Preparing for Statehouse Violence
January 15, 2021
Table of Contents

Following the January 6 attacks, we have compiled important information with recommendations on how legislators can protect their personal and digital safety, demand accountability, and commit to a generation of cultural transformation.

Govern Safely

  • Protect your personal/family safety. Take any threats of violence seriously, and report all threats to the appropriate law enforcement agency in your state, and the FBI.
  • Transition to full remote governance. Due to the heightened security risk at state capitols–both due to threats of violence and the raging global pandemic–work with your legislative and constitutional officers to move to full remote governance. Many states have already moved their legislative work online in accessible, democratic ways. For more information on how to make this transition, please reference these materials we produced earlier last summer with our partners, Demand Progress, and U.S. Representative Katie Porter.
  • Minimize the risk of violence at your state capitol. If remote governance is not a possibility, focus on understanding your safety risks at your place of work. Demand clear and sufficient information about how your security team is prepared for attacks. Do not force a public written response, as that may compromise everyone’s safety if details of the security plan are publicly known. Advocate for swift gun-safety changes at the capitol, including banning the open or concealed carry of weapons, even for legislators (some who may have had a hand in the recent violent insurrection in the U.S. Capitol). Michigan was recently able to ban open carry in their capitol with bipartisan support. For direct support on gun safety policies, contact stategovaffairs@everytown.org.
  • Demand accountability. Impeach. Expel. Investigate. Demand that Trump and his co-conspirators, from Senators and House Members to state legislators, who fed, fueled, and fomented these attacks on our democracy must also be removed or resign.
  • Expose and document extremist behaviors in your institutions. Join this public call for individuals, elected officials (local & state), and law enforcement to publicly condemn white supremacist groups and violence. Join together with your neighbors and proclaim that this type of violence will not be permitted in our backyards. Commit to exposing it, pushing back on it, protecting against it, and punishing it when you see it. Consider the tools you have available to you to expose extremist behaviors in your state government, including open records requests and other tools to expose those who conspired to commit violent insurrection and sedition against our nation.

Commit to transformation

  • Acknowledge that violent white extremism is an ongoing threat to democracy. Do not attempt to minimize these attacks or assign blame to fringe elements of our society. The current violence is the result of centuries of white supremacy combined with a political system that more often than not rewards anti-democratic measures and racist and anti-Semitic means. The rise of authoritarianism, violent white supremacy, and populism is front-and-center in our global political discourse. The work ahead to find truth, reconciliation, and healing will require deep, ongoing transformative work. It is unfair and unwise to place this vast social challenge at the feet of police and armed guards whose only known response mechanism is more violence, or who may have been involved in the attacks.
  • Use your position to change the definition of public leadership. Take a bold public stand against white supremacy in your official capacity. You can amend existing state loyalty oaths for legislators, legislative candidates, and/or state employees to include the denunciation of white supremacy groups. See an example from Illinois here.
  • Deeply invest in multi-racial organizing rooted in race equity. It is not a coincidence that the attack on the Capitol was on the same day that the transformational organizing work of Black and Brown communities flipped two U.S. Senate seats, changing partisan control of the chamber. Violent white backlash is a hallmark of American history and this type of terrorism demonstrates that extremists are afraid of the ascending power of BIPOC communities across this country. 

As we allow ourselves the space to grieve and rage, let us also be emboldened by the knowledge that our strategy is working. We must continue to fight tirelessly to build a robust, multi-racial democracy and dream of the country we want to live in.

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