ONE YEAR LATER: PUBLIC JUSTICE REFLECTS ON JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION
On January 6, 2021, Americans across the country watched in horror as a group of right-wing extremists descended upon Washington, D.C., and stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of the presidential election results and replace the candidate selected by the voters with the candidate they wanted. The deadly attack lasted for hours as the rioters tore through the grounds. We have all seen the images of men walking through the Capitol with confederate flags, beating police officers, searching offices.
However, the events that took place on January 6 didn’t just emerge from thin air. The violence that we saw on full display last year didn’t just grow overnight but was instead a manifestation of a continuation of efforts as old as this country to disenfranchise Black and brown communities, the LGBTQ+ community, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and more.
As we reflect on the events that took place in our nation’s capital one year ago, we know that the insurrection carried out by the mob was the result of a wave of anger at democratic institutions and often hatred toward people of color that had swelled and surged over a period of years, with its roots of racism and white supremacism running deep into our country’s very history. Unfortunately, in the months since the insurrection, many of the same groups and individuals have continued their attempts to undermine and disqualify the voices of millions of Americans.
At Public Justice, we believe in using the legal system as a tool to enforce laws and hold corporations accountable for hurting people. What played out one year ago, however, was a clear desire to undermine the law, and to seize the reins of government through violence and disregarding the votes of those who disagreed with the rioters. Prosecuting those responsible for the violence that took place at the Capitol is not only what’s right for democracy, but what’s right under the law.
As legal advocates, we also believe that every voice — and vote — counts. Democracy only works when it includes us all. Last year’s attack was heavily motivated by people who did not want to see the votes counted of persons (and often, persons of color) who disagreed with them. The attack was fueled by anti-democratic and hateful rhetoric, white supremacist ideology, and a bitter reaction to the results of a fair and democratic election.
Throughout 2021, states across the country passed waves of voter suppression laws, which restricted the number of available polling places, shrank election day hours, and significantly impeded mail-in voting. When certain groups and people no longer have access to the ballot, our democracy is in danger.
That’s why we’ve joined our allies in supporting legislation that seeks to reform and strengthen our voting rights, including the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. While the former bill was struck down, the Senate now has an opportunity to pass the VRAA — important legislation that will modernize the Voting Rights Act, remove barriers put in place to silence communities of color, and ensure that everyone has a voice in the decisions that impact them. Today, we urge Congress to take immediate and meaningful action and pass this bill.
Last year, we vowed to push for change and build a future in which this kind of event can never happen again. As we said, our work is “founded on a belief that dignity is non-negotiable, equality is essential, and that our government, and our courts, must represent and work for everyone.” Today on the one-year anniversary of this attack, we continue to honor the tenets of our work as we challenge those who seek to tear down our democracy, weaken our legal system, and stand in the way of true justice and accountability.
This fight is more important than ever, and we enter a new year with renewed urgency.