ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — If the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol was violent, loud and out of control, the significantly smaller gathering near Lake Eola to mark its anniversary was the exact opposite.
Somberly, the left-leaning crowd sat and listened to speakers laud the ideals of democracy, rule of law and respecting one another. They pleaded for Republicans and Democrats to end their incendiary rhetoric and unite under the flag both sides profess to love.
“My success is not tied to your failure,” Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) said to her Republican constituents. “We can all rise together.”
Many in the audience said they felt a personal connection to the attack, that they were shaken by the fact that their country was almost taken over by an extremist mob within hours.
“That showed how fragile our democracy is,” organizer Jim Langford said. “It’s not just Washington, it’s nationally.”
In Washington, Democrats and some Republicans also took time to reflect.
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“We understand America may fall short of its ideals at times, but we never take America as an idea for granted,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) said. “Members of the angry mob were lied to by powerful people willing to discard all of the things that actually make America great in their ruthless effort to retain power.”
Fellow Congresswoman Val Demings called out so-called false patriots. People, she said, who claimed to love their country but did everything in their power to undermine it for political gain.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the attack “can’t be justified” and called on the people involved to be held accountable. However, he admonished Democrats for playing up the anniversary and comparing the attack to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
Back in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a less grounded tone.
“It’s an insult to people when you say it’s an insurrection and then a year later, nobody has been charged with that,” he said. He comparing the larger amount of coverage given to the attack to the aftermath of the 2017 shooting during a congressional baseball practice that injured a Republican representative.
As of Jan. 6, 2022, more than 700 people faced an array of charges and prison sentences related to the attack. Most were minor, but some members of far-right groups are charged with conspiring against the government or official proceedings.
More than 70 of them come from Florida, and around two dozen from Central Florida, including a few facing the most serious charges to date.
Many of those individuals have court hearings coming up in the next few weeks. A few are already in prison or have been released after serving their sentences.
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