People gathered on Civic Plaza in Albuquerque to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in 2021. (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source NM)
People aiming to protect voting rights and recall the full measure of what happened a year ago in the U.S. Capitol carried signs and filled out petitions in the cold on Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza Thursday evening as part of simultaneous gatherings marking Jan. 6 around the country.
“What do we have to do to make sure it never happens again?” organizer Kenny Jones asked the crowd.
He spoke of the careful work it takes to preserve democracy. “This will not be easy,” he said. “It will mean taking bold, provocative, persistent and peaceful action in our workplaces, our schools, our places of worship, and yes, in our streets.”
He and other speakers called on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, even if it means doing away with the filibuster so the measures can clear the U.S. Senate.
Easier access in NM
Mid-Thursday afternoon, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced they intend to expand voting rights in New Mexico. Though the exact language of their legislation hasn’t yet been made public, their proposal includes:
- Allowing 16-year-olds to participate in local elections
- Expanding the timeline for Indigenous Nations, Tribes and Pueblos to request alternate voting sites
- Designating Election Day as a state holiday
- Letting people become permanent absentee voters so ballots just show up in their mailboxes without folks having to make a request each time
- Automatically restoring the voting rights of people who are no longer incarcerated for a felony conviction
- Allowing a straight-party voting option
“Even as we’ve seen attempts around the country to make voting more difficult for eligible voters,” Toulouse Oliver said in a news release, “here in New Mexico we continue to be a leader in how to balance the demands for voter access with the needs of maintaining our high levels of election security.”
The event was patriotic, with many handheld American flags waving as the sun set. “The American flag does not just belong to those fools in their big, huge trucks,” said Lisa Christopherson from the stage, evoking the folks who in 2020 counter-protested Black Lives Matter demonstrations locally. “This is our America, too,” she said.
No counter-protesters seemed to have come out to challenge the Jan. 6 Day of Remembrance and Action in Albuquerque.
A representative from Toulouse Oliver’s campaign spoke to the crowd about threats against election administrators and workers — an issue Toulouse Oliver and others shed light on a few months ago.
A row of people on the stage each held a letter spelling out “STOP THE COUP,” and speakers on the mic said the attack on democracy is ongoing. Legislatures in 19 states enacted voting restrictions in 2021, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which monitors such bills.
Many also demanded accountability for the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Carl Peterson, a board member with Indivisible Albuquerque, said he wanted to hear the Department of Justice using words like “sedition,” and “rebellion.”
Jim Harvey, executive director for the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, said people should not accept the “tepid response” from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We want teeth,” Harvey said. “The civil war in this country is still going on.”
New Mexico Sen. Harold Pope said as a retired military officer who’s served overseas and seen conflict, he was “disgusted” a year ago to watch his country’s leader rally his supporters and then not do anything when they stormed the Capitol. “Why was this allowed to happen?” he asked. “And not only that, but why were these insurrectionists allowed to leave and go home?”
“I know many community members out here that protest and rally. We probably had more that were arrested here in Albuquerque last year than what happened at the Capitol,” Pope said.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested 14 people on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a news release, on charges of unlawful entry, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and carrying unregistered ammunition or firearms.
In subsequent days, over 700 people were charged with crimes relating to the attack, according to an NPR database. The FBI estimated thousands participated.
We can’t legislate all of the ills we are facing, Pope said. “We have to stand up and hold each other accountable.”
He talked about misinformation and a disturbing disagreement about basic facts, as nationally public officials tried to downplay or whitewash the events of Jan. 6.
We’re living in a world now that people are arguing that fire’s not hot and water’s not wet. We have to change that.
– State Sen. Harold Pope (D-Albuquerque)
What happened at the Capitol, Pope said, had been brewing for a long time.
Attendees began to light candles in vigil for the people who died or were injured when Trump supporters and election deniers mobbed the building in D.C., aiming to prevent ratification of the 2020 results by Congress.
Five people died that day, and hundreds were injured. Four law enforcement officers later died by suicide.
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