WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Thursday marks the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, a violent attack that has fundamentally changed Congress and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.
On that day, members of the House and Senate gathered for a joint session to confirm the 2020 Electoral College results. Due to COVID-19 precautions, some members were watching proceedings from their offices nearby.
In the meantime, a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters violently stormed the Capitol in an effort to halt the peaceful transfer of power, and to repeat his lies about the 2020 election. The rioters clashed with Capitol Police near several entrances, ultimately overpowering them and breaching the building.
With hundreds of rioters running through the halls of the Capitol, lawmakers and staff were evacuated by police. Some barricaded inside the House and Senate chambers with emergency gas masks as protestors pounded at the doors.
At least nine people who were there died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Four police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a fifth officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.
"What first comes to my mind was the chilling chant of, 'Hang Mike Pence' that I could hear from the rioters," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told NEWS CENTER Maine. "This was truly extraordinary, we're talking about the vice president of the United States who is exercising his constitutional duty, which is a ministerial one to simply announce the votes — the electoral votes from each state. And instead, we're hearing this mob chant, 'Hang Mike Pence.' That's the most chilling memory of the entire night."
In marking Thursday's anniversary of the insurrection, members of Maine's Congressional delegation released statements and commented on the state of our democracy. Their full statements can be found below.
"One year later, if we hope to heal from Jan. 6, we must not simply mark this day with solemn memorial but resolve to protect the integrity of our future elections. Democracy is fully at stake," Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a statement.
All four of them noted former President Donald Trump's role in stoking the conflict.
"On that day, we saw that words have consequences — and, as former President Trump stayed quiet for hours while Congress was under attack, we saw that silence has consequences, too," Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in a statement.
“Today, we pause to mark a dark chapter in our nation’s history. One year ago, a violent attempt, encouraged by a sitting president, was made to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power following the election of President Biden," Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, said in a statement. "The violence contributed to the deaths of at least three police officers and the physical and psychological injuries of over 100 more."
Sen. Angus King
“One year ago today, I sat in a dark basement room in the U.S. Capitol and watched American citizens attack the seat of our democracy. These insurrectionists ransacked the Capitol, threatened the lives of elected officials, and injured many of the brave Capitol Police officers who put their lives on the line every day to defend Congress. These insurrectionists gathered on that specific day, at that specific place, with the clear goal of interfering with a sacred democratic process – and they were egged on every step of the way by the sitting President of the United States and his allies, who repeatedly told them that the election was illegitimate, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s important to remember they weren’t there to protest the election, they were there to “stop the steal” as the rally on the Ellipse unequivocally made clear. On that day, we saw that words have consequences – and, as former President Trump stayed quiet for hours while Congress was under attack, we saw that silence has consequences, too.
“The Capitol is not under attack today, but the assault on America’s democracy continues. A recent poll shows that nearly 75% of Republicans doubt that President Biden was legitimately elected President in 2020. These doubts have no merit, full stop. Over the last year, nonpartisan judges, bipartisan elected officials, and even overtly partisan exercises like the Maricopa County recount have examined these claims and found zero evidence to justify any accusations that the election was stolen. The “Stop the Steal” advocates had no facts – they were fueled by misinformation and mistruths, amplified by the bully pulpit of the Oval Office.
“America’s representative government has endured for nearly 250 years – but it remains an anomaly in the scope of human history. As my colleague Senator Romney said one year ago, the way to protect this perilously fragile system is simple: we must all tell the truth, even to our constituents, supporters, and friends who may not want to hear it. Allowing this lie to fester only further undermines trust in democracy itself and threatens the peaceful transfer of power which has been the hallmark of the American system. On this solemn anniversary, I urge my colleagues of all parties to speak the truth. If we want to preserve the American experiment for the next generation, silence is not an option.”
Sen. Susan Collins
Comments to NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom
"What first comes to my mind was the chilling chant of, 'Hang Mike Pence' that I could hear from the riders. This was truly extraordinary, we're talking about the vice president of the United States who is exercising his constitutional duty, which is a ministerial one to simply announce the votes -- the electoral votes from each state. And instead, we're hearing this mob chant, 'Hang Mike Pence.' That's the most chilling memory of the entire night. Fortunately, Mike Pence was very strong. He did not give him the pressure from the president, from President Trump, to stop the count, and he fulfilled his constitutional duty -- as did we in Congress when, after the mob had been cleared away, we returned to the chambers of the Senate and the House and fulfilled our constitutional duty to confirm the electoral vote."
"It is vital to our democracy that people have confidence in our elections. And I think, unfortunately, due to actions by President Trump to discredit the 2020 elections and say that they were rigged or unfair despite the fact that that was rejected by some 90 judges in various court proceedings that rejected the charges brought by President Trump’s allies … that has been exacerbated by some Democrats saying that there is widespread voter suppression, and I think the combination has led some people to question whether or not their vote counts.”
“It has changed the way that I perceive the role of the Capitol Police. They were so courageous that day, but they were very ill-prepared and understaffed to deal with a mob of that size and of that violence. So one of the changes that is being implemented is for the chief of the capital police to be able to call in directly for help from the National Guard, rather than go through this bureaucratic process to get help. That's an important reform. But every time I see them, the capital police, I thank them for their service, because this was an extremely traumatic day for them and dozens of them were injured and many of them still bear the psychic scars of having to confront this huge mob with so few officers available. So … that is something I did not think about as much, even though I've been the beneficiary of protection from the capital police when I've personally received threats. I do want to mention that it is important for Americans to realize that the Senate and the House did complete their constitutional duty that terrible day. After it was safe for us to return to the chambers we did so that night, and stayed until the wee hours of the morning, finishing the certification of the Electoral College vote so that the peaceful, ultimately, transfer of power could occur. And since that's the hallmark of our democracy, it was vitally important that we finished that work that night.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree
“Whether you were in the Capitol Complex or watching the horror from home, we all felt the same shock as we watched our very democracy under assault one year ago today. Make no mistake: the failed attempt to overthrow our democracy on Jan. 6, 2021, did not end on that day. Republicans who support the former president’s Big Lie are working every day to undermine the integrity of our elections state-by-state, county-by-county across the nation. The Senate must prioritize voter protections by passing H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, as the House did. But these bills are stalled in the Senate because of a Jim Crow-era relic: the filibuster. It must be abolished. One year later, if we hope to heal from Jan. 6, we must not simply mark this day with solemn memorial but resolve to protect the integrity of our future elections. Democracy is fully at stake.”
Rep. Jared Golden
“Today, we pause to mark a dark chapter in our nation’s history. One year ago, a violent attempt, encouraged by a sitting president, was made to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power following the election of President Biden. The violence contributed to the deaths of at least three police officers and the physical and psychological injuries of over 100 more.
“I continue to reflect on the courage of the officers of the Capitol and District of Columbia Police and the National Guard Members one year ago. Were it not for their brave actions, the assault would have been even more tragic and the consequences far worse. Every American owes these men and women their gratitude and respect.
“As we look ahead, I believe justice and accountability should continue to be our focus. Those who committed crimes during the assault and those who laid the groundwork for it must be held fully responsible under the law. I stand with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who are working hard to bring the events of the attack into the light of day, and support the men and women in law enforcement and our judicial system who are investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”
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