​​Elected officials gathered at Grand Army Plaza on Jan. 6, 2022, to speak about defending democracy and protecting voter rights. Credit: Contributed photo

In a show of unity, elected officials rallied at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza on January 6th to recognize the one year anniversary of the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021 in an attempt to overturn the presidential election of 2020. Since then, states across the country have enacted major restrictions on voting rights.

N.Y. State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie was joined by State Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Comptroller Brad Lander, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and several council and assembly members at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch specifically to speak about defending democracy and protecting voter rights.

“One year ago today, we witnessed a deadly attack on our government to stop the peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” said Myrie, who chairs the New York State Senate Elections Committee. “The Capitol riot in D.C. ended that day, but the assault on voting rights has continued in state capitals across this country. Instead of barricades and bear spray, the insurrectionists’ tools now are bills and laws designed to restrict voting and weaken the fabric of our democracy.”

James denounced the attack in her speech, maintaining that voting is not a “privilege” in the U.S. but a right. “Voting is a fundamental, constitutional, and sacred right, and we cannot and will not allow these attacks to continue,” said James. “In the spirit of the late titan John Lewis, we must fight with everything we have to expand voting rights and uphold the promise of true liberty and justice for all.”

Lander added that it would be prudent at the federal level to repeal the filibuster, a political procedure often employed to delay a decision over a proposed piece of legislation, and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. “We didn’t need confederate flags blowing through the hallways of the Capitol to know that our democracy was under attack,” said Lander. “Threats obviously existed long before January 6th.”

Williams pointed out that the U.S. has only had “true democracy” for a few decades since there were many people of color and women who were clearly not allowed to vote at its inception. The fall of democracy, he said, begins when people attack the media, otherize people as a form of patriotism, and prevent a peaceful transition of power. “The one thing that prevented the worst was our ability to vote people out of office and a peaceful transition of power, that is the thing they’re coming after,” said Williams.

Reynoso said that it’s understandable to fight over policy and not agree on practices, but to attack the idea of democracy is unacceptable. He is in full support of protecting voting rights.

“At the heart of the fight for the right to vote is to ensure every qualified voter has no barriers to exercise their vote and that every vote is counted,” said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference. “Now is the time to fight back against the attempts all across the country to restrict who gets to have a say in our government and demonstrate that we are the true defenders of democracy by making the John Lewis New York Voting Rights Act law.”

Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that the U.S. Capitol terror attack still haunts him. 

“Our system demands a shared, foundational belief that our institutions matter, whether you win or lose. Progress starts with shared values. Healing starts with accountability. We owe it to the officers we lost and who were injured that day to bring those who planned this attack to justice,” said Adams.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America Corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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