Few Republicans join events on Capitol riot anniversary

‘Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm,’ President Joe Biden says in a speech.

Supporters of Donald Trump riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Supporters of then-US President Donald Trump battled police officers at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 as commemorations for that deadly day are held one year later [File: Julio Cortez/AP Photo]

People across the United States are commemorating the first anniversary of the deadly attack on the US Capitol, described by top officials in Washington, DC, as an “unprecedented” assault on the country’s democracy.

A mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.

Five people died in the ensuing violence, Trump was later impeached for “incitement of insurrection”, and more than 725 people have since been charged in relation to the attempt to undermine a democratic transition of power.

Several events are planned in the US capital on Thursday to commemorate the sombre anniversary. US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the nation from the Capitol. A prayer vigil will be held on Thursday evening.

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates from the one-year anniversary of the US Capitol riot:

Trump to launch new social media venture next month

Former US President Donald Trump’s new media venture plans to launch its social media app Truth Social next month, according to an Apple App Store listing.

TRUTH Social, the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) alternative to Twitter, is available for pre-order before going live on the US Presidents’ Day holiday on February 21.

Similar to Twitter, the app offers features to follow other people and trending topics, according to demo photos. The launch would come 13 months after Twitter and Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook banned Trump for encouraging his supporters to participate in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Republicans respond to Biden’s speech: ‘I don’t trust our government’

Two Republican representatives, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, have given a response to Biden’s speech on January 6. They were unapologetic in supporting former President Donald Trump’s inaccurate claims of election fraud, which helped spark the riot.

“We’re ashamed of nothing,” Florida Congressman Gaetz said. “We’re proud of the work we did on January 6 and we’re actually going to walk the grounds that patriotic Americans walked from the White House to the Capitol.”

“I can tell your right now, I don’t trust our government,” Congresswoman Greene said of investigations into violence on January 6. “We have a lot of questions to ask, and the people who should be answering questions is our FBI and Department of Justice,” she said.

Democrat lawmaker: US must ‘remain uncomfortable’ with January 6

Americans must “remain uncomfortable” with the events of January 6, progressive Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has said, calling for holding all those responsible for the riot accountable.

Pressley, the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress, said in a statement on Thursday that white supremacy continues to threaten US democracy a year after the Capitol attack. She warned against complacency in confronting the far-right and called for reforms to protect voting rights, including abolishing the filibuster – a legislative process that allows the minority in the Senate to block major legislation.

“As a Black woman in America – to experience the ancestral trauma of a violent white supremacist mob seizing the building, brandishing Confederate flags and erecting a noose on the Capitol grounds was all too familiar – and tragically, the threat remains today,” Pressley said.

Obama blasts politicians who ‘fabricate lies’

“Historically, Americans have been defenders of democracy and freedom around the world – especially when it’s under attack,” former US President Barack Obama said in a statement on Thursday.

“But we can’t serve that role when leading figures in one of our two major political parties are actively undermining democracy at home. We can’t set an example when our own leaders are willing to fabricate lies and cast doubt on the results of free and fair elections.”

Former VP Dick Cheney ‘deeply disappointed’ in Republican leadership

Just two Republicans were spotted at a House of Representatives session marking the riot’s anniversary: Representative Liz Cheney, who has been shunned by party colleagues after criticising Trump, and her father Dick Cheney, who served as vice president under President George W Bush.

“A party that is in thrall to a cult of personality is a party that is dangerous to the country,” Liz Cheney told reporters on her way out of the Capitol.

Dick Cheney told reporters that current party leaders do not resemble “any of the folks I knew” when he served in Congress. “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution,” he also told ABC News.

Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, are pursued by reporters
US Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, attended a moment of silence to mark the first anniversary of the US Capitol riot [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Healing US’s divide will be a generational project: Analyst

The current political divisions in the US are much sharper than in any other Western democracy, a geopolitical risk consultant said, and Biden’s speech on Thursday will do little to heal them.

