt who had broken into the Capitol.

“Jan. 6 was enough. “But the response is equally disheartening,” Officer Dunn said to the Monitor as he and Sergeant Gonell walked through the Capitol’s basement corridors in street clothes after they attended a Jan. 6 committee hearing. “But the response is equally disheartening.”

Although many Republican lawmakers called on the rioters to stop the violence that afternoon and criticized Mr. Trump for egging them on, most have since softened their tone or gone silent.

” From Jan. 6 to now they are walking it back to saying “Oh, they were just blowing out steam” or “Oh, it was just an equivalent to a Capitol tour,” says Officer Dunn. “That is not true. What the world saw with their own eyes actually occurred.”

Four people died in the chaos of that day, though two of those deaths were officially ruled to be from natural causes and one from an overdose. In the weeks and days that followed, five police officers were killed by suicide.

Chairman Thompson, Mississippi’s longest-serving Black elected official, says he wasn’t afraid for his own safety that day, but was concerned that one of the bedrocks of the American system – the peaceful transfer of power – was being threatened. This was not the America Thompson had grown up believing in or the America that he took an Oath to defend as a member Congress. “A lot of people who took the same oath in defense of the Constitution are now defending those who broke into the institution, which is strange,” he said.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who on Jan. 6 contested the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, has called what happened that day “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol.” But he accuses Democrats of a double standard – harshly condemning the Jan. 6 riot while ignoring the “violent terrorist attacks from left-wing activists” that occurred at some Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. A report from one police group found that 7% of those protests involved violence, with more than 2,000 officers sustaining injuries. The first two weeks alone resulted in an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion in property damage – the costliest civil disorder tab in America’s history.

Democrats counter that there’s no moral equivalence between the motivations of the social justice protests and Jan. 6.

“In Minneapolis people were protesting a cop putting his knee on a Black person’s neck and literally murdering him,” states Democratic Rep. Angie Craig from Minnesota. “Here, people were literally trying to overturn the results of a United States election.”

SCIENCE NEWS: The People’s House

Marie March, a small-business owner from Christiansburg, Virginia, went to Mr. Trump’s Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6 – her birthday – with her husband and father. None of them had ever been to a Trump rally before. She recalls that her husband said, “Well, Marie’s birthday was Jan. 6th, and we live three-to four hours from D.C.,” so they hopped in a car just a few days after Christmas.

They left early because it was freezing. They didn’t even know people had headed to the Capitol until they stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the way home and friends started texting, “The Capitol is getting overrun, are you there?”

In the aftermath, however, people back home started calling her an “insurrectionist.” She says it affected business at one of her family’s restaurants, Due South BBQ. Left-wing activists then attacked their second restaurant Fatback Soul Shack and tore down the American flag. Ms. March decided to run for the statehouse in this fall after seeing the reaction. She won by nearly 2 to 1. But many Trump supporters may not be able to work in a corrupt system. According to a November survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly 1 in 5 Americans (18%) agreed with the statement, “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Among those who believed the 2020 election was stolen, support for political violence doubled to 39%. More than a threat from a single wolf, a substantial portion of Americans may have lost faith in their country’s institutions and are now ready to take action. To heal the deep divisions that Jan. 6 has exposed and exacerbated, it will take more than a single committee to fix them.

Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey cleans up debris strewn across the floor of the Rotunda in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2021 – an image that immediately went viral – after rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington.

Some believe that Congress can make a small step towards rebuilding trust by opening its doors to the public. It is possible for citizens to view the inner workings and participate in government by visiting the offices of legislators or viewing proceedings in the House chambers. The Capitol complex is still closed.

Before the pandemic, staffers used bemoan long lines of tourists in the cafeteria. This was according to Mr. DeAngelo who was the former deputy chief-of-staff for Representative Kim. He says, “But it was something I loved because it meant people flew in from all over the world to visit where we work, understand what we do and to see democracy in action.”

Reopening the Capitol’s doors once again to the public would be a great symbolic gesture towards restoring what was literally shattered on January 6. He adds that his boss picked up broken glass and trash on Jan. 6 to give hope to those who were affected by the physical loss.

” I really hope people have a chance to see that this was not just a building that was attacked, but a building that can make progress, where we can still achieve big and great things,” said Mr. DeAngelo. “And that’s part the healing process. Not only for those at the Capitol but for the entire country

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