CAMDEN — More than 50 people gathered in the Village Green Thursday evening, Jan. 6, for a vigil showing their unity in supporting voter rights on the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol building by an angry mob.

The event was organized by Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, and included speeches, a prayer, a moment of silence, the lighting of candles and a chance for citizens to register to vote. The group also sang “America the Beautiful” together.

Citizens hold candles and display signs in Camden at a vigil on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Doudera described Jan. 6, 2021, as one of the worst days for U.S. law enforcement, noting officers protecting the Capitol during the attack suffered bruises, lacerations, broken bones including rib fractures and at least one heart attack.

“Unfortunately, this was not an isolated event,” she said, adding it was part of a larger anti-democracy movement that has taken root in our nation.

Deb Hitchings of the League of Women Voters of Maine speaks at a vigil in Camden Jan. 6. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

She went on to say laws are being changed, election officials are being bullied, and the goal in these actions is to overturn future elections and win at all costs. She and other speakers decried the use of lies and disinformation.

“How is this happening here, in our country, the cradle of democracy?” she asked. She said there is a playbook for unraveling democracy used in other, authoritarian countries that has been brought here.

“We are not going to let that happen in Maine,” Doudera said, and was greeted by applause and shouts of agreement from the crowd. “Violence like we saw one year ago has no place in politics,” she said. “Nor does intimidation or harassment.”

Citizens display signs and flags as they mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in Washington, D.C. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

“We believe in American democracy,” she went on. “And we are willing to stay aware and engaged to uphold it. Here in the Midcoast we care for one another. We reach out when neighbors need a hand and come together when times are tough. We commit ourselves to the state motto, ‘Dirigo: I lead.’”

Afghanistan veteran Perry O’Brien of Veterans Against Trump also spoke at the event. He laid the blame for the actions of the mob on Jan. 6 at the feet of former President Donald Trump. He said it was one part of a “larger strategy to undermine our democratic institutions, which I and other veterans swore to defend against threats foreign and domestic.”

“What we are facing,” he said, “is nothing less than a war against our democracy.”

“Defend Democracy” is the message of those attending a Jan. 6 vigil in Camden. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Of the weapons brandished that day, including flag poles, clubs, and bear spray, he said the lies were the worst and most deadly — lies about history, elections, and vaccines.

Those speaking at the event argued claims of massive voter fraud are false, and conservatives are now engaged in an effort to make it more difficult to vote for Black and indigenous people, among other groups.

O’Brien argued this will also make it harder for the 4.5 million veterans with disabilities to participate in the democracy they sacrificed to protect. They may not be able to go to the polls and stand in line or to deal with crowds due to PTSD.

There is something people can do to protect voter rights, according to the speakers at the event. Citizens can contact their senators and congresspeople to demand passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Pastor Ute Molitor of the First Congregational Church of Camden offered a prayer. Reps. Valli Geiger, D-Rockland, and Ann Matlack, D-Spruce Head, and Deb Hitchings of the League of Women Voters of Maine also spoke.

Citizens participating in a Jan. 6 vigil in Camden display signs and hold candles to remember the attack last year on the Capitol. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Rep. Ann Matlack, D-Spruce Head, speaks on the anniversary of the Capitol riot Jan. 6, 2022, in Camden. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

About Jan. 6

“On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters descend on the U.S. Capitol, attempting to interfere with the certification of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election,” History.com reports. “The rioters assaulted the Capitol police force and ransacked the complex, destroying property and sending members of Congress and their staff into hiding in offices and bunkers. A protester who was shot by police, died in the chaos and more than 100 police were injured.”

“…One week later, on January 13, President Trump was impeached for incitement of insurrection. Unlike his first impeachment, 10 House Republicans joined Democrats in voting in favor of impeachment. Trump was found not guilty in the Senate trial, though seven Republican senators joined Democrats in voting to convict.”

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