Sherman Hardy said the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol should remind Americans how history often repeats itself.
The 37-year-old real estate agent and Air Force veteran described last year’s attack as politically and racially motivated while federal lawmakers sought to certify the presidential election.
“What we need to learn from that incident is democracy is slipping away,” said Hardy, a Democrat from Clinton, Maryland, running for Prince George’s County executive. “The military members who took part in this should have their benefits removed immediately. This was devastating. I don’t want people to forget what happened.”
Hardy and other residents interviewed said former Republican President Donald Trump stirred his supporters to engage in violence which resulted in the death of five people including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
A House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot has already received hundreds of documents and heard testimony from U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan police officers who sought to protect the Capitol, lawmakers and their staff.
The House voted Dec. 14 to hold Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee.
More than a week later, the House issued subpoenas to Trump allies Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio and James P. “Phil” Waldron, a former Army intelligence officer.
So far, more than four dozen of the rioters have faced court sentences. According to a CNN tally, fewer than half of those received any jail time.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) summarized “a lot” of white nationalists involved in last year’s revolt held confederate flags “indicating adherence to a philosophy of slavery and racism.”
“The Trump flags clearly evidencing political support for a losing candidate in a violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people and perpetuate the administration of the loser,” he said during an interview Tuesday, Jan. 4.
Unfortunately, he said last year’s revolt could happen again if people don’t accept the country stands as a nation of laws.
“When the laws say that the election was won by A or B, then it is our duty as citizens to accept that judgement. In this case, it was not done,” he said.
As for the work by the Jan. 6 committee, the longtime congressman called it “deliberate and thorough.” He said there should be more public hearings and witnesses asked to come forward. If not, they will face contempt charges.
Residents interviewed said if Blacks, Latinos, or other minorities had stormed the Capitol and equipped themselves with gas masks, pepper spray, bats and other weapons, the outcome would’ve been different.
“I bet you there would’ve been proactive measures,” said Remi Duyile, a finance adjunct professor at Bowie State University who called the incident a “mini war.”
Duyile, who runs a nonprofit organization called Legacy Premier Foundation, said the incident should create upgrades in local policies when it comes to issuing permits for groups to hold protests.
“When people get a license or permit, the leaders need to sit down with someone and explain how serious this is. The group receiving the permit needs to be responsible for their actions,” said Duyile, who’s running for a state delegate seat to represent District 23B that includes parts of Bowie and Upper Marlboro. “Innocent people come to protest but some people are there for malicious intentions. We have to be proactive.”
Like Duyile, Linda Thornton Thomas said educating youth must also be a priority.
Thornton Thomas, president of the Prince George’s NAACP branch, said the organization continues work on a “civility campaign” slated to begin in late January or early February at local elementary schools.
Some of the focus will include teaching students not only when or when not to interact in intense situations but will also include civic lessons that deal with the importance and benefits of community service. She said the overall goal will be to disseminate the program throughout the county’s public schools and then share the curriculum with other NAACP branches in Maryland and the country.
“It is time for us to step up. Our kids are growing up fast,” she said. “We want to help people find the right verbiage and show this is how you should respond to certain situations. We want to show things can be done in a calm and positive manner.”
But Prince George’s school board member Raaheela Ahmed of Bowie said while unfortunately, future Jan. 6 riots can and still occur in other states.
Hundreds of people – some armed and most not wearing masks – crowded a lobby in the House chambers at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan, in April 2020 to protest Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-at-home order. During that time, the state recorded some of the highest confirmed coronavirus cases in the nation at more than 41,000.
Nearly two weeks before the April 30, 2020, protest, Trump posted on his Twitter page, “Liberate Michigan.”
Ahmed, 28, a Muslim woman of South Asian descent, said preconceived notions of other people are spurred by advertising on televisions and social media.
“There’s still such a sense of tribalism that folks feel comfortable staying with people that look like them to the detriment of learning, knowing and understanding other people authentically and genuinely,” said Ahmed, a supervisor for the nonprofit Campus Vote Project headquartered in Northwest.
“Until folks are able and feel comfortable to step outside of their comfort zone to truly understand other people and other perspectives, we won’t see the change that we want and the change that we need in terms of understanding and compromise,” she said.