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This sign, with the words of former President Jimmy Carter commenting on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, was seen at a vigil for democracy at Pliny Park in Brattleboro last week.

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‘Our democracy is in jeopardy’

Vigil marks a year since the U.S. Capitol insurrection and shines light on need for federal voting reforms

BRATTLEBORO—In the fading light of a cold January afternoon, dozens of people gathered to remember the one-year anniversary of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. in 2021, and vow to not let it happen again.

The candlelight vigil in Pliny Park on Jan. 6, which was organized at the last minute by Everyone’s Books at 25 Elliot St., was among hundreds that took place around the United States.

Though it was not explicitly billed as a political event, the 2022 and 2024 elections were not far from the minds of many of those in attendance.

Angela Lawrence of Dummerston, who was elected in October as the new chair of the Windham County Democrats, spoke about the need for accountability for what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. As a first-generation American and a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said that the attack on the Capitol was something she took personally.

“We saw the right-wing militias and the Proud Boys and the White supremacists try to come into the Capitol,” she said. “Being an African-American and knowing that building was built by slaves, to see those people come in to try and destroy it and doing so without facing any consequences was ridiculous.”

Lawrence said the 2022 Congressional elections are very important, because if the Republican Party retakes control of the House and Senate, the chance for accountability for former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack — a role that resulted in his second impeachment by the U.S. House last January — would be lost.

Those in attendance were asked to join efforts to urge the U.S. Senate to pass several measures that would strengthen democracy, including the Freedom to Vote Act, a bill that would protect and expand federal voting rights, and the Protecting our Democracy Act, which would increase oversight of the Executive Branch to curb potential abuses of power.

They were also asked to join the opposition to restrictive new voting and election laws passed in Republican-led legislatures around the country. Since the 2020 elections, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states have enacted 33 laws that make it difficult for Americans to vote.

“Nobody is above the law, and people have to understand that,” Lawrence said. “Our democracy is in jeopardy. One year ago, the Trump administration tried to overthrow the government, and we can’t let that happen again — not this year, not in 2024, not in however many years.”

“We have to vote as if our lives depend upon it,” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #646 (Wednesday, January 12, 2022). This story appeared on page A1.

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