Illinois politicians reflect on 3rd anniversary of January 6th Capitol attack

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Saturday marks three years since the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, when thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the building to protest the 2020 election results.

More than 100 police officers were injured, and rioters caused millions of dollars in damage.

"It was perhaps the darkest day in our democracy since the Civil War," said Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois' 5th district.

"I remember sitting in the House Chambers, ready to certify the results of a fair and free election as mandated by the Constitution, a task Congress has done since the inception of the nation, and then all hell broke loose," he reflects.

Quigley and many of his Democratic colleagues are concerned about a shift in perception of what took place that day.

A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds attitudes about the attack are deeply divided along partisan lines.

"Two years ago, 33% of Republicans polled said January 6th was an insurrection. That number is now just 13%," said Quigley.

"The danger now is while we learn that it was a very fragile democracy we’re living with, we learned it could happen again if people don’t remember history it can repeat itself."

Rep. Brad Schneider, of Illinois' 10th district, was also in the Capitol that day and remembers being told to take cover several times, and hearing a gunshot, before he and his colleagues were ushered to safety by Capitol Police.

"Over time, Capitol Police have been reinforced. Within the Capitol itself, we have seen steps taken. What concerns me is outside the capitol, across the country, we still see too many people who falsely believe the election was, that there were irregularities," said Rep. Schneider.

Rep. Schneider believes there are two critical things that need to happen moving forward to ensure a safe election in November.

"We need to make sure our law enforcement have the resources they need to identify and intercept any possible threats. We also need to change the discourse and talk to each other with respect," he said.

"We should be able to talk to each other, listen to each other, and have the political discourse this country was built upon. Where people with differing views come together and unite under a common view."

Former Republican Congressman Rodney Davis, who lost re-election to a Trump-backed candidate in a redrawn district last year, was also inside the Capitol on January 6th.

"That day was a terrible day in American history, and it’s a day that was one of the most terrifying moments I ever had as a member of Congress," said Davis, who now works for a lobbying firm in DC.

Davis credits Capitol Police with ensuring his and his colleagues' safety that day, but he believes more needs to be done to prepare for future attacks.

"The Capitol security apparatus as a whole, I’m afraid, has not prepared for another January 6th type of situation. That’s what scares me. That’s the biggest failure of the select committee," said Davis.

Davis initially supported an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. He was selected to serve on the committee but later pulled by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy over objections by Nancy Pelosi to Republican Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio and "the impact their appointments could have on the integrity of the investigation."

"We know that the capitol police intelligence division had information and intelligence that said the capitol would be under attack," said Davis.

"I would hope there’s better preparation and better intelligence sharing than the failures we witnessed on and leading up to Jan. 6."

Former President Donald Trump has been charged with four counts related to the 2020 election, including conspiracy to impede the Jan. 6 congressional proceeding.

Davis says Trump, and "anyone in this country," deserves the right to be able to run for office.

"The voters need to decide who they want to be president," he said.

Some of his is former colleagues, however, disagree and are concerned 2024 will bring future threats.

"It's an autocratic tool. When there are those that disagree with you, you threaten them with violence. It worked for the president before, and I think he thinks it’ll work again," said Rep. Quigley.

"As we go along on this, and as his court cases move forward, this is a former president that has shown a very strong willingness to incite violence again. [It's] very scary as we look at 2024 moving forward."

More than 1,200 people have been charged with federal crimes, ranging from misdemeanor offenses like trespassing to felonies like assaulting police officers and seditious conspiracy, related to January 6th.

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