‘It haunts me’ - New Jersey congressional members reflect on Jan. 6 Capitol riot
All of New Jersey’s 12 Congressional representatives and both U.S. senators were at the Capitol building when it came under attack one year ago on Jan. 6, 2021.
New Jersey’s representatives shared their memories of that day on the anniversary.
“It haunts me that I was in the middle of it,” says Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.
“I saw all these people, thugs really, basically climbing the walls,” says Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone.
“They’re right behind us, let’s move it,” says Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross.
A large group of protesters and supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the Capitol building allegedly in an attempt to stop Congress from counting electoral college votes following the November 2020 presidential election.
“That’s an attempted coup – in the United States of America,” says Watson Coleman.
“People need to understand, that a democracy isn't a given. If you're not vigilant, if you don't constantly make an effort to preserve it, it will disappear,” says Pallone.
Pallone says that during the events one year ago, America was shown the possibility of an ugly future.
“There has always been a portion of this country that wants a dictatorship rather than a democracy,” he says.
During a House of Representatives ceremony in Washington, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski says the attack was an assault on the rule of law.
“We either agree voluntarily to abide by those rules, even when we lose an election, or we lose our country,” he says.
There was no comment on Thursday from Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. He was the lone New Jersey congressman to object to President Joe Biden’s win. Watson Coleman and Van Drew served together in the New Jersey state Assembly 15 years ago when Van Drew was a Democrat.
“I thought he had more grace than that. I thought he had core values, and I just don't think that he has core values anymore,” she says.
Unlike some other Democrats, Watson Coleman rejects comparisons between Jan. 6, 2021 and Sept. 11, 2001.
“Jan. 6 happened with people who are citizens of this country, who supposedly were patriots, who were former police officers, current police officers, who were in our military, people you live on the same street with. So that's frightening,” she says.
New Jersey’s other Republican congressman, Rep. Chris Smith, did vote to certify Biden’s win. Smith said on Thursday that Jan. 6, 2021 was a “tragic day for our nation,” but called the select committee investigating the incident “hyperpartisan.”