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One year after Jan. 6, Mass. members of Congress say democracy still under attack

Bicycle fencing surrounds the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2022, on the first anniversary of the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Bicycle fencing surrounds the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2022, on the first anniversary of the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

It's been one year since Massachusetts residents and others across the nation watched as a mob of people stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Members of the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation were among those physically closest to the deadly violence and trauma of Jan. 6, 2021. And on this anniversary, they are sharing their memories of what happened.

They are also looking ahead. Most of the lawmakers are calling for fresh voting rights protections in the face of state-level restrictions — and are trying to prevent Jan. 6 from being downplayed or swept aside.

Below we've compiled remarks from each Massachusetts lawmaker about the insurrection, what it continues to mean today and what they want to change.

Rep. Jake Auchincloss

Auchincloss had only been in Congress for a few days when the riot happened.

One year later, he says the insurrection is not "history."

"This is current events. This is happening now," Auchincloss says. "We are in the middle of a constitutional crisis where the majority of the GOP thinks the election was stolen in 2020."

Aunchincloss says he will not co-sign or collaborate on legislation with members of the Republican party who refused to certify the election.

Rep. Katherine Clark

Clark says many people who work at the Capitol are still dealing with the trauma of the insurrection.

The assistant House speaker says lawmakers need to focus on protecting the right to vote in order to protect democracy.

"Even though we have cleaned up the glass and the blood at the Capitol, this very threat to our right to vote remains real, and it remains dangerous," Clark tells WBUR.

Clark says congressional Democrats are prepared to work with the White House to protect that right, but doesn't count on her Republican colleagues to do the same.

Rep. Bill Keating

Keating says the insurrection has "long-lasting national consequences."

On Thursday, he held a livestream discussion about Jan. 6 on his Facebook page, alongside historian and author Nathaniel Philbrick.

Rep. Stephen Lynch

Lynch joined CBS Boston for an interview on the anniversary of Jan. 6.

He said he remembers being ushered out of the Capitol, before being brought back to continue counting votes once the insurrection subsided.

Lynch said he worries about fringe groups that commit acts of violence and deny the truth.

"I look forward to the country getting back together," Lynch told CBS Boston. "We have some real threats facing this country, and we can face them best when we're united."

Sen. Ed Markey

Markey says a year after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and tried to overturn the presidential election, the right to vote remains under threat.

And since Jan. 6, Markey says, Republican-led legislatures in several states have passed laws to make it harder to vote — and easier to overturn the results.

"Donald Trump's 'Big Lie' has turned into an even bigger threat, which is why it is imperative that we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom To Vote Act," Markey tells WBUR.

Senate Republicans oppose that legislation, so Democrats need their entire caucus to support altering the filibuster. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have resisted the idea, but Markey is hopeful they can be persuaded to change their minds.

Rep. Jim McGovern

McGovern, like many of his delegation colleagues, says he too is worried about democracy and voting rights in America.

The central Massachusetts Democrat believes there is a growing number of Americans — including some in Congress — who are willing to resort to violence to gain power.

"What these guys were unable to succeed at on Jan. 6th — which was basically to undermine the will of the people in the election — they're trying to do with bills and initiatives at the state and local level to politicize our elections," McGovern told WBUR's Radio Boston.

McGovern was presiding over the House one year ago when security began ushering congressional leaders to safety.

"One hundred and forty Capitol Police officers were injured that day. People died. [The rioters] destroyed parts of the Capitol building. And they tried to undermine the election," McGovern said. "So when people are trying to downplay it or make-believe it didn't happen, it really ticks me off. I have no patience for that. And I'm hoping that a lot of people in this country will have no patience for that as well."

Rep. Seth Moulton

Moulton says he remembers Capitol Police assembling in the morning like it would be a small protest, seeing nothing different than an average day at the Capitol.

"I realized how vulnerable we were," Moulton tells WBUR's Radio Boston. Later that day, he spoke with WBUR host Lisa Mullins while on lockdown in his D.C. office during the insurrection.

Moulton says he has been through worse experiences than Jan. 6 while serving as a U.S. Marine overseas. But he knows for many of his colleagues in Congress, it was the worst day of their lives.

He says while it's human nature to want to move on, there must be a concerted effort to reflect, make legislative change and dismantle the "Big Lie."

"If we don't change those things, then I fear another Jan. 6th in 2022, in November. I fear another one in 2024," he says.

Rep. Richard Neal

Neal says he saw the insurrection unfold firsthand — and that the nation's constitutional processes were ultimately upheld.

In a MassLive op-ed, he called Jan. 6 "the most violent assault on our Capitol since British soldiers invaded and set fire to it during the War of 1812."

Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Pressley was among the lawmakers who sheltered in their offices during the Capitol attack. She was in Washington with her husband, Conan Harris, who had accompanied Pressley for her swearing-in ceremony.

"We don't have the luxury of simply turning the page on January 6th," Pressley wrote on Twitter. "Democracy won the battle that day, but the war against it is still being waged. We can't allow ourselves to get complacent. There is too much at stake."

Rep. Lori Trahan

Trahan says she remains "extremely angry" about what happened on Jan. 6, calling it one of America's darkest days.

In a Twitter thread Thursday, Trahan thanked Capitol Police officers and National Guard members who helped protect the Capitol building.

Trahan wrote the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 will continue its work to "determine exactly what led to the attack [and] uncover every detail of the security failures that followed."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Warren addressed the Jan. 6 anniversary on the Senate floor Wednesday.

She said the riot was fueled by lies about the 2020 election made in an attempt for then-President Trump to keep power — and that a threat still exists.

"Today, Republican opponents of democracy are exploiting every possible avenue to allow their party to maintain control even if that means overturning the will of the American people," she said.

Warren is among lawmakers calling for new federal voting rights protections, and for abolishing the filibuster.

Related:

Jack Mitchell Twitter Associate Producer
Jack Mitchell is an associate producer in WBUR's newsroom.

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