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Opinion | Michigan's role in insurrection must be investigated

As I watched violent rioters storm the U.S. Capitol in January, erect a noose and gallows and break windows with baseball bats, a familiar feeling of horror washed over me.

Erika Geiss
Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, is executive vice chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. (Courtesy photo)

I truly sympathized with besieged members of Congress, as just months prior an armed mob had stormed the Michigan state Capitol and attempted to block my colleagues and I from doing our jobs.

We now know the tragic events of Jan. 6, 2021 did not occur in a vacuum or happen spontaneously. A complex web of lies, misinformation, aggression and racism metastasized into the deadly insurrection in Washington, D.C., and early warning signs came from our own state Capitol. 

Sadly, Michiganders were involved from the beginning.

Seven months have passed since violent rioters, inspired by Donald Trump’s Big Lie, attacked our nation’s Capitol, yet threats to our democracy, our electoral freedoms and our safety remain clear and present dangers.

That’s why the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is calling for our colleagues to support creation of a state-level bipartisan joint select committee to investigate Michigan’s unique ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Michigan’s Capitol served as a dress rehearsal when armed rioters entered on April 30, 2020, challenging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders that saved lives throughout the pandemic. Rioters hung an effigy of Whitmer on a noose, among other egregious acts.

Republican lawmakers promoted the Big Lie by questioning the election results and encouraging Congress to delay the certification of the election. At current count, 11 Michiganders have been charged for participating in the insurrection.

White supremacists and militia members participated in the attacks in Lansing and Washington, D.C. Insurrectionists set up a noose at the U.S. Capitol and waved Confederate flags. They used racial slurs and performed Nazi salutes.

These extremists, with Republican support or acquiescence, have helped create an atmosphere where violence, harassment and intimidation have become normalized. The connection between attempts to dismantle democracy fueled by belief in the Big Lie and the rise in blatant, racist, misogynistic terror and aggression is indisputable.

The significant rise in terror and intimidation of our Black female elected officials is well documented – moist notably when my colleagues received vitriolic, racist and threatening voicemails. These recent examples are part of a long list of racist hate aimed at Black and brown lawmakers, which is why we urge creation of this joint select committee to investigate Michigan’s ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection without further delay.

We cannot let history repeat itself and allow a frightened, angry, hostile group that has divorced itself from reality trample democracy or inflict trauma and harm on Black and brown Americans participating in our democracy. Now some Republicans are asking us to ignore what we just saw with our own eyes. We will not let this happen.

The MLBC is committed to holding them accountable for encouraging and condoning the behavior of an angry and anguished mob and for failing to denounce the attack on our democracy and those who have taken part in it.

We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to these horrific actions.The joint select committee is a critical, necessary step toward providing understanding, accountability, answers and justice for future generations of Michiganders so we can help ensure these vicious attacks on our government, democracy and those called to public service never happen again.

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