Jan. 6 vigil about accountability, consequence and Elise Stefanik

New England

Matt Castelli, a Democratic candidate running against NY-21 Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, speaks to a crowd of around 80 on Thursday night at Centennial Circle in downtown Glens Falls, N.Y. The crowd gathered in a candlelight vigil in memory of the riot on the U.S. Capitol one year prior – and in condemnation of Stefanik, who stood with other Republican lawmakers in rejecting the results of the 2020 election. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Larry Fine, co-chair of Saratoga-Warren-Washington Progressive Action, wasn’t the only person to speak to a crowd on a cold Thursday night at Centennial Circle. But he summed up the message.

“Many words have been used to describe what happened that day. Riot. Insurrection. Protest. Disruption. A normal day. What it was? We were attacked. There was a terrorist attack on our country, attempting to overthrow our government.”

Fine stood with the traffic circle at his back, speaking to a crowd of around 80 local residents holding signs, photos and, significantly, candles. Thursday night’s gathering was in memory of what happened one year before it, during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Fine led the group in a moment of silence, followed by a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” The silence, the song and the lights were all in memory of those who died during the attack in Washington, D.C. by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Names read off included Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood Capitol police officers; Jeffrey Smith, a metropolitan police officer; and Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida, two officers whose July suicides were linked to the attack.

That was one purpose for the gathering. Another was accented by the signs held by many condemning Trump and NY-21 Congresswoman Elise Stefanik – and by Stefanik’s office, not a full block down Warren Street from the vigil.

Members of the North Country Light Brigade activism group hold up signs at a candlelight vigil in memory of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and calling for accountability for NY-21 Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, in downtown Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

“We’re here to tell people that we think we need to improve on our democracy and voting rights, and urge Congress to take that on,” said Queensbury Town Board member Harrison Freer, attending as a member of the North Country Light Brigade activism group. “Ms. Stefanik has been on the other side of that battle, and so a lot of folks here are disappointed in her performance as our representative, and want to make that known.”

Stefanik, a Republican and three-term congresswoman for New York’s 21st Congressional district, was one of over 150 Republican House members and Senators to condemn the electoral college results declaring President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Two months later, the day after the assault on Capitol Hill, she spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in condemnation of the attack.

On Thursday, Stefanik highlighted the condemnation – and not her support of Trump, which many in Glens Falls on Thursday held up as proof that she did not speak for them. In a release, Stefanik said:

“On January 6, 2021, I strongly and clearly condemned the violence and destruction that occurred at the U.S. Capitol – just as I strongly condemned the entire year of violence and lawlessness that raged across our nation throughout 2020. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the U.S. Capitol Police for their bravery and heroism on that day and to those who sacrifice and serve in law enforcement every day across the country.” 

Vigil organizer Christine Nicols led Thursday night’s event by calling out Stefanik, and every other Republican lawmaker who joined in objecting to the results of the 2020 election.

“These same lawmakers are continuing to spread daily lies about the validity of the 2020 election, to keep their supporters enraged – and engaged,” she said. “Here in our own NY-21, Elise Stefanik has continued to divide and to gain notoriety by repeating this big lie.”

A resident sends a message by sign at the Glens Falls, N.Y. vigil in memory of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

Stefanik was not in Glens Falls on Thursday, but two people seeking to unseat her in the 2022 midterm election were. Both had plenty to say about why.

“One thing is clear: It’s that Jan. 6 was just practice,” said Democrat Matt Castelli, a Saratoga Springs resident and former CIA agent campaigning for Stefanik’s seat. “The fight for American democracy is upon us now, and this election is where we make our stand. We need to make sure that we don’t allow officials, who violate their oath to defend and protect this country, an opportunity to seek to destroy it from within.”

One passing motorist chanted “Let’s go, Brandon” behind Castelli as he spoke, using a phrase meant to dig at President Joe Biden. That was one in a stream of drivers who honked their horns in support of the vigil, through all the speakers, including fellow Democratic NY-21 candidate Matt Putorti, who recalled how he had spent election night 2020, working at a polling place in Detroit.

“Around lunchtime, a woman showed up at my polling place who appeared either to be going to work or on break from work. She had an apron and a Wendy’s visor on, and she was having trouble finding her polling place,” Putorti recounted. “Ours was the second she visited, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the correct one, either.”

Putorti said the woman couldn’t stay, but that he hoped she eventually found the right place to vote.

“She was working so hard to show up for our country.”

Other speakers included Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim, and local activist and former state Assembly candidate Joe Seeman.

No counter-protest from pro-Trump groups took place, save for the occasional words from a passing vehicle. North Country groups in support of President Trump had a history of holding rallies and counterprotests in the city dating back to 2018, but stopped in more recent years after the city of Glens Falls passed a law requiring any large gathering or rally to apply for a permit.

Glens Falls’ candles were far from the only ones held in memory of the day. Another event was held in Albany, and activism website mobilize.us listed many others in neighboring regions and states.

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