Two years ago today, insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power. During those uncertain hours, our Democracy hung in the balance, held hostage by the threat of anarchy and violence that continues to this day. Like so many other times in our nation’s history when Democracy has been in peril, the underlying threat was rooted in the most anti-democratic force this country has ever seen: racism. The insurrection was fueled by white supremacist sentiment, and the Big Lie about a stolen election that falsely targeted cities with large populations of Black voters–places like Detroit, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
The immediate danger of that day may seem to have passed. But the threat has actually spread, as insurrection supporters and apologists have blocked accountability efforts and even claimed elected office at the local and national levels, now in positions to rewrite the rules in their favor.
How can we stop insurrectionists from trying to subvert Democracy again? By holding those involved accountable.
Responding to the unprecedented January 6th attack, the Lawyers’ Committee took action, filing a federal lawsuit against the people and groups responsible for the insurrection, alleging a conspiracy to violate civil rights. Our suit, Smith v. Trump, against former President Donald J. Trump, Stop the Steal, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and dozens of other alleged co-conspirators is intended to protect the rights of Black voters while helping to protect a more just and representative Democracy for everyone.
Racial justice advocacy is an important part of how we can win and protect Democracy. We cannot rely solely on political and prosecutorial processes. The House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection has ended, as the House of Representatives devolved into chaos with no leadership. The ongoing criminal investigation is important, but prosecutorial processes can involve confounding trade-offs.
America needs and deserves more. Our civil rights lawsuit is a necessary third pathway to accountability and to make those who might wish to follow in the footsteps of the insurrections think twice.
Damon T. Hewitt
President and Executive Director