U.S. officials and lawmakers on Thursday used the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to reflect on the "darkest day" for the country and the "fragility of democracy", as the country seems more divided than ever.
"One year ago today in this sacred place, democracy was attacked, simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our constitution faced the gravest of threats," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a speech from Statuary Hall just outside the House chamber.
"I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it. To lift us up, not tear us apart," Biden said, accusing former President Donald Trump of spreading a "web of lies" about the 2020 election, which laid the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol a year ago.
"For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed," Biden said.
"And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again," he added.
"We can't let that happen," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed on the Senate floor.
"We have an obligation not to let that happen because history shows us when you ignore or paint over this kind of violent action, it will recur, often in worse form than it had originally," Schumer said.
To date, the U.S. Justice Department has charged more than 720 individuals for storming the Capitol, and more than 150 rioters have pleaded guilty to charges, from assaulting police to felony obstruction, according to Bloomberg News.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking earlier at the Capitol, said that the violent assault on the Capitol reflects the "fragility of democracy" and "the American spirit is being tested."
"If we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand; it will falter and fail," Harris said, urging lawmakers to pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted that there have been "continued assaults" on U.S. democracy since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which undermine the integrity of U.S. elections.
"As we reflect on that darkest day, we remember that the insurrectionists sought not only to attack the building, but to undermine democracy itself," Pelosi said from the podium of the House before observing a moment of silence honoring those who lost their lives protecting the Capitol that day and in its aftermath.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney, a Republican Representative of Wyoming, were the only Republicans on the House floor for a moment of silence to mark one year since the Jan. 6 attack, according to local media.
"I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation," the former vice president said in a statement.
Democrats have denounced the Capitol riot as an attack on democracy as Trump's supporters attempted to stop Congress from certifying Biden as the 2020 election winner. However, most Republicans have downplayed its implications, especially Trump's alleged role in inciting it.
While calling Jan. 6, 2021 "a dark day" for Congress and the country, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that some Washington Democrats "try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event."
"It is especially jaw-dropping to hear some Senate Democrats invoke the mob's attempt to disrupt our country's norms, rules, and institutions as a justification to discard our norms, rules, and institutions themselves," McConnell said.
In response to Biden's speech, Trump also claimed that Democrats want to use the Jan. 6 attack to "stoke fears and divide America".
"This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed," Trump said in a statement.
One year after the deadly attack on the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans still differ sharply over its key aspects, aftermath and the related congressional investigation, underscoring an increasingly partisan Congress, a more divided country and growing distrust in American democracy.
The United States has not learned the lessons of the riot which led to multiple deaths, over 100 injuries and damage to the Capitol, U.S. experts warned. As U.S. partisan politics continues to decay, they said the country still faces the risk of a repeated incident.