Lawmakers call for legislation to protect voting rights at vigil marking Jan. 6 attack

Rochester Hills — On the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers gathered at an Oakland County veterans memorial for a vigil marking the attack and to "stand up" for the legitimacy of elections. 

In the 22-degree cold, more than 75 people came together Veterans Memorial Pointe in Rochester Hills Thursday evening, displaying signs that read, “Never Again, Remember Jan. 6,” “Democracy Matters” and “Remember In November.” The gathering was among 200 planned across the nation. 

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township speaks at a vigil held on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, at Veterans Memorial Pointe in Rochester Hills.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, who was at the capitol when the insurrectionists stormed it, spoke at the rally of the need to get legislation passed to protect voting rights and “stand up for the legitimacy of our election here in Michigan.”

Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, argued the Republican party has had troubled turning a new page and acknowledging the truth about that infamous day, saying that many of his GOP colleagues walked across broken glass and fresh blood and “despite what had happened,” voted "to nullify the votes of millions of their fellow Americans.”

Attendees of a vigil on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, line up along the guard rail along Livernois Avenue, at Veterans Memorial Pointe in Rochester Hills.

“My message to you one year later…is that our democracy is hanging by a thread,” he said. “We’re not here as Democrats or Republicans or independents, we are here as patriotic Americans. It’s democracy with a small D. We are here to save our democracy.”

A sprinkle of Trump supporters — and one with a microphone — tried to interrupt the rally by accusing Democrats of stealing the election, a claim that has been disproven by election experts in both parties and rejected in court challenges up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans in the Senate blocked the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act from advancing in early November and previously blocked the Freedom to Vote Act.

However, some GOP senators recently expressed interest in reforming the procedure that Congress uses to certify the presidential election — the process that the Jan. 6 rioters sought to halt as Trump and his allies worked to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election. 

Tim Greimel, a former state representative and newly-elected mayor of Pontiac, said he’s worried about the misinformation and divisions in the country that spilled over on Jan. 6.

“It’s not about whether people are Democrats or Republicans, it’s not even whether people voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump, it’s about the simple fact that if you love America, you support democracy all the time, not just when your side wins,” Greimel said. “If you love America, then you need to put the interests of our country before the cult of personality of a demagogue. This should be a non-partisan issue.”

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell marked the day y delivering lunch to members of the Michigan National Guard who were deployed to Washington, D.C. after Jan. 6. 

Dingell provided a spread of sandwiches, soup, potato chips and cookies from Pete's Place in Taylor to about two dozen Guard members at the Taylor Armory on Beech Daly. 

"I wanted to make sure it was good," said Dingell, D-Dearborn. "Unfortunately, they weren't fed as well as they should have been in Washington."

State Command Sergeant Major William Russel (from left), Col. Chris McKinney,  past commander, Michigan National Guard 177th Military Police Brigade, listen to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, thank members of the Michigan National Guard, on the anniversary of January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol during a visit to the Michigan National Guard Armory in Taylor on Thursday, January 6, 2022.

Early on in the guard's extended deployment in D.C., meal quality was a problem. So much so that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited D.C. personally to dine with the deployed soldiers.

Dingell called the National Guard "the backbone of our country."

At one point in the months-long stay of National Guard members in Washington, Michigan contributed 20% of all the guard members protecting the Capitol.

"I'm proud of the fact that our guards stood up and volunteered to serve," she said. "They wanted to be there...and they were proud to be there because they love their country.

"I don't think people realize the role Michigan played," Dingell added. "They were responsible for all of the National Guard troops on the ground protecting the Capitol. They really played a critical role."

Command Sgt. Major William Russell III, a 22-year veteran with the Michigan National Guard, said that the "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" ethos is "the old guard." 

"From the start of my career, it was one weekend, a month, two weeks out the year," Russell said. "But as we've become more involved in fighting our nation's battles and defending our state, there is always something that's going on. Whether it be nationally or locally."

Members of the Michigan National Guard and the U.S. Capitol Police kept watch on March 3, 2021, as heightened security remained around U.S. Capitol grounds after the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, delivered lunch to about two dozen Michigan National Guard members at the Taylor Armory in Taylor.

Col. Chris McKinney led the 177th Military Police Brigade last year during its time at the Capitol. He said that outside of some commands given early on, the Michiganians who protected the Capitol all volunteered to do so.

"One thing that you have to understand is that all of those people, soldiers, and airmen right from Michigan were volunteers for those missions," McKinney said.

Michigan National Guard MSG Kimberly Hudson, enjoys a lunch presented by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, to thank members of the Michigan National Guard.