“Addressing the political divisions will be a matter of a generation, not just one president,” Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the consultancy Eurasia Group, told Al Jazeera.

Plans to spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure may help reduce inequality and anger from some Americans, Bremmer said. But a large number of white American men with low education levels have seen their standard of living decline in recent years, he said, and responding to growing inequality and resentment will not be easy.

“When Biden at the beginning of the year said, ‘America is back,’ it is hard to square that with him saying today that democracy is in crisis,” Bremmer explained.

Florida’s Republican governor slams media coverage of January 6

“The D.C., New York media – this is their Christmas, January 6,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “They are going to take this and milk this for anything they could to try to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.”

Congress marks anniversary of January 6 with moment of silence

Members of the US House of Representatives marked the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol with a moment of silence at the start of a session.

Congress, however, remains deeply divided over the riot. Many Republican legislators did not mark the moment of silence.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, for instance, said he has no plans to memorialize the day, and he doesn’t think others should, either. “This thing has already become way too politicised, and that would just further exacerbate it,” he said.

Unlike in past national traumas – including the 2001 attacks – the US has emerged from January 6 without an agreed-upon plan for what comes next.

A flag depicting then-President Donald Trump flies on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington
A flag depicting then-President Donald Trump flies on the East Front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington [File: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

Some notable Republicans call out party over January 6

Some prominent Republicans, including a handful of sitting legislators and party grandees, have criticised their party for its response to the Capitol riot.

“My criticisms are often aimed at Democrats; on the anniversary of Jan. 6, I’m addressing squarely those Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College’s results, and violently attempted to overturn the election,” Karl Rove, a Republican consultant and former senior adviser in the George W Bush administration, wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“If Democrats had done what some Trump supporters did on that violent Jan. 6, Republicans would have criticized them mercilessly and been right to do so,” Rove wrote. “There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less.”

Republican Representative Liz Cheney said, “Our institutions held, but they only held because of the people who were willing to stand up against the pressure from former President Trump.

“The threat continues. Former President Trump continues to make the same claims that he knows caused violence on January 6.”

Interactive map showing routes rioters took to the US Capitol

‘Brazen politicisation’: Republican lawmakers react to Biden’s speech

Top Republican legislators have reacted with anger over President Joe Biden’s speech at the January 6 events.

“What brazen politicisation of January 6 by President Biden,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally. “I wonder if the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan with al-Qaeda elements present, contrary to President Biden’s beliefs, are allowing this speech to be carried?”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who clashed with Trump over election fraud conspiracies, called January 6 a “dark day for Congress and our country” as the Capitol was “stormed by criminals who brutalised police officers and used force to try to stop Congress from doing its job”.

He also blasted Democrats.

“It is especially jaw-dropping to hear some Senate Democrats invoke the mob’s attempt to disrupt our country’s norms, rules, and institutions as a justification to discard our norms, rules, and institutions themselves,” Mitch McConnell said.

Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Green said: “The real insurrectionists I think are the Democrats because of what they are doing to our country and how they are completely perverting the Constitution and Congress.”

Trump blasts Biden’s speech

Former President Donald Trump has lashed out at President Joe Biden over his speech at the January 6 commemorations.

Biden, a Democrat, “used my name today to try to further divide America”, Trump said in a written statement issued on Thursday. “This political theater is all just a distraction.”

Trump, a Republican, accused Biden of “destroying our nation” with “insane” border policies, “corrupt elections” and “devastating school closures”.

Former President Donald Trump prepares to take the stage during a rally in 2021
Former President Trump has accused Biden of trying to ‘further divide America’ [File: Ben Gray/AP Photo]

No signs of protest outside the Capitol

Outside the US Capitol, a few people came out to mark the anniversary of the January 6 riot where thousands had protested a year ago.

Journalists far outnumbered spectators outside the Capitol, Al Jazeera’s Ali Harb reported from the scene.

With snow still on the ground in Washington, DC, the scene seemed “eerily quiet” with many “observers and very little action”, Harb said.

