AKRON, Ohio — Nearly 50 people attended a vigil in downtown Akron on Thursday night commemorating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Last year, many Americans watched on TV as rioters swarmed the building, smashing windows, breaking down doors and attacking Capital police. More than 700 people have been charged in connection with that attack, with many sentenced to prison.
On the anniversary, bundled against frigid January temperatures and masked against the pandemic, people quietly gathered in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood.
They listened to speakers from the Akron chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and holding candle lights they walked a few blocks to a park on Market Street.
“DSA felt the need to have a vigil to mark the event because we feel that this event was not a one-time show of fascism and misinformation, and politics that are anti-working class,” said Heather Hillenbrand, co-chair of the Akron Chapter. “We feel it's part of a movement that is actually quite organized, and that threatens our democracy.”
The DSA scheduled 175 similar events around the U.S., the group said.
The DSA wants politicians to serve as more of a voice for working Americans, Hillenbrand said. The group also wants anyone who participated in the insurrection to be removed from office.
“We feel that politicians, both Democrat and Republican, aren't doing enough to make sure that workers are treated fairly, and to protect us both from reactionary fascist forces and from the COVID pandemic and from predatory corporations,” she said.
Community members must make stronger connections with each other, she said.
“To create a dialogue and a sense of community about something that was very upsetting for most of us, and yet something we don't feel has been appropriately addressed,” Hillenbrand said.
Attendees carried signs that read “Always Antifascism,” “Say yes to democracy,” and “Protect voting rights.”
“There’s a lot of anger,” Hillenbrand told the crowd. “I know that a lot of us expected, or maybe hoped, or had a wild dream, that politicians could help solve this crisis. But I really don't think that's where the change comes from. I think it comes from our hearts, in our communities and our relationships with each other.”
There is also fear, said Peninsula resident Terrence Cranendonk who attended the event, in part, because he is worried about a fascist coup taking place in the U.S.
“I want to do anything I can, the little bit that I can do, to resist it if it's possible,” he said.
Cranendonk said he is also worried about voter rights being taken away and the damage that could result from gerrymandered maps.
“I'd like to see the Democrats in the Senate eliminate the filibuster so voting-rights legislation can move through,” he said. He wants national standards established for elections, so local election officials can’t be replaced by partisan state legislatures.
Cranendonk said keeping the dialogue going about what’s been happening with voting rights and elections is critical.
“That's the main reason for me being here is that I feel if we keep the question sort of in the air, and people just keep talking about it, then that's the first step, you know, rather than let it get buried,” he said.
The Rev. John Beatty and his wife, Linda Beatty, said they, too, have concerns about voting rights.
“I’m praying for our country, that we may keep our democracy and the government of the people, by the people, for the people. And that's only if all the people are allowed to vote,” John Beatty said.
The couple is also worried about the pandemic and wants people to come together to find a way to defeat it.
“There are more important things to fight over than vaccines,” Beatty said.
The DSA will host a free lecture via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11 on conspiracy theories and ways to stop the spread of misinformation in the wake of the insurrection.