California Rep. Jimmy Gomez said the halls of Congress had already been hostile before the previous president incited his white insurrectionist supporters to violently storm the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the 2020 election one year ago today.
The Oversight and Reform vice-chair told Newsweek that the House was amid a vote on the Build Back Better bill last November when he was verbally accosted in an elevator by an unmasked Republican legislator. "You people are ruining the fucking country,” he said Texas Rep. Roger Williams told him. “Gomez, who is Mexican-American, was taken aback,” Newsweek reported. Williams would later vote to overturn democracy and against the impeachment of the disgraced former president.
“Every member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) inside the building during the attack who spoke with Newsweek thought it would be the last day of their life,” the report said leading into the one-year anniversary of the insurrection. Gomez said that even as he considered ways to look like less of a target to the insurrectionists—such as removing his Congressional pin and jacket—he could not allow himself to just run away. “So he began helping lawmakers who were older and couldn't move as quickly as he could,” the report continued.
California’s Nanette Baragán told Newsweek that she had similar intuition to hide her pin. But other things could not be so easily hidden.
"The part that is not often spoken of is the fear members of Congress of color had," she said in the report. "When you're a person of color and a member of Congress, the thought on that day was ‘hide your pin, I'm not white, I'm going to be a target.’ That was something that was really real."
It wasn’t just members of the Hispanic Caucus, either. “One year after Jan. 6, Sarah Groh, Representative Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff, still does not know what happened to the panic buttons torn from their office,” Boston Globe’s Jazmine Ulloa tweeted earlier this week. “It’s one of many details still under investigation, and a memory that continues to haunt her.”
Ulloa writes in her piece that the U.S. Capitol is also a workplace for janitors and food service workers. Some of these workers, notably Black janitors, had to clean up the mess created by white insurrectionists.
For Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, the insurrection brought back terrible memories of the white supremacist mass shooting that shook El Paso in 2019. In tweets immediately after the insurrection, she wrote that the terrorists “not only breached the Capitol and got into Statuary Hall, but they were banging on the locked doors of the House Chamber as we were told by Capitol Police to get down on our knees.”
In his House testimony last July, U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell recalled how he also had his life threatened by racist insurrectionists.
“I was at the front line and apparently, even through my mask, they saw my skin color and said, ‘You’re not even an American,’” the Latino U.S. military veteran told legislators. Naturalized as an American citizen more than two decades ago, Gonell said insurrectionists “called me traitor, a disgrace and that I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.”
"This wasn't a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection,” President Biden said during stirring remarks on Thursday. “They weren't looking to uphold an election. They were here to overturn one."
In a statement Thursday, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego said that “if we want to keep our democracy intact, then we must bring to justice those responsible for Jan. 6th, including everyone from those who laid siege to the building to those who sat idle in the White House or in Congress as their plans came to fruition. He urged the passage of pro-democracy legislation including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. “To do so is not a partisan or political issue—it is the bare minimum we must do if we want to keep our democracy.”