SYRACUSE — First responders, local elected officials and community leaders gathered Thursday for a virtual remembrance of the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 last year.
The panel of select speakers, including Dan Farfaglia (D-1st Ward) of the Fulton Common Council, decried and condemned the actions of the rioters as acts of “vandalism” and “desecration.”
The event was organized by Veterans Organize CNY Founder Roger Misso, a U.S. Navy veteran and Red Creek native. Misso is an advocate for veterans affairs, a political strategist, and a former congressional candidate seeking to represent New York’s 24th Congressional District.
“Whether we like it or not, this cowardly episode is part of our national story now. We cannot change it. We should not hide from it,” Misso said. “Rather, we must examine it, learn from it, and take steps to ensure it does not happen again.”
The occupation of the Capitol last year and the involvement of former President Donald Trump continue to be investigated by elected leaders. A bipartisan committee set up to inquire into the acts of insurrection, which resulted in the death of five, has yielded subpoenas for approximately 50 Trump allies, according to the Associated Press (AP). Republican Representatives Scott Perry of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who reportedly communicated with Trump on Jan. 6, are also under scrutiny, AP reports.
The commission is expected to finalize its work before the midterm elections on Nov. 8.
Robb Davies, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia who was dispatched to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and former U.S. Marine and U.S. Senate staffer, spoke at the event, reflecting on his service.
“Surreal and terrible as that day was, there is nowhere else on this earth I would have rather been that afternoon, just knowing that I stood there for every public servant in the country,” he said. “The attack on our Capitol was an attack on all Americans. From the traumatized Congress members and staff who had to evacuate or barricade themselves in their offices, to the journalists targeted in the crowd and to the viewers at home watching helplessly.”
Davies said local police responding to the incident bore the brunt of the insurrection. The incident, he added, yielded gruesome lesions and fatal injuries. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes on Jan. 6, according to AP. Two men were also arrested for allegedly assaulting Sicknick during the riots by spraying a chemical irritant into his eyes and face.
MPD Officers Howard Liebengood, Jeffrey Smith, Gunther Hashida, Kyle DeFreytag, committed suicide in the days following the Jan. 6 incident.
Farfaglia spoke during the remembrance, reflecting on feelings of fright and distress.
“A year ago today, I was mortified by what was happening at our nation’s capital,” Farfaglia said. “In addition to the violence against the Capitol police force, what upset me was the extreme disrespect displayed toward our democracy and the intentional disruption of certifying the presidential election results.”
Farfaglia emphasized the symbolic significance the American flag has in his life, recounting stories of a veteran he helped in distributing American flags to Oswego County school districts.
“The American flag was under attack (Jan. 6, 2021),” he said. “That symbol of our nation has always had special meaning to me and my family.”
Another instance when Farfaglia reflected on the symbolism of the American flag, he said, occurred at a recent naturalization ceremony where immigrants gained American citizenship. For new Americans, Farfaglia added, the flags at the ceremony represented a symbol of pride, hope, and “so much more.”
Farfaglia also condemned Trump’s reluctance to accept the results of the presidential election results in 2020. Trump’s contesting of the results in federal courts, citing unfounded election fraud, has been largely unfruitful.
“Presidents are supposed to be leaders that can accept the decision of the American people, proceed with a peaceful transition in our republic, and in the end inspire us and bring out the best in all of us,” Farfaglia said.
State Sen. Rachel May, a Democrat representing Syracuse, said state legislators are working on strengthening voter protections. On Election Day last year, three statewide ballot proposals seeking to enhance voting failed. Ballot Proposal 1 aimed to amend the apportionment of state representatives and the redistricting process based on updated population counts. Ballot Proposal 3 sought to eliminate a state statute that requires voters to be registered at least 10 days prior to Election Day. Ballot Proposal 4 was introduced to strike down the requirement that a voter provide a reason for voting via absentee ballot.
May noted the state’s Democratic caucus will attempt to float the ballot propositions again in 2022.
“The (propositions) are good for democracy,” she said. “I want to see us consolidate our elections to boost our turnout and assure our elections reflect the will of the people and not just the wishes of a few. I will also keep working to lower the barriers for getting on the ballot so that more and more diverse candidates feel welcome to run for office.”