Remarks at Jan. 6 vigil in Franklin

Rep. Roy joined local leaders in commemorating Jan. 6 at a vigil on the Franklin Town Common. Below is the text of the remarks he delivered:

As Senator Rausch indicated, our day in the Massachusetts Legislature started with finishing the work of the 191st General Court on January 5, 2021.

We passed multiple pieces of legislation on the final day of the session. This work included wide-ranging pieces of legislation, including one early item that was a resolution for Franklin’s Frank Liotta, on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Another piece that passed around 2 a.m. was a law I had been working on for two years on the prevention of campus sexual violence.

We worked until around 5:00 am on January 6, and I finally went to bed exhausted to get some sleep.

I woke up a few hours later to begin the first day of the 192nd General Court. The proceedings began at 11:45 am with remarks by the Dean of the House Rep. Kevin Honan.

He quoted from JFK’s City on a Hill Speech noting that Massachusetts leaders have shaped our destiny long before the great Republic was born. Its principles have guided our footsteps in times of crisis as well as in times of calm. Its democratic institutions – including this historic body – have served as beacon lights for other nations as well as our sister states.

Rep. Honan reminded us that as we begin our work anew here in Boston – with a new Administration coming together in Washington around a country divided and struggling over racial injustice, economic insecurity and the health crisis of our lifetime – the Commonwealth and the country need that “City on a Hill” and all of us – more than ever.

The Governor administered the oaths and we elected Rep. Ronald Mariano as our Speaker. We heard more speeches and were invigorated and anxious to begin our work.

The proceedings ended at 2:05 pm. I was exhausted and decided to sit down and watch television. I turned on the proceedings in Congress and was alarmed within minutes.

What I saw unfolding was horrific and defied the logic I had witnessed about lawmaking over the previous 24 hours.

Violent extremists had stormed the Capitol in what was the culmination of months of repeatedly disproven lies from the former President about the outcome of the 2020 election. Our democracy was under attack.

This was an insurrection plain and simple. It was a calculated effort to subvert the will of the voters and undermine the peaceful transition of governance.

I immediately thought of my visit to Congress Hall in Philadelphia several years ago. That was the spot where on March 4, 1797 George Washington made the peaceful transition of power to John Adams. It is where George Washington performed his last public act before retiring to private life.

It was the first time in our recorded modern history that power transferred from a head of state to the next without bloodshed or death.

What took place in Congress Hall 225 years ago should be our beacon today. But Jan 6 smashed the beacon and created a dark cloud over America.

The event revealed a new force in American politics—not merely a mix of right-wing organizations, but a broader mass political movement that has violence at its core.

It revealed that our Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends.

Preventing further violence from this movement will require a deeper understanding of its activities and participants. To understand the events of January 6 and devise solutions to prevent their recurrence, we Americans need a fine-grained comprehension of who attacked the Capitol. We need to understand the ideology and beliefs of those who participated; knowing what kind of people they are and what their lives are like.

One truth is clear – you can’t participate in or support a violent storming of the US Capitol aimed at overturning state-certified election results and still be an American patriot. Further, a citizen can’t continue to back anyone who schemed to overturn the election results in extra-constitutional ways and fairly claim the cloak of patriotism.

As GOP US Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming said of her Republican party in a weekend TV appearance, “We can either be loyal to Donald Trump or we can be loyal to our Constitution. We cannot be both.”

Getting to the bottom of this tragic event is the object of the bipartisan House Commission and we anxiously await the public hearings and report. It and the evidence it supplies will help us grapple with the growing distrust in our society and hopefully will help us marshal the force and energy needed to save our democracy from collapse.

After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, our country mobilized a call to arms with unprecedented unity and determination to defeat the enemies of democracy.

Today, those who undermine our government and threaten our future are living within our own borders. The attack on the Capitol on January 6 has to be reckoned with, honestly and judiciously, now, before our political and social differences divide us even further and further.

As President Biden said this morning:

“At this moment we must decide what kind of nation we are going to be.”

“Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?”

“Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?”

“Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?”

“We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.”

With that, I urge you to stay engaged, work to support your democracy, and remain hyper-vigilant towards those who threaten its very existence. We remain that City on the Hill, we need you, and I look forward to being by your side on that journey.

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