M. Terry/SFVS Michelle Fowle (left) and Duski Wanamaker, friend and fellow member of Northridge Indivisible, work on signs they plan to take to the rally in Los Angeles acknowledging the anniversary of last year's attempted Insurrection.

Today, Jan.6, is the one-year anniversary of an insurrection attempt by supporters of then President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, DC in 2021 to disrupt a joint session of Congress attempting to certify the electoral vote victory of Joe Biden.

Those supporters were stoked to a fever pitch by the defeated Trump, who had told the building mob in an outdoor speech to “never give up, never concede,” and to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Despite police presence, rioters broke into the Senate and House chambers, forcing politicians to flee and seek protection. It would take four hours to re-secure the building. Five people, including a police officer, died during and following the attack that caused $1.5 million of damage. And more than 700 people in 45 states have been charged by the federal Justice Department with participating in the riot.

And yet a year later, there is still a contingency of the public, including politicians, who say the event was “overblown” — Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson described the riot as a “peaceful protest” — or are trying to scrub it from history entirely as if it had never occurred.  

Today is a national reflection of the anniversary. And there are also local efforts from Valley advocates like Michelle Fowle, founder and chair of the grassroots organization Northridge Indivisible, who will be taking part in a rally titled “We the People: Jan 6th Day of Remembrance and Action” beginning at 5 p.m., at the Federal Building in West Los Angeles.

Fowle said her organization also plans to do “phone banking,” calling people and offering to help them register to vote if they have not already done so.

“We’re not going to let the extremists’ faction that has infected the Republican party take away democracy,” Fowle said.

“This is about Democracy vs. Anti-Democracy…it’s a serious thing. And people don’t always realize it. America is not perfect, and there’s a lot of work to be done. But right now, there’s a lot at stake.”

Fowle is unsure how many will attend the vigil. But she said there were over 200 similar events scheduled all over the country by various advocacy coalitions.

“This is not a partisan thing; we welcome anybody who wants to protect all of our freedoms,” she said. “And we will call out any member of Congress who had anything to do with this; they need to be expelled immediately, and not be holding public office, ever.”

Fowle, who started Northridge Indivisible in 2017, admits her organization and others “felt empowered” by the success of the 2018 and 2020 state and national elections that helped wrestle away control of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government from Republican control and defeat Trump’s re-election bid.

But she also realizes that lasting change can take time.

“When we registered millions of voters across the country and built coalitions that, truly, only the grassroots can do…they were good wins but it’s not really fixing the systemic root of the problem,” Fowle said.

“Yes, we were energized, and that’s great. But we’re just getting started,” she said. “We’ve come together through different coalitions. You have people who are conservative, liberal or whatever. We welcome Republicans who care about democracy. This is not an ‘us vs. them’ thing. But…the extremist faction has always been there. And people are starting to understand more that this faction exists. It’s a minority of the country but it is something we have to pay attention to.”

That is why, Fowle points out, advocates and progressive coalitions must be ready to match the efforts of those who are building up the political support to try and return Trump to power.

“This is not just winning battles — we need to win the war. We need to take it down from the inside,” Fowle said.

“The extremist factions have been working on this for years. You can never get comfortable. As a citizen, the minimum you can do is to drive change from within your own community…winning school board and local elections. That’s what starts changing the structure.”

The phone banking and voter registration, not only locally but nationally, by Northridge Indivisible and other organizations will continue well beyond Jan. 6, Fowle said.

But today is primarily for remembering what happened a year ago, and not allow detractors to repackage it as a momentary historical misstep.

“It’s a one-year anniversary. But…we’re not gonna let this go,” Fowle said. “[Those who did this] have to be held accountable. This is on the extremist faction of the GOP. This is all on them. This is to keep them in power. They are becoming more and more pro-authoritarian.

“It’s not gonna happen on my watch. And there are millions of grassroots people like me who are not gonna let that happen.”