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BENNINGTON — For State Sen. Brian Campion, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building in Washington shouldn’t be allowed to fade into history without a thorough examination and a vigorous national debate.

In his position as director of public policy programs at the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, the state senator will have a chance to advance that examination.

Campion, D-Bennington, and CAPA Director Susan Sgorbati will host a multi-week forum this fall on that infamous day and its impacts, called the January 6 Project.

The first of the Thursday evening forums, to be held at the CAPA Center on campus and via Zoom, is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.

“We will start with a historical perspective of the events of Jan. 6,” Campion said.

That forum will be followed by one involving U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who was in the Capitol building that day when supporters of then-President Donald Trump left a street rally and stormed inside the Capitol.

The rioting and the brief Capitol takeover resulted in an estimated $30 million in damage to the home of the U.S. House and Senate and its contents. In addition, one Capitol Police officer died while struggling with rioters and 72 fellow Capitol Police officers were reported injured, as were 65 Metropolitan Police officers.

Since Jan. 6, more than 600 alleged participants in the attack, many identified from their social media posts, have been arrested and charged.

“I am very happy to participate in the forum,” Welch said during a phone interview Thursday. “What Bennington College is doing is important and should be done across the country so people can understand what happened,” he said.

The congressman said it’s essential for Americans to examine a “devastating assault on our democracy,” which he said breached the fundamental democratic principle of a peaceful transfer of power.

In addition, he said, the mob that day attempted to use “violence as a tactic,” with the goal of overturning the presidential election.

The college forums will attempt to address the “what, why and when” of the events leading up to and during the Jan. 6 attack, Welch said. “That has to be revealed.”

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He added, “It is also disturbing to me that some of my colleagues are trying to rewrite history, or are denying history,” making discussions like those planned during the CAPA forums and others around the country urgent.

SIX FORUMS

After the first forum, “How did we get here? Perspectives on American Democracy from its Founding to Today,” five more topics will be addressed during subsequent Thursday forum events.

A complete listing and information on attending or following the forums via Zoom is available on the CAPA website.

Those planning to attend in person should register online, Campion said.

With Congress failing to approve a bipartisan investigation of events that day, Campion said he believes American colleges and universities should take up the challenge of trying to determine what happened and what it means for the nation and for our form of government.

He said that appears to be happening on a number of campuses across the country.

The first CAPA forum will look at “cultural, historical and political events; how we got there [on Jan. 6], and where we are today,” Campion said.

He said topics addressed during the series will include the so-called “Southern strategy” begun by former President Richard Nixon in the 1960s to appeal to white voters; the rise of the Alt-Right and white nationalist movements and related media and social media commentary; race and religion in politics; the recent lurch toward radicalism among many Republicans; thoughts on teaching students about Jan. 6; and current and historical factors leading to today’s stark social and political divisions.

“All these developments played a role in what happened that day,” Campion said.

He added that he is “excited that colleges are taking this on. I think other colleges should do this. American democracy was threatened, and it still is threatened.”

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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