Feds and employee organizations look back on last year's violent riot, commemorating the dead and wounded, denouncing the violence and expressing concern about what it all might mean for the future.
On Jan. 6, federal employees and their union representatives marked a somber remembrance of last year's violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, the first time in American history in which a mob invaded the building, trying to stop the constitutionally-mandated congressional certification of electoral votes in the presidential election.
More than 2 million federal employees and millions more contractors work for the U.S. government. Organizations representing them—along with other labor and leadership groups—marked the sad spectacle of the riot, insurrection—or similar term one might use for the unauthorized violent desecration—that engulfed the beating heart of our democracy that day. Employee condemnation of the events reflects both official findings and the opinion of the wider public.
Polls: Majority see breach as illegal
“This wasn’t a group of tourists,” President Joe Biden said this Jan. 6, in a televised speech condemning the violence—and honoring those traumatized, injured or killed a year ago, “This was an armed insurrection.”
The president’s stark take on the events of a year ago reflected themes found in the opinion of a majority of Americans: That the breach represented an illegal act and a serious threat to our democracy.
In fact, a couple of tightly-related views came through in recent polls commissioned by CBS, ABC and NPR. About a third of Americans consulted in the NPR poll said they now see Jan. 6 as an “insurrection,” while a second one-third view the attack as a “riot that got out of control.” Both groups, taken together, constitute a clear majority that regard the day’s events as having been against the law and cause to worry for the security of our democracy.
These majority viewpoints by the public are reflected in reports made in the aftermath by intelligence services and law enforcement—and in the actions of courts still investigating and prosecuting hundreds of those suspected of participating in the violence and vandalism.
Indeed, the advertised goal of the gathering—and the breach—that drew thousands to break the law was to “stop” the congressional count of electoral votes, a pro forma tally that for two centuries has served as the final, if ceremonial, step in the choosing of presidents. On its face, it is obvious that no unelected person—much less a mob of thousands armed with bear spray and flagpoles to attack police—has legal standing to physically invade the legislative proceedings to disrupt them.
Surveys also indicate a continuing threat of more trouble remains. For example, one recent poll shows a sizable minority of the public still erroneously believes—contrary to scores of official findings in 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”—played a key role as the spark behind last year’s violence, one that could catch fire again.
Feds condemn violence
Hundreds were injured and at least seven people died as a consequence of the Capitol Hill violence of Jan. 6, 2021, according to a bipartisan congressional report issued last year.
This past week, leaders of federal employee organizations spoke out in unison with what the country’s courts, legal reporters and election experts all long since concluded: that the 2020 election was free and fair. Federal employee orgs also bore witness to the sadness and anger shared by most Americans about Jan. 6.
“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.
AFGE insists that feds and the American public 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)—also slammed those who attacked and entered the Capitol Building, and those who 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.
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