United States Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday warned that democracy “simply will not stand” if not defended by the American people. She was speaking at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one-year anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot, where supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the building to protest the 2020 election results.
“How will January 6th come to be remembered in the years ahead?” Harris asked. “Will it be remembered as a moment of unraveling of the oldest, greatest democracy in the world? Or will it be seen as a moment we decided to strengthen our democracy for years to come?
“The strength of democracy is the rule of law,” Harris said, while also advocating for the expansion of voting rights. “We must pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate. We cannot sit on the sidelines. We must unite in defense of our democracy.”
She continued: “On January 6, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful; the lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.”
The unprecedented January 6 Capitol siege unfolded while the Senate and House of Representatives had convened to certify the state results of the presidential election which saw Joe Biden emerge as the winner. The rioters had earlier gathered in the nation’s capital to protest the results of the presidential elections citing baseless accusations of fraud which had been propagated by former president Trump.
The rioting was also spurred by a speech Trump gave while addressing them as he reiterated the election was fraudulent and called on the protesters to “walk down to the Capitol.” The incident left five people including a Capitol officer dead. Trump became the first U.S. president to be impeached more than once over inciting his protesters to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6. He was later acquitted in the U.S. Senate.
Federal criminal charges have since been filed against over 700 people in the FBI’s investigation of the riot, with about one-fourth of the defendants pleading guilty, according to NBC News.
Harris during her speech Thursday said “January 6 reflects the dual nature of democracy — its fragility and its strength.”
“The strength of democracy is the principle that everyone should be treated equally. That elections should be free and fair. That corruption should be given no quarter. The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people.”
“And the fragility of democracy is this. That if we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand. It will falter and fail,” Harris added.
She however commended lawmakers for their “resolve” in going ahead with the counting of Electoral College votes immediately after the riot.
President Biden in his speech has also called Trump a “defeated former president” and said he will fight against those who want to undermine the electoral process. “I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation, and allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” he said.
Harris in January took the oath of office in a historic ceremony, becoming the first woman, first Black American and first South Asian American to hold the office.