Most Republican lawmakers boycott commemorations

Only a hand full of Republican legislators are participating in events commemorating the January 6 riot, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reported from Washington, DC.

“Many others agree with former president Trump’s incorrect assertion that the last election was stolen,” Hanna said. ­­

The memorial events were presented as an attempt to unify a divided nation with the aim of preserving democracy, but attendance at the commemorations has largely been determined along partisan lines.

In his speech on Thursday, Biden took direct aim at the former Republican president.

“This was not a speech to bring both sides together – this was a speech calling out Donald Trump for the events of January 6,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reporting from Washington, DC.

Biden says Trump is spreading a ‘web of lies’

President Biden has accused his predecessor Trump of spreading a “web of lies” about the last US election and American democracy during a speech commemorating the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol.

“He’s done so because he values power over principle because he sees his own interest was more important than his country’s interest,” Biden said of Trump. “His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution,” Biden said in Statuary Hall, an area which rioters paraded through one year ago.

“He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said he lost.”

Biden, who was visibly angry in his speech, said the storming of the Capitol was unprecedented in US history.

Trump, he said, did what no other president in American history has ever done: “He refused to accept the result of the election.”

The president called the events of January 6, 2021 “an armed insurrection”. The rioters “were looking to deny the will of the people. They weren’t looking for a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one.”

“At this moment we must decide what kind of nation we are going to be,” Biden told the memorial. “Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Statuary Hall on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol
President Biden speaks on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former President Trump [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

VP Kamala Harris: ‘The strength of democracy is the rule of law’

In an address at the Capitol on Thursday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris warned of continuing threats to US democracy.

“The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people,” Harris said at an event marking the riot. “And the fragility of democracy is this: if we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand. The strength of democracy is the rule of law.”

US vice president Kamala Harris speaks in Statuary hall in the US Capitol as President Joe Biden looks on
US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in Statuary Hall on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

‘I fear for our democracy’: Jimmy Carter

Former US President Jimmy Carter, says “toxic polarization” threatens the US democratic system, with those promoting the “lie that the election was stolen” taking over the Republican Party and stoking distrust.

The 39th president recounted in an opinion piece in The New York Times how in 1962 he was able to overcome an attempt at election fraud in the courts.

Carter called on Americans to accept constitutional principles and the rule of law, to support reforms that ensure “security and accessibility” of elections, resist polarisation, and address the spread of disinformation heightening the US political divide.

The US “teeters on the brink of a widening abyss … at genuine risk of civil conflict”, he wrote, saying Americans must work together before it is too late.

US attorney general pledges accountability

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has promised to ensure justice and accountability for the January 6 Capitol riot.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Garland said the US Department of Justice would not relent in prosecuting people who broke the law during what he described as an “unprecedented attack” on US democracy.

Garland said the Department of Justice has charged more than 725 defendants in relation to the riot. The severest charges have been reserved for people accused of assaulting police officers and of being involved in planning to disrupt the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory, he said.

A graphic explaining the 705 people arrested so far in the Capitol Hill riots on Jan 6, 2021

Faces of chaos: Where are they now?

From a shirtless young man with face paint, tattoos and a big furry hat, to Confederate partisans and a guy with his feet on the US House speaker’s desk, the Capitol riot produced some memorable images.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Harb tracked down some of the most memorable characters to see where they are now – and where the legal proceedings against them stand.

Trump supporter sits with feet up on Nancy Pelosi's desk
Richard Barnett remained in pre-trial detention for more than three months [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

A ‘wake up call’ to threat of US far right

A year after the January 6 riot, a former US counterterrorism official worries that lone-wolf-style attacks from far-right “extremists” could pose a significant security challenge through 2022.

“It was a wake-up call,” Jason Blazakis, a former US Department of State counterterrorism official, told Al Jazeera.

“[The far-right] was a threat that was underestimated by security officials and policymakers who were sometimes willfully trying to ignore the problem for political reasons … Only now is the US government seeing the internal threat as a serious challenge.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies