Last Wednesday in Washington D.C. we all watched – most of us shocked – as a crowd of protesters stormed the Capitol building, disrupting the certification of electoral college votes. At the time none of us knew just how dark a day it would become.
Tragically, five people lost their lives as a result of that event.
Brian Sicknick, 42, was a member of the US Capitol police force who died after reportedly being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while engaging with the crowd.
Ashli Babbitt, 35, was an Air Force veteran. She died after apparently being shot by a Capitol police officer while with a group who were reportedly trying to break down the doors of the Senate chamber while members were sheltering within.
The other three died as a result of medical issues. Benjamin Phillips, 50, died from a stroke sometime during the chaos. Kevin Greeson, 55, died of an apparent heart attack. The exact time and location of these two medical emergencies during the events have not been reported. But it is likely that even if the events of the day did not directly contribute to the emergencies – social media reports that Greeson accidentally tazed himself while attempting to steal a portrait have proven to have no evidence to support them – they did prevent emergency medical personnel from being able to respond as they normally would.
Rosanne Boyland, 34, died from an unspecified issue, though her family members later told reporters she was crushed to death during the fracas.
While there are still questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks about what happened last Wednesday, the one undeniable truth is that none of those people needed to die. It’s true Phillips’ and Greeson’s medical issues may have occurred anyway, but we’ll never know if EMTs might have been able to save their lives without the confusion of the day.
The deaths of Sicknick, Babbitt and Boyland were absolutely unnecessary.
Democrats, of course, condemned the actions of the crowd. However, a number of Republican politicians also condemned the attacks on the Capitol, and not just long-time Trump critics like Mitt Romney. Some of the President’s strongest allies also condemned the attack on the Capitol by his supporters and have called for the prosecution of those who damaged and stole congressional property, and those who are responsible for attacks on Capitol police.
President Trump issued a recorded statement during the course of the event asking those marching on the Capitol to remain peaceful and later joined the call for the prosecution of those who participated in vandalism, theft, assaults and – in the case of Sicknick – murder.
We are, as the President and others have noted in the days since, a nation of laws, and those laws must be upheld even when we’re unhappy with the outcomes – be they the outcomes of a court case or the outcomes of an election.
It cannot have been a happy day for Vice President Mike Pence, even before the unrest, any more than it was a happy day for then Vice President Al Gore to confirm the results of an election that gave his opponent, George Bush, the White House in 2001. It’s never easy to concede defeat. But the Vice President showed a strength of character by not only following the rule of law and upholding the Constitution before the insurrection, but by reconvening that same evening to proceed with the certification despite the trauma of the day.
We salute the Vice President for being a beacon of calm and steady leadership when Congress needed it most.
We join with him, Congress, and the President in calling for the thorough investigation and prosecution of those who broke the law.
And we pray, for the families of those lost and for the healing our nation needs in the days and years to come. While many of us are still smarting from personal and political losses, and it is ok to mourn, ultimately we need to come together for healing to begin. Not as Democrats. Not as Republicans. But as Americans, who believe in the rule of law and the strength of our Republic to weather these storms and emerge stronger on the other side. We hope you will join us in that heartfelt prayer for the healing our nation sorely needs.