It’s been one year since the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but witness Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said it “seems like yesterday.”
Kind was among those trapped in the House chambers while Trump extremists stormed the building, interrupting the process of certifying the 2020 presidential election.
The attack was “heartbreaking,” Kind recalled in an interview this week. The Tribune also spoke with Kind the night of the attack. And although a year has now passed, Kind said that the reminders of the attack still remain at the Capitol — as do the threats.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” Kind said. “It’s just so imprinted in my memory what happened, the events that day.”
In the immediate aftermath of the attack Kind said he was “hopeful” there would be unification. But the perception of that day has since changed.
It’s been reported that five police officers that defended the Capitol have died during and in the months after the attack, and about 140 more injured. One participant in the riot was shot and killed. More than 700 people have been arrested for crimes tied to the attack.
Responses to the attack have included a second impeachment of former President Donald Trump and an investigation by a bipartisan January 6 committee. Trump has also been banned from certain social media platforms.
But Kind said that hasn’t been enough.
“I think what is concerning for me one year later is the threats still exist and ‘the big lie’ is still being perpetuated by Donald Trump and others. And too many of our fellow citizens are believing it,” Kind said. “They’ve created this alternate reality which I think presents a real peril to our democracy.”
He said it’s “not just what transpired on Jan. 6, but how they’re behaving afterwards,” saying that is “where the danger still lies.”
Kind called Capitol Hill a “different place,” describing it as quieter with more security.
“Unquestionably the threat level has really gone up on Capitol Hill. The daily threats that are still coming in, threats to members lives is still there,” Kind said.
Capitol security is more “proactive,” Kind said, saying they monitor internet threats more seriously than before.
He said that his office has taken more precautions since the attack, too, but Kind’s team was unable to share specifics on any threats their office has received due to privacy concerns.
During the attack, Kind has recalled that he helped officers move furniture to barricade doors within the chamber, and eventually asked one of the officers if they had another gun he might use. The officer swiftly declined, but Kind said that moment is still what sticks with him.
“I’ll never forget the expression on the police officer’s face,” Kind said. “It just showed how real the threat was and how uncertain the whole situation was.”
Kind did not say the Jan. 6 attack directly played into his decision not to seek another term after 26 years in office, but said that the new political arena did.
“The whole political atmosphere is completely different from when I first served,” Kind said, calling it “discouraging.
Kind reiterated to the Tribune that his primary reason for stepping down was because he had “run out of gas” after more than two decades in public service.
Despite Kind leaving office, Jan. 6 will be heard for many more months, not only in Washington, but on the campaign trail in western Wisconsin as voters look for his replacement. Already candidate Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, launched a digital ad condemning Derrick Van Orden, R-Prairie du Chien, for being in D.C. on Jan. 6.
Kind hopes the community will see Jan. 6 as an “eye-opening wake up call” about the brittleness of democracy.
“Jan. 6 showed how fragile our democracy really is,” Kind said. “It is a commitment that each generation must renew and be willing to fight for.”
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Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. A new poll shows that a year after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, about 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump as very violent or extremely violent.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, pictured in this 2019 file photo, was among those trapped in the House chambers during the Jan. 6 attack. On its one-year anniversary, Kind said there are reminders at the Capitol and that the threat still remains.