‘I will be on that platform’: Michigan House Dems who survived the Capitol attack look to Inauguration Day 

By: - January 17, 2021 10:17 am

Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump protesters have entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation’s capital. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) was on the House floor Jan. 6 when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building, armed with President Trump flags, clubs, pipes, guns, bear mace, zip ties and Confederate flags. A makeshift wooden gallows stood outside.

Nonetheless, she told the Advance she will attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence at a rally for former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

“These terrorists have done everything in their power to stop the peaceful transfer of power, but I will be on that platform,” Lawrence said. “There will be extra security measures.”

On the heels of a violent insurrection attempt carried out by a pro-Trump mob and a historic second impeachment of the president, the Advance talked to three Michigan U.S. House Democrats who are still looking forward to Inauguration Day and believe that necessary security measures are in place to keep it safe. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) is confident that measures have been taken when Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Biden defeated incumbent Trump, a Republican, by 306 to 232 in the Electoral College vote and more than 7 million votes. 

“I do think that they [law enforcement officials] are making the Capitol a site that is going to be safe. We have to be vigilant,” Dingell told the Advance Friday. “And we have to be vigilant across the country.”

Federal officials continue to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill that killed five people including a police officer. More than 300 cases have been opened and at least 98 people have been charged in connection to the attack. 

Debbie Dingell at a housing hearing in Detroit | Ken Coleman

The District of Columbia and states across the country are on high alert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and tightening security in preparation for possible armed, violent protests. As many as 25,000 National Guard troops are on hand to support the Capitol Police. 

As the Advance first reported Friday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also has called up the National Guard in advance of Sunday’s protest planned by right-wing groups at the state Capitol. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) told the Advance that impeaching Trump on Wednesday was necessary because he incited the invasion of the Capitol, which resulted in calls from members of the mob to murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Vice President Mike Pence. Nine of 14 Michigan House members voted for impeachment — all seven Democrats and two Republicans, Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids and Fred Upton of St. Joseph.

It isn’t lost on Kildee that Inauguration Day will be the third consecutive Wednesday of high-profile events. 

“We’ve got a good Wednesday coming up,” Kildee said. “The last two Wednesdays have been difficult.” 

Rep. Dan Kildee at the Flint drive-in rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with former President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Kildee noted, as did Dingell and Lawrence, that additional security steps are being taken to defend against violence, but declined to disclose specifics. 

“The inauguration is going to be a national security event unlike anything else that I have participated in,” Kildee said. 

Lawrence said Inauguration Day traditionally has been a festive time for the winning political party but this year’s event will be very different, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the security issue. There will be no state-hosted balls and other parties. 

In August 2019, Lawrence was among the first U.S. House members to support now-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris after the U.S. senator from California announced that she was running for president. Lawrence and Harris are members of Black college sororities. Lawrence said that she would have loved to participate in a ball hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, of which Harris is a member, and one hosted by Delta Sigma Theta sorority, to which Lawrence belongs.  

Harris will become the first African-American, Indian-American and woman to serve as vice president and the first to have graduated from a historically Black college, Howard University.

“If things were different,” Lawrence said, “there would have been all of that coming together to celebrate.” 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.