Holding the Line
“Despite being outnumbered, we did our job. Every member of the House of Representatives, Senators and staff members made it home. Sadly as a result of that day, we lost officers, some really good officers, but we held the line to protect our democratic process because the alternative would have been a disaster. We are not asking for medals, recognition. We simply want justice and accountability. For most people, January 6th happened for a few hours, but for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended. That day continues to be a constant trauma for us literally every day, whether because our physical or emotional injuries or both.”
Mr. Raskin (later, responding to Officer Fanone):
“Thank you…I think you’ve given our committee our marching orders today, which is to hold the line. You held the line and now we’ve got to hold the line. So I want to thank you for that. If we show a fraction of the courage and the valor that you all demonstrated on January 6th, then we will hold the line in this committee.”
From the first hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection, July 27, 2020
I was not in the US Capitol on January 6. So I don’t bear the physical, mental, and emotional scars of that day’s extreme violence and threat. I was able to listen to the first day of the House Select Committee hearings on the January 6 insurrection on my phone. I did so while preparing for our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to visit from NYC for the first time since January 2020. Our first in-person visit. First hugs, watered in this dry, hot time with our tears.
I paused my activities to watch the videos the committee members showed, horrifying scenes of brutality, hatred, racism, betrayal by domestic terrorists. Over a period of hours that must have seemed like years, courageous officers risked and, in some cases, gave their lives to protect Congressional members, staff, Capitol workers, and our democracy. Mostly I listened to their testimony and the Committee members’ statements and questions, all laced with potent emotion, through my earbuds. The words, the sounds, the pauses to fight back tears, played out while I searched our blueberry bushes for the blue-black, fat, soft, ripe ones ready to pick, while I pressed colorful butterfly decals on the wall of our guest bedroom, newly decorated to make a three-year-old feel at home. The images and words in my mind don’t match.
In this strange summer of unnatural, deadly heat and beautiful, blessedly normal Northwest weather, of long-awaited post-vaccination reunions amid spiking hospitalizations from the Delta variant, I work to knit my life and family back together as my body knits my newly-repaired rotator cuff tendons to bone. There is so much need for healing. And so much ongoing wounding. Though the Capitol has been cleaned and repaired, the breach in our democracy still gapes; the attacks continue, even intensify. Instead of the weapons the terrorists used on Jan. 6—according to Sgt. Gonell, “police shields, police batons, hammers, a sledgehammer, flagpoles, tasers, pepper spray, bear spray, rebar, bats, PVC pipes, copper pipes, rocks, table legs broken down, furniture broken down, the guard rails for the integration stage, combs, a four by four, any weapons, any items that they could get their hands on”—the weapons now are lies and laws based on those lies. Laws to take away the right to vote from Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, poor people, young people, disabled people, anyone who might not vote Republican, have been proposed in state legislatures across the country, and several have passed. If they take effect, the relatively narrow victories that Democrats won last November and January will likely not happen again. Our democracy will be lost. The line will not hold.
As I write this, hundreds of people walk in blistering heat from Georgetown to Austin, Texas, led by the Poor People’s Campaign and Powered by People, to demand an end to the filibuster, passage of the For the People Act, restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and a raise in the federal minimum wage to $15. The Republican-led legislature is attempting to make voting in Texas, already more restrictive than in any other state, even more so. Democratic legislators had to flee the state to prevent the law from passing. Under threat of arrest when they return, they have been in Washington, DC working to influence Congress to take action. On Monday, Aug. 2, the Poor People’s Campaign leads a National Moral Monday Action in DC for these same demands.
The Capitol Police and the Metropolitan DC Police held the line on Jan. 6. Activists for voting rights and social and economic justice are speaking out, marching, risking arrest and COVID infection during this dangerous summer to hold the line for our democracy and our survival in a changing climate. As we once again hug our families and continue to heal from a difficult year and a half, we each need to ask ourselves: what am I doing to hold the line? Whether it’s making phone calls and writing emails and texts from home or more visible activities like marching and speaking, we each have something to give. For our families. For our grandchildren.