United States Marks One-Year Anniversary of 6 January Capitol Riot
A year ago, people the world over were stunned as news feeds displayed rioters attacking and breaching the U.S. Capitol. Rioters—who at least supported former President Donald Trump, if not fully believed his false claims of a stolen election—knocked down barriers, shattered windows, broke through doors, and fought Capitol Police officers with the intent of intimidating and potentially harming elected officials who were verifying the ballot results of the 2020 presidential election.
And while some of the physical damage to the building has been repaired since 6 January 2021, other wounds are healing much slower—openings that could allow for infection to set in.
Four people died during the riot, and the next day one Capitol Police officer succumbed to injuries sustained in the attack. Altogether, approximately 140 officers were injured during the assault, and since then this police department continues to feel the hits.
One year ago today, brave members of law enforcement answered the call for service to our city and our country.— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) January 6, 2022
Thank you for your courage and fortitude, and for the risks that you take every day to protect those who depend on us to keep them safe. pic.twitter.com/cUuPan2bCk
In the year following the riot, four officers who responded to the attack died by suicide. By early January 2022, more than 130 officers had quit the department.
The losses in staffing translate into an issue many companies and organizations are all too familiar with, especially after the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic: doing more with less.
“We only had about 1,800 or so police officers, and we figured we could make up the rest through overtime,” U.S. Capitol Police chief Tom Manger told NPR, adding that his biggest concern is the staffing deficit. “That’s not going to work anymore with the demands that we have.”
While staffing decreased, the demands for security increased. By a lot.
“Capitol Police saw more than 9,000 threats in 2021 against members, more than double the number of cases recorded just five years ago. The police logged fewer than 4,000 such reports in 2017,” NPR reported. Some of those threats shift past the angry tweet or email sent to legislators, and even resulted in fatal interactions with Capitol Police.
To mitigate intensified threats and shore up security gaffes, Manger said he aims to increase the total number of Capitol Police officers to more than 2,000 by hiring 280 new officers by the end of the year.
Like the people they work to protect, Capitol Police officers who remained since the riot are asked to keep working in the same place where they were threatened and verbally and physically assaulted. The Capitol, in essence a living and working museum where history is made on a daily basis, has also become a constant reminder for some of the attack.
“We're still hurting. A lot of people are struggling with what happened. I'm still upset, but I'm recovering. I'm starting to heal. But I don't think total healing can happen until accountability has been had,” Capitol Police Sergeant Harry Dunn told PBS News Hour.
Efforts have been made since the riot to support officers dealing with trauma from the event. In April 2021, a program was launched to ultimately provide officers and civilian Capitol Police support staff with mental health support.
Ongoing Investigations and Litigation
One way the U.S. federal government is working towards ending the chapter on these attacks is through the courts.
Since the riot, criminal charges were filed against more than 725 people for either direct or indirect involvement in the attack. But investigators are still searching for several people involved in the riot, including individuals responsible for placing pipe bombs outside the Democartic and Republican National Committee headquarters on 5 January 2021.
The #FBI is still seeking information regarding people who committed violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Visit https://t.co/HwfXwJWrO9 to see photos and videos from current cases, and if you recognize someone, submit a tip at https://t.co/iL7sD5efWD.— FBI (@FBI) August 17, 2021
Some U.S. legislators, mostly Republicans, have tried to downplay the riot, even blaming Democrats for sensationalizing the attack among the rise of other conspiracy theories. NPR noted that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “accused Democrats of trying to ‘exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event.’”
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on the morning of 6 January 2022, calling on Americans to focus on unity towards a “renaissance” of democracy and to combat attempts to erode democratic infrastructure.
“Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?” Biden said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.”
Biden’s speech is part of a day of events scheduled for the anniversary of the attack, including remarks from U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), other legislators, and historians, along with a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol at 5:30 p.m. ET.
These efforts to support the country’s democratic processes are in response to weakening confidence in elections. Roughly 55 percent of Republican voters continue to believe false claims of a stolen election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. There have also been efforts at the U.S. state level to skew not only voting rights but also undermine the stability of local election boards, shoring up support for a chunk of the Republican Party that continues to bolster Trump.
But beyond the politics, dovetailing with rising instances of mass protest and civil unrest, two separate polls point to a growing number of Americans who support violent actions against the government, slowly but significantly shifting further from an extremist minority to a prevalent component of American society.
A December 2021 poll conducted by The Washington Post and University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement found that approximately 34 percent of the more than 1,000 people surveyed believe that violence against the government could be justified.
Another poll later that same month, by CBS News, found that most people believe that the 6 January riot is an indication of more political violence on the horizon.
“There are some Americans who could see justification for political violence over some issues, at least in principle,” CBS News said. “Gun policies, abortion policies, civil rights, labor issues, and even vaccine and coronavirus issues are each issues at least a quarter of Americans say are important enough that violence might be justified, depending on the situation.”
In an interview with CNN, David Frum, a speechwriter for former U.S. President George W. Bush, said that political violence has become normalized.
“And it’s not normal in the sense of justifiable or laudable or acceptable. It’s normal in the sense that this is our reality. This is what is going on,” Frum said. “And the central question—a central question of American politics for the future—is going to be: In 2022 and 2024, do you accept this? And if you don't accept it, what will you do to keep the country true to its democratic and liberal traditions?”