Speakers at Milwaukee Jan. 6 memorial focus on perceived continued threats to democracy

·3 min read
A poster is displayed in Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda commemorates those who died on the Jan. 6  insurrection and in the weeks and months after at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This is the first anniversary of the insurrection.
A poster is displayed in Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda commemorates those who died on the Jan. 6 insurrection and in the weeks and months after at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This is the first anniversary of the insurrection.

The official reason for gathering in Milwaukee's City Hall rotunda on Thursday was to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

But for the community and faith leaders, election administration officials, and members of the public who came together, it was more about looking ahead.

"January 6th was a disaster against everything that America is supposed to represent," said Rev. Greg Lewis, executive director of Souls to the Polls. "We cannot stand by and continue to let these things happen. And it is continuing to happen all over the country."

A brief moment of silence was held at the moment when President Donald Trump took the podium in Washington, D.C., last year. The president's speech preceded the violent protests at the Capitol.

One speaker after another, from Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley to state Rep. Christine Sinicki to former Wisconsin Elections Commission chair Mark Thomsen, voiced concerns about continuing efforts to undermine Wisconsin’s elections.

Executive Director of Souls to the Polls Rev. Greg Lewis discusses ongoing election concerns on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Executive Director of Souls to the Polls Rev. Greg Lewis discusses ongoing election concerns on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Lewis listed a roll call of issues that concern him: voter access and suppression, including voter intimidation; gerrymandering; strict voter ID laws; limited drop boxes; complex registration rules; excessive voter purging; language barriers; limited or no disability accessibility; and long lines.

"Most of these laws are targeting people like me, here in Milwaukee — Black folks, brown folks, poor folks, who don't have a voice," said Lewis. "We should make it easy for folks to vote, not make it hard.... I should be able to go to McDonalds, get me a Big Mac, get me a ballot, drop it in the box and somebody pick it up later — that's how easy it should be," he added.

Sinicki and others mentioned the work of former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is reviewing the 2020 Wisconsin presidential election for Assembly Republicans. Gableman's review is focused on an election that recounts, court rulings and independent reviews already have determined was properly called for Joe Biden.

County Executive David Crowley says a few words to commemorate victims killed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. during the Jan. 6 insurrection last year. This is the first anniversary of the insurrection.
County Executive David Crowley says a few words to commemorate victims killed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. during the Jan. 6 insurrection last year. This is the first anniversary of the insurrection.

Thomsen decried the attempt by Wisconsin Republicans to overhaul the Elections Commission — a bipartisan agency it created just five years ago.

"Everybody really, truly wants to honor these folks had died protecting our democracy. This battle is raging in our state," Thomsen said, referring to people trying to protect the U.S. Capitol a year ago. "You can't stop a bully until everybody stands up, right? Robin Vos and his cohorts are bullies."

Thomsen called on residents to contact the State Assembly Speaker and ask him to call off his attack on the Elections Commission.

Sinicki said she is concerned Republicans are pursuing changes to how elections are administered in Wisconsin in order to have more control over their outcome. She cited legislation that would require the elected office of Secretary of State oversee elections instead of the Elections Commission.

"That would be the nail in the coffin of our democracy," she said.

"This is no longer about 2020. This is about controlling who wins this November and beyond," said Sinicki. "Regardless of our political beliefs or ideology, I think, the one thing we can all agree on that our votes and democracy are worth fighting for."

Contact Vanessa Swales at 414-308-5881 or vswales@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Vanessa_Swales.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee gathering to mark Jan. 6 anniversary focuses on future

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