Federal employees and their union representatives remembered last year's violent riot that tried to stop the constitutionally mandated congressional certification of electoral votes.
There are more than 2 million federal employees and millions more contractors who serve agencies of the U.S. government. And on this Jan. 6, many organizations representing them—as well as allied labor and leadership groups—are marking the sad spectacle of the Capitol Hill riot, the insurrection or similar term for the unauthorized violent trespass and desecration that a year ago engulfed the beating heart of America’s democracy.
Polls: Majority see breach as illegal
“This wasn’t a group of tourists,” President Joe Biden said today in a televised speech condemning the violence and remembering those traumatized, injured and killed a year ago, “This was an armed insurrection.”
The president’s stark take on the events of a year ago reflects the opinion of a majority of Americans, all sharing a key theme: The breach represented an illegal threat to democracy.
Two leading, only slightly different views are glimpsed in recent polls commissioned by CBS, ABC and others. About a third of Americans consulted in the CBS poll see Jan. 6 as an “insurrection,” while nearly another one-third view it as a “riot that got out of control”—both groups constituting a majority who regard the day’s events as against the law and cause for great worry for our democracy.
Together, these views confirm that participants broke the law—a view validated by the findings and actions of intelligence services, law enforcement and courts still investigating and prosecuting hundreds of suspects involved in the violence and vandalism.
Indeed, the event that drew so many to break the law was advertised with the avowed aim of “stopping” the constitutionally mandated congressional count of electoral votes—an act that for two centuries has served as the final, if ceremonial, step in choosing the president. On its face, it’s obvious that no unelected person or mob has any legal standing to physically invade legislative proceedings to stop it from happening.
Surveys also show the threat of more trouble remains. For example, a recent poll shows a sizable minority of the country’s electorate still erroneously believes—in defiance of official findings by scores of state and local election recounts, “audits” and court reviews—that the current president somehow fenagled, rather than fairly won, election to the White House. This disproved conspiracy theory—or “Big Lie”—as spread by some political leaders was the spark behind last year’s violence, and one that could catch fire again.
Feds condemn violence
Many were injured and at least seven people died as a direct consequence of the Capitol Hill violence of Jan. 6, 2021, according to a bipartisan congressional report.
This week, leaders of federal employee organizations—in their official capacities as nonpolitical organizations—feel compelled to speak out in support of what the country’s courts, legal reporters and election experts have all concluded: that the 2020 election was free and fair, and to bear witness to the sadness and anger shared by most Americans about the violence of Jan. 6 that arose from denial of this fact.
“Every patriotic citizen was outraged by that brazen effort to deny our fellow Americans that most fundamental, God-given right—to choose our own leaders—and instead leave our nation in thrall to a fantasy and an impostor to the presidency,” Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO, said in a statement.
“But the attack on our democracy, on our unalienable rights, and on truth itself did not begin on January 6, 2021. Neither did it end among the shattered glass on the steps of the Capitol building,” Kelley added, warning that widespread disinformation and structural problems in our political process remain.
The AFGE statement insists that feds and all Americans must recognize that those who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted “an anti-democracy mob intent on disrupting the peaceful transfer of power.”
“In this country, the voters decide the outcome of our elections,” Kelley added. “Not a handful of politicians, and not a violent mob.”
The leader of another major union of government employees, also with a federal component—the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)—is also slamming those who violently smashed and threatened their way into the Capitol Building, as well as those who he says goaded followers into it.
“On January 6, 2021, when a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol because they didn’t like the outcome of a free and fair election, democracy itself came under attack,” declared Lee Saunders, the president of the more than 1.3 million member-strong union. “This attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power was not an isolated incident. It was part of a larger movement to undermine our governing institutions, to spread dangerous misinformation, to restrict access to the ballot box and disenfranchise millions of Americans,” he said.
“The insurrection that took place a year ago today was a reminder that survival of American democracy can never be assumed; it must always be safeguarded and strengthened, no matter how difficult the struggle,” Saunders said.
Additional major federal employee unions—for example, the National Treasury Employee Union (NTEU)—have also condemned the mob’s attack on the Capitol, and the misbegotten basis for it, in their public communications over the past year.