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On Jan. 6, vigils recall the rebellion with competing narratives

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The nation’s capital hosted an array of vigils Thursday (Jan. 6) to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol assault, with teams representing a broad spectrum of ideological and spiritual views lifting candles and prayers to look at the second in very other ways.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers closed out a day of occasions remembering the rebellion with a quick prayer service on the jap steps of the Capitol. Standing earlier than dozens of lawmakers as they cupped candles, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, prayed for God’s assist.

“We want your assist in these troubled instances,” Curry mentioned. “We want your assist for this beloved nation. We want your assist for individuals who have been traumatized and troubled by the painful occasions of 1 yr in the past — and all that has continued since. We want your assist, Lord, now, to be the democracy you’ll have us to be. To be the nation you’ll have us to be — one nation, beneath God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

He requested God to assist these current, who gave the impression to be primarily Democrats, to be “devices of your peace, devices of your love and devices of your therapeutic — for this land, for this Congress, for this authorities, for ‘We the individuals,’ for this nation and this world.”

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi then requested a second of silence to “prayerfully mark one yr for the reason that rebellion and patriotically honor the heroes who defended the Capitol and our democracy that day.”


RELATED: Jan. 6: A timeline in prayers


Lawmakers dispersed a short while later as a performer sang a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Down the hill on the Nationwide Mall, one other group of lawmakers gathered with a whole bunch of supporters and liberal activists for a prolonged vigil that doubled as a political rally. It centered much less on prayer than on activism, with audio system tying final yr’s rebellion to present-day fights over voting rights laws.

Folks attend a candlelight vigil on the Nationwide Mall, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington, on the one yr anniversary of the assault on the U.S. Capitol. RNS photograph by Jack Jenkins

Jana Morgan, head of the Declaration for American Democracy, a broad liberal coalition that advocates for federal voting rights laws, mentioned the rebellion constituted “a violent and lethal assault towards all Individuals and our freedom as voters to decide on the leaders who symbolize us.” However the assault on the democratic course of, she argued, was not merely past-tense.

“As we stand right here immediately, the identical faction of extremists who attacked our nation on Jan. 6, 2021, are laborious at work making an attempt to silence our voices by limiting our freedom to vote, attacking truthful districts and quietly making ready future makes an attempt to sabotage our elections,” she mentioned.

Morgan and different audio system accused Republicans of chipping away at voting rights and vented frustration with Democrats — particularly, Sen. Joe Manchin and President Joe Biden — who they advised aren’t doing sufficient to cease such strikes. As a treatment, they known as on liberal lawmakers to cross federal voting rights laws such because the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, in addition to grant statehood to Washington, D.C.

“As we bear in mind the victims of final yr’s assault, we additionally vow to by no means again down within the face of those that try and silence the desire of the American individuals,” Morgan mentioned. “Failure shouldn’t be an possibility.”

The coverage proposals resembled a voting rights-focused agenda championed by an array of faith leaders — particularly Black clergy — all through 2021. To wit, the vigil, just like the Declaration for American Democracy coalition, boasted a number of liberal-leaning religion teams amongst its sponsors, akin to Religion in Public Life and the Nationwide Council of Jewish Ladies.

Milling concerning the crowd with a “Franciscans for Justice” signal was Michele Dunne, head of the Franciscan Motion Community.

“As Franciscans, we consider within the equality of all individuals, and meaning equal entry to political energy and political determination making,” she mentioned. “Subsequently, we predict it’s essential to protect democracy in the USA.”

People attend a candlelight vigil on the National Mall, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington, on the one year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Folks attend a candlelight vigil on the Nationwide Mall, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington, on the one yr anniversary of the assault on the U.S. Capitol. RNS photograph by Jack Jenkins

Different audio system included Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland lawmaker who sits on the Home Choose Committee to Examine the January 6 Assault, in addition to Harper White, a congressional staffer who recounted his harrowing experiences throughout the assault.

