"Wait. It looks like there's been a breach. Sorry, I'm going to have to call you back."
That was how my phone call abruptly ended with a senior MPD official in the early afternoon of January 6, 2021. I spent the ensuing hours coordinating with neighbors, city leaders, and concerned residents as we bore witness to not just an attack on the Capitol and our democracy, but an attack on our home. What most watched unfold on their TVs and tablets, we saw and felt in our own backyard.
This wasn't some far off place.
It was our neighbors and loved ones sheltering in place and making frantic calls to family and friends. It was our community that had pipe bombs placed and wooden gallows erected. It was in our neighborhoods that people came with hate and violence. It was our public servants - MPD and FEMS in particular - that regained control and took care of those in need when the federal agencies failed, and have borne the cost in lives lost and trauma carried since that day. And it was our community that was separated from our seat of government by layers of fencing and large swaths of our neighborhood patrolled by armed guards.
Tomorrow marks one year from that day.
The reckoning and ramifications for our country are still becoming clear and will be for years to come. On the local level, DC has partnered with federal agencies to improve coordination and communication, and intelligence sharing is taking place in a more robust way. The US Capitol Police have worked with DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) to use local alerts to contact neighbors when needed, and their new Chief is working to reform their police force.
The Capitol fencing came down, to be replaced with better preparations and more nimble responses when needed. And I joined DC Attorney General Karl Racine and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton as legal action was launched against the organizations that led the attack that day.
But other areas have fallen short, such as giving the District’s Mayor the ability to deploy our own DC National Guard, just as every other state executive can do. And the Capitol Police Board hasn’t been reformed to add a DC government voice to shape how their actions impact our communities. This inaction is shameful.
In preparations for January 6th this week, I've spoken with law enforcement and emergency preparedness leaders. There are a handful of demonstrations and vigils planned, but they report there is no credible or direct threat to the District for the 6th. Several vigils are planned at the Capitol itself, and one small group has a permit for a rally outside the DC Jail. All events are being coordinated, and law enforcement is planning for each accordingly. HSEMA has also been reaching out to area churches and synagogues to keep faith leaders up-to-date, especially those that saw vandalism and hate directed at their institutions.
Few will feel the 6th the way we do. For many, it will bring back the fear, anxiety, confusion, and anger we felt at seeing the horrifying violence and our democracy so threatened - just steps away from our homes (if those feelings ever went away). If you, or someone you know, is struggling, DC has a 24-hour hotline to call for support at 1-888-7WE-HELP (1-888-793-4357).
I'm planning to visit the Capitol on the 6th. Whether with a quiet walk on the grounds, or joining a vigil that evening, I hope you'll find the way you feel best marks this moment in our history. There are those trying desperately to whitewash and erase what took place that day and how close we came to the edge. I recognize part of the challenge in processing what happened is the looming threat to our democracy that is ongoing. The best way to fight that effort is by ensuring we tell the truth for all to hear, and also hold those that led this insurrection accountable for their actions. It also means we never stop fighting for our values.
Tomorrow afternoon, I'll also be holding a public hearing on legislation I introduced to modernize our elections and make it easier for more residents to vote. As we think about what the attack on the Capitol really represented, the District should be a shining light to others that we can succeed by expanding – not taking away – rights and ensuring everyone is empowered to participate in our democracy.
I'm proud of the way we've come together to rally for our values and one another – and reject the hate and lies that led to this assault on our democracy.
Thanks as always, and I hope you're staying safe and well,