Jan. 6

Vt. Leaders Reflect on Anniversary of ‘Sad and Wrenching' Attack on Democracy

Vermont politicians called for the will of the voters — not violence or lies — to decide elections

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On the anniversary of the violent and deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol, Vermont’s Congressional delegation is reflecting on the events of January 6, 2021 — and calling for action to guard against a repeat.

“It was a terrifying experience,” recalled Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, who shared chaotic video he took in the House chamber a year ago.

In Welch’s video, some of which was recorded as the violent mob was storming the Capitol, demanding the overturning of election results, he describes the scary atmosphere, and how police had tried to reinforce the door that was battered by the mob.

Welch and his colleagues were told by police, with guns drawn, to put on gas masks — since they were uncertain of what was coming through the doors.

"All of us wondered if we’d make it home," Welch said, noting some colleagues called loved ones, fearing that could be the last time they spoke to them.

The nation’s seniormost U.S. senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was also shuttled to safety a year ago.

Thursday, in a speech on the Senate floor, Leahy denounced political attempts to whitewash how serious that threat was to the long-held tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

"That day one year ago was such a sad and wrenching day," Leahy said. "To deny it is to be complicit in what happened."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, also weighed in on the January 6 anniversary, in a tweet.

"That day made clear our democracy is under severe attack," Sanders wrote. “We must hold responsible those who engaged in the insurrection. We must stand up to the Big Lie. We must make it easier, not harder, to vote."

The "Big Lie" refers to President Donald Trump’s baseless — and disproven — claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

Last January, Gov. Phil Scott was believed to be the nation’s first elected Republican to call for Trump to leave office early over the storming of the Capitol.

"These actions were not patriotic, and these people are not patriots," Scott said a year ago about the insurrection at the Capitol.

Other state leaders in Vermont agree that our divided nation needs to focus on ensuring democracy perseveres.

"Vermonters saw it for what it was: an attempt to dismantle the very fabric of our democracy," Democrat Jill Krowinski of Burlington, the speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, said this week of last year’s attack on the Capitol. "There is much, much work to do in order to heal our state — our nation — and chart a successful path into the future."

Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, D-Vermont, issued a written statement on the anniversary of the assault on the Capitol.

"One year later, there are still cracks in the bedrock of our national unity caused by the actions of that angry mob, however, I believe our leadership in Vermont can be a model for the nation," Gray wrote. "We’re hopeful and believe that together we can build a stronger future. We put differences aside and put each other first. We must be united as Vermonters and Americans and act with a common purpose to protect our democratic institutions and values."

That process should start, Welch said, with upholding voting rights and rejecting violence as a political tool — so another January 6, 2021, never happens.

"The decision about who is our leader belongs to the people — to the voters," Welch said.

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