About halfway by means of the occasion, organizers noticed a second of silence for individuals who died on Jan. 6, these current on the assaults who dedicated suicide shortly after, law enforcement officials and others who have been wounded throughout the rebellion in addition to those that have been “outraged and extra dedicated to standing up for his or her democracy.” As a whole bunch held candles aloft, a singer from Baltimore sang “Superb Grace.”

Because the liberal occasion started to disperse, a really completely different vigil started lower than three miles away exterior a Washington jail. A small band of activists, who have been visibly outnumbered by reporters and police, gathered to precise assist for the individuals held within the jail on costs stemming from the rebellion.

Attendees recognized as a part of the “Justice for J6” motion, which argues individuals charged within the rebellion are being handled unfairly. Vigil attendees have been dismissive of the assault itself, repeatedly downplaying its severity. One referred to it as a “ghost of an rebellion.”

The group sang a combination of patriotic songs and hymns all through the vigil, starting from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to “God Bless America” to “Jesus Loves the Little Youngsters.”

Among the many crowd was Micki Witthoeft, the mom of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by police whereas collaborating within the Capitol assault final yr. Attendees held pictures of Babbitt, who has been cast as a martyr by some conservatives.

Matt Braynard, right, speaks during a candlelight vigil associated with the “Justice for J6” movement in support of the so-called "political prisoners" of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, at the Washington Central Detention Facility where several are being held, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Matt Braynard, proper, speaks throughout a candlelight vigil related to the “Justice for J6” motion in assist of the so-called “political prisoners” of the Jan. 6 rebellion on the U.S. Capitol, on the Washington Central Detention Facility the place a number of are being held, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. RNS photograph by Jack Jenkins

As Witthoeft handed out pamphlets that referred to individuals charged in reference to the rebellion as “political prisoners,” she was requested whether or not religion informs her activism.

“I don’t declare any specific religion: I like God, I like Jesus Christ, I like America, and I miss my daughter,” she mentioned.

She then accused the officer who shot her daughter, who was cleared of any wrongdoing after an inner investigation by U.S. Capitol Police, of homicide.


RELATED: Interfaith vigil in DC gathers for second year, part of citywide Jan. 6 observances


Requested concerning the occasion’s non secular parts, vigil organizer Matt Braynard likened his assist for insurrectionists to causes such because the civil rights motion, the ladies’s suffrage motion and the struggle to finish slavery.

“All of them have been pushed by a non secular conviction,” mentioned Braynard, who added that he’s Catholic.

The occasion contrasted sharply with one more vigil convened outside Luther Place church in downtown Washington on Thursday morning. The surge of reporters that later orbited the “Justice for J6” vigil was nowhere to be seen because the group at Luther Place quietly gathered within the snow. They assembled not solely to mark the rebellion anniversary, but in addition to recall the interfaith vigil assembled in the identical location one yr prior.

The unique interfaith prayer vigil constituted one of many solely counterprotests towards Trump supporters as they descended on the town on Jan. 6, 2021. On the time, the group of primarily clergy had gathered around a church-owned Black Lives Matter sign that had changed a separate banner destroyed weeks earlier when members of the extremist group Proud Boys marauded by means of the streets of Washington, tore Black Lives Matter indicators off church buildings and set one ablaze.

Upon seeing the vigil that day, a number of passersby in Trump gear responded by barging into the center of the prayer circle and mockingly reenacting the homicide of George Floyd.

On Thursday, clergy on the anniversary vigil recalled the incident as a second of trauma and lamented the assault on the Capitol that passed off later that very same day. They decried insurrectionists, with one speaker blasting those that attacked the Capitol and those that vandalized the signal as white supremacists and devotees of Christian nationalism.

However the group remained defiant of their pursuit of prayerful activism. The Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Luther Place, advised neither the harassment nor the rebellion would cow them.

“Our praying didn’t stop,” she mentioned.

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