JMU student joins national experts to explore events surrounding Jan. 6

By Kevin Gorman, contributor

A JMU student was among a group of scholars who recently met to share their research and better understand the events of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol. 

Sophomore Leia Surovell led an effort to compile a timeline for the eJournal of Public Affairs, with the help of other JMU Civic Democracy Fellows and the JMU Civic Associate Director Carah Ong Whaley. Using a variety of primary and secondary sources, the multi-media timeline is a comprehensive telling of the events leading up to Jan. 6, the day of the insurrection, and the aftermath.

On April 30, Surovell, who uses they/them pronouns, and their colleagues joined a wider group who gathered to share their findings about the insurrection. Over the course of three panels, speakers shed light on many aspects of the event and share their own insights as they explored its consequences. 

Among the participants was Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, was spoke about his experience protecting the Capitol on January 6. “People are trying to rewrite history right in front of us,” Dunn said. “Terrorism is what they did that day. In my mind, they’re coming back. We have to hold them accountable.”

During the second panel with Officer Daniel Hodges, participants sought to build upon this idea and tried to define what accountability meant to them. 

During the third panel, the participants discussed the Jan. 6 insurrection through a historical lens. They compared the day’s events to the rhetoric and politics of the Reconstruction era. They also discussed how nostalgia can be weaponized by politicians to evoke a sense of nationalism and call their followers to action.

The goal of this panel was to use differing perspectives and a historical context to relate the event of Jan. 6 to other times in American history to better understand them – and to heed a warning famously given by Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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