Americans Diverge on Perils and Lessons of the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

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A year after Trump supporters rioted, Democrats see the events as an attack on the government, while many Republicans disagree.

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The events of January 6 are now the focus of congressional and criminal investigations. While Democrats plan a Capitol vigil to mark the anniversary, former President Donald Trump has promised a news conference to revisit his false claims of a rigged election at his Mar-a-Lago estate , the allegation that helped drive the January 6 riots.

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Interviews with voters across America reveal different impressions of the day, with some describing it as a dangerous attack on democracy, others viewing it as a protest that has gotten out of hand and Still others are saying that Democrats and the news media have escalated the seriousness. attack.

“It’s just an ugly, an ugly time,” said Judy Boffleur, 80, of La Crosse, Wis. “It’s okay to protest something you disagree with but it was just—I was just terrified. January 6 for me is the culmination of a lack of respect for each other. It’s led to this for years.”

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Roy Barlow of Dartmouth, Mass., said the protesters “looked like they were on a guided tour.” Mr Barlow, who stated his age as over 50, said that “to get inside some barricades outside some of the initial violence, they just went around the Capitol.”

The attack happened on a day Congress was meeting to certify the Electoral College results and President Biden’s victory. On the day of the riots, Mr Trump addressed an afternoon crowd at a “Stop the Steel” rally in the Ellipse and encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol. Hundreds then clashed with police, smashing walls and smashing windows. One intruder, Ashley Babitt, was shot by a Capitol police officer, who was later cleared of wrongdoing. Several police officers were seriously injured.

Mr Trump was impeached in the House for his role, and seven GOP senators were acquitted in the Senate despite pleading guilty with all Democrats falling short of the number of two-thirds required to be convicted.

Text messages recently released by a January 6 House committee indicated that people close to the president considered the attack dangerous and wanted him to intervene quickly.

In text messages sent to then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, “there’s no doubt that the White House knew what was happening here at the Capitol,” said Representative Liz Cheney (R., Va.), the committee’s vice president. . , one of the few outspoken GOP critics of Mr. Trump. “Our democracy was inches away from ruin,” said panel chair Benny Thompson (D., Miss.).

Mr Trump eventually released a video that day telling supporters to “we love you” but also to “go home in peace.”

A year later, the riot and Mr. Trump’s role remain an uncomfortable topic for many Republican lawmakers. Mr Trump has portrayed the January 6 attack as a simple protest and claimed that the actual “rebellion took place on November 3,” referring to Election Day. When asked in recent weeks, several GOP senators have declined to say what they think of those comments.

Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) said, “I have nothing for you.” “I have to see all that in context,” said Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.). “I think it’s time to really move on,” said Sen. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.). “We should talk about inflation,” he said.

The public is also divided over Mr Trump’s false claim of election rigging. three out of four Republicans An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll The poll conducted in October said Mr Trump was right to question whether the election was rigged because of “real cases of fraud that changed the outcome”. There is no evidence of widespread fraud, and audits of millions of ballots in major states confirmed the presidential result.

Some voters question whether the January 6 events and investigation were intended to keep Mr Trump out of office, while others reject that view.

“I think it was set up to make Trump look bad. He didn’t say ‘go riot.’ were supposed. “I’m telling you, there’s a unit out there that will do anything to keep Donald Trump in office again,” said Marcia Foch, 63, of Tiffin, Ohio.

James Roush, 73, of Tempe, Ariz., said, “I hold Trump completely responsible. An independent voter who said he supported candidates from both parties is unhappy with the GOP’s embrace of Mr. Trump these days.” “The way they’re trying to capture the rhetoric to mold a message around lies makes me sick,” he said.

There is evidence of leftist affiliation of only a handful of rioters. More than 700 people have been indicted in connection with the attack, and face various charges depending on their alleged involvement in the violence.

“I wouldn’t call it rebellion; I would rather call it a gathering of stupid people,” said Greg Tate, 70, also from Tempe. He believes the former president could have done more to stop the riot. Mr Tate also said he believes some of the indictments have been too aggressive. “I don’t mind saying ‘hey you can’t attack our country’, but I think people have rights too,” he said.

Others expressed concern about widespread disillusionment with the government.

“Listen, I think people are actively considering giving up democracy in this country. And that explains the reason why people have attacked us, why people try to overthrow the government,” Sen Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said. “We have to show people that the government can do something for them,” he said, arguing for passing Mr. Biden’s stalled economic agenda.

Jeremy Stewart, 45, a Trump voter from Pueblo, Colo., declined to be labeled a rebellion on Jan. But, he added, “I believe someone can come. There are a lot of Americans who are fed up with this political game that is being played.”

For Anthony Pardal, 36, of Reston, Va., the attack felt personal. He once worked for a Democratic senator at the Capitol and met his future wife there. He said that the memory of what happened should not be faded or clear.

“What if next time we continue to go down this route where we are divided among our tribes and there is no accountability? I know people turn a blind eye but our democracy is really fragile,” Mr Pardal said.

Write Alex Leary at [email protected], Lindsay Wise at [email protected] and Eliza Collins at [email protected]

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