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Anniversary of attacks on Capitol brings reflection and resolve in central Illinois

Rioters storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Among those charged in connection with the insurrection are members of the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers.
Brent Stirton
Getty Images
Rioters storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Among those charged in connection with the insurrection are members of the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers.

One year after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, elected officials and central Illinois residents said they vividly remember the events of that day.

During a virtual vigil held Thursday by the Bloomington-Normal progressive activist group Voices of Reason, attendees recalled their thoughts at the moment a mob stormed the halls of government.

  • "My husband and I just happened to have the radio on. We stopped what we were doing for three hours and just listened and watched," said Michelle Proksa.
  • "A neighbor texted me. My heart broke," said Susan Bitney.
  • "I was listening to the vote count on the radio, and I called my mom to ask her why they stopped suddenly. She told me people were breaching the Capitol," said Karla Bailey-Smith, a Democratic party candidate for state representative in the 91st House district.
  • "I first thought it was a prank. This couldn't be real! Then I was glued to the TV watching in horror when I saw the violence!" said Mary Clark.
  • "The insurrection was just the terrible icing on the cake of four years of injustices and authoritarian rule taking over our country," said Linda Gaska.
  • "I saw a notification in a blog I was reading. I didn't realize the scope of the incident until later," said Patricia Sheller.
  • "I’m a Vietnam vet and I was appalled to see militants invade the Capitol. This was not patriotism, it was terrorism by a small minority led by an autocrat," said Karl Bronn.
  • "I was thinking these are the same people who brag about bringing democracy overseas. The joke in Argentina that day was since Americans couldn't go overseas because of COVID this year they were doing the coup at home," said Elena Morone.
  • "This incident last year was so horrifying that I refused to watch the news for a week," said David Villegas.

Speaking on NPR's The 21st Show, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said she was barricaded in her main office.
“My auxiliary office in the Capitol is right next to where they breached, and so I could see them on television trying to break through the windows of my office," said Duckworth.

Duckworth had planned to stop in the auxiliary office on her way to speak on the Senate floor that afternoon before Capitol Police warned her about the attack. She said the Department of Justice should prosecute everyone responsible for the violence, including those who spread the “big lie” that former President Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats also used used the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack to promote voting rights legislation.

McLean County party chair Patrick Cortesi called for voter activism. Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said on the Senate floor that Republican-led efforts in several states to restrict voting rights came after an election that had the largest turnout in history. Durbin said every American has a responsibility to the future.

"Will we summon the courage to come together and lead, to extend the opportunity to vote to more and more Americans, to make this democracy more complete and more just, or will we step back and accept the verdict of history that we are going to go back in time instead of forward as a nation. I trust we will move forward," said Durbin, noting that many innocent people paid a price a year ago.

He said GOP colleagues who say the federal government has no right to tell the states how to conduct elections are wrong, according to Article One, section four of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which bars voter discrimination on the basis of race.

Durbin issued a call to make democracy more complete and more just, saying no matter what their political persuasion, he hopes everyone can agree on one thing.

"Violence has no place in a democracy. Those who resort to violence wherever they fit on the political spectrum do not fit on that spectrum, do not belong in this country. And what we saw a year ago today was violence unbridled."

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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