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What “Never Again” means to the Berkshire County activists who recognized Jan. 6 with a rally in Pittsfield

The "Never Again" rally at Park Square in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts on January 6th, 2023.
Josh Landes
The "Never Again" rally at Park Square in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts on January 6th, 2023.

On Friday, activists in Berkshire County recognized the second anniversary of the January 6th Capitol insurrection with a rally in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The Park Square demonstration was put on by members of the Four Freedoms coalition, an alliance of Berkshire County community groups that came together after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. 24 months after Trump supporters violently occupied the Capitol in a futile effort to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory, organizer and Pittsfield attorney Sherwood Guernsey told WAMC the rally’s theme was “Never Again.”

“It's very clear to us that our democracy is still very much in danger, and we can't let go of the requirement of standing up for it," he said.
"Right now in Washington is another display of the problem. And you know, 139 congresspeople, GOP congresspeople, voted to overturn [the election], the people who were elected to office right after the January 6th insurrection. And this guy who wants to be Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, went right down to see Trump and get his praise and never mentioned the problem with the insurrection. So, we have a problem with democracy, no question about it. There are tons of people who still are election deniers. So, this group is making a statement- We will protect democracy, we will stand up for democracy, as long as it takes. Look at it this way- You know, if our troops in Valley Forge can be out in the snow, and the Ukrainians can be in the snow, we can spend a few minutes here standing up for democracy ourselves.”

The standout took place in the midst of Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s arduous, historically lengthy effort to win over the ultraconservative, Trump-allied fringe of his party to become Speaker. He would eventually succeed early Saturday morning after 15 rounds of voting and a considerable slate of concessions to the rebel faction. Berkshire County NAACP Chapter President Dennis Powell pointed to the still-unfolding situation when asked by WAMC what brought him out on the wet, snowy afternoon.

“Because it hasn't stopped," he responded. "It's still January 6th. It's still part of what we were all concerned about. Because the difference is the mob is not outside, it's inside the chambers- These 20 people. Look at what's going on with our democracy and government.”

Evoking memories of the infamous MOVE bombing by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1985, Powell said if the mob had been composed of Black people, it never would have made it to the Capitol.

“There would never been gates torn down, there would have never been police, injured," said Powell. "We remember what happened in Philadelphia when they bombed the neighborhood because they thought the Black Panthers was part of that in that neighborhood. So, we know what would have happened if had been Black people standing up for their rights.”

Shirley Edgerton is a community activist, Executive Director of the Rites of Passage and Empowerment program that provides mentorship for girls, and cultural proficiency coach for Pittsfield Public Schools. She described January 6th as one of the most despicable days in American history.

“We were attacked not by a foreign country or, you know, others outside that we often cast our vision on in terms of their desire to harm us, but our own Americans, you know, attacked Congress, attacked democracy, attacked the way of life," said Edgerton. "And it leads me [to] the question, where are we going from here, and what is the true intent of the former president and his buddies?”

Edgerton said educating future generations about the events of January 6th is crucial to the concept of “Never Again,” as well as confronting those who continue to defend the insurrection even now.

“It's very clear, as we watch the news and as we watched things unfold two years ago, that it's a faction of the Republican Party," she told WAMC. "So, I'm very clear on that. And I'm very clear that anyone that supports that faction does not have the best interests of America. And my hope is- I get to work with young people every day. And they believe in inclusiveness, they believe in being progressive and moving forward, and that all people have a right to equity and freedom and justice.”

2nd Berkshire District State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Democrat, spoke at the event on behalf of the county’s legislative delegation.

“Democracy is fragile," the state representative told the gathering. "Democracy is not given to us by God, but rather something that God has given us as an opportunity and that we have to work for it. And in order to preserve this right, we have to hold each other and especially our elected officials to account to get to the truth of what happened, get to the truth of what happened and hold the people responsible to account, because nobody, nobody is above the law in the United States of America.”

A handful of Berkshire County residents have faced legal repercussions for taking part in the Capitol siege.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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