What Southwest Florida leaders say about Jan. 6 a year later

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FORT MYERS

A year ago, protesters pushed past Capitol police, smashed windows and paraded on the Congress floor.

All to keep Congress from certifying the election results that would make Joe Biden president.

Southwest Florida’s Congressman Byron Donalds, R-Naples, was there.

“I was on the House floor. When the Capitol was breached, it was, it was surreal, really a dark day for the country,” Donalds said.

He said he witnessed Republicans and Democrats helping each other. It inspired him.

But that feeling lasted barely a day.

“If you’re going to use a tragedy to push your political agenda, that’s when I get off the bus. I just think it’s inappropriate. If you want to commemorate what happened on January 6, honor Capitol Police for their bravery. Yes, we should do that. But when you decide to use it, to you know, attack the former president or attack a straw man or to push your agenda that’s just wrong,” Donalds said.

Donalds claims president Joe Biden is politicizing Jan. 6.

During a speech on Thursday, Biden claimed former President Donald Trump is to blame for what happened at the Capitol, for pushing the lie that the election was stolen.

“It’s wrong, it’s undemocratic and frankly it’s unamerican,” Biden said.

Still there is common ground between Democrats and Republicans.

“I think what happened on January 6 was despicable. The people that broke into this Capitol were absolutely wrong, and they need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla, said.

But the division between the parties has only grown larger the last 365 days.

“You want to know what today is really about for them. It’s about politics. It’s about promoting a political narrative,” said U.S. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The FBI is still searching for more than 250 people still accused of assaulting federal officers.

LINK: See who is still wanted by the FBI for Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

Was Jan. 6 not just an attack on the Capitol but also on democracy?

Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said he doesn’t believe anyone can look at the tumult at the Capitol and think it’s a good sign of a healthy republic.

“It’s a sign of the social fabric of the United States starting to unravel. And I pray to God that, that we can have unity without conformity in this country in that this never happens again,” Roach said. “But what does give me hope is that the very same day, within a matter of hours, Congress did reconvene. They did reconstitute, and they did certify the election, and there was a peaceful transfer of power.”

Donalds agrees.

“In spite of what happened in the capital, we went back and finished our business that day. And that’s the thing I wish we focus on a whole lot more,” Donalds said. “That the reality is, is that the Republic is strong, it continues to be strong. It was strong that day, it’s not about what happens when tragedy or adversity strikes. It’s how you respond. That really demonstrates your strength.”

But Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist with the Univesity of Central Florida, worries.

“I don’t I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but I do worry,” he said. “If we have increasing numbers of people who don’t trust the election process, then there’s less incentive to be peaceful. You might see more political violence. And in the worst-case scenario, you might even see the country begin to split up and I find that to be not only disheartening but a little scary.”


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