LIVINGSTON, NJ — Following the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 that was held in an attempt to overturn President Donald Trump’s defeat in the November 2020 presidential election, local officials from the Livingston Township Council and Livingston Public Schools (LPS) responded to the nature of this riot from various perspectives.

In a joint statement, members of the Livingston Township Council condemned the “criminal actions of all who participated in this violent insurrection,” stating that the scenes at the capitol were “more than disturbing or disheartening” in the midst of a global pandemic, and especially “on the heels of a year filled with racially motivated violence, loss and incredible hardship.”

“Instead of what should have been a peaceful transfer of power, the American people saw irresponsibility, contempt and violence,” they said. “There is no excuse for the behaviors we witnessed, forced to stand by and watch as a vicious mob attacked one of the symbols of our very democracy, those defending it and those upholding its tenets. We believe and hope that the individuals responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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In addition to expressing admiration and appreciation for all those defending the building and their “dedication to completing their constitutionally mandated task” of confirming the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” the governing body also mourned the deaths of those lost “so unnecessarily in this violent attack.”

“United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, a heroic New Jersey native, was on the front lines and was killed protecting others during this domestic terrorist attack,” they said. “His legacy of courage and leadership will be remembered.”

Although these rioters demonstrated “the worst of humankind,” the council concluded that this was “a small group” that does not represent all Americans and that they are, in fact, the “antithesis of all we should stand for as Americans.”

“The events of Jan. 6 and those who participated are indefensible, and we can see them for what they are: rooted in hatred and violence,” they said. “As a nation, we have a rich and storied history that shows us we have the wherewithal to heal, to create opportunity and build bridges, and to continue to work together for the benefit of all, and our work is by no means complete. We must all continue to move forward, confronting the darker parts of our past and present, and work to heal our divided nation.”

Newly appointed Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein spoke about the governing body’s commitment to celebrating Livingston’s diversity during the council’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 1, nearly a week prior to the capitol riots.

He noted that the year 2020 “cast a brilliant and at times glaring light” on the issue of equality and reiterated that the Livingston Township Council is “dedicated to ensuring a safe and just community.” He also expressed pride in Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz for being “a model for the state in this regard.”

“Our diversity is so important to us, and I think we can all be extremely proud of the fact that we have a Chief of Police who’s a model in the state for making sure that the department is run in a way that we can be proud, that people are not singled out by race, that they make every effort possible to hire people on the force that represent the community and look like the community, and that we do all the training that we can to make sure people are being sensitive,” the mayor said earlier this week. “Even if they're unaware of an advisement, we might have to try to draw that out and teach them about it and make them better people, but that's how the chief runs the department. I look at that as a role model for the state and I'm super proud of him.”

Despite the “atrocity that happened in the capitol” on Jan. 6, Klein chose to look at what he described as the bright spots of what occurred that day, including seeing “the fruit of Stacey Abrams’ work over the last 10 years.”

“She turned to that state and changed the entire country from all her hard work in 10 years, and I was celebrating her,” he said. “The Trumpism in this country is a negativity that we have to overcome, and focusing on the positive and doing the hard work of hearing people's voices—especially those who have been ostracized before—that's what we have to do, and that's what Stacey Abrams did for us. She’s changing the country and she’s the changed the world, and that is something worth celebrating.”

During Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting, newly appointed LBOE President Samantha Messer also shone light on the situation, seeing it as a sign of potential for a more collaborative political future. 

“It is as Sam Messer, history teacher—not Sam Messer, board president—that I say Wednesday into Thursday was an incredibly scary day for me and for many,” she said.  “Wednesday was a test of our constitution and our democracy. Wednesday highlighted for us just how fragile we are as a nation right now and how much division exists among us. Times like these calls upon us to listen to each other and to try to understand each other.

“While disturbing and scary, the events of Wednesday left me feeling hopeful about the future. We saw Republicans and Democrats work together until the early hours of Thursday morning to certify the vote and ensure the continuity of democracy. I hope this means we are on a path toward collaborative solutions.”

A week before Martin Luther King Day, Messer pointed out that some of King’s famous words “feel particularly relevant right now.”

“King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’; he said, ‘A riot is the language of the unheard’; he said, ‘Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it’; and he said, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools,’” said Messer. “King’s words are as relevant today as they were when he said them.

“Taken together, to me, these words mean that during difficult times like these, we must strive even harder to understand each other so that all people and all perspectives can be heard and respected and that non-violence will change history far more effectively than violence.”

LPS Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Block also responded to the Jan. 6 riot, describing it as an “alarming, disturbing and unprecedented” event in American in history.

Block urged local parents to remember that “children process emotions around the violence and anger they see on the news in various ways and at different speeds,” adding that “even students who may not understand the details of the situation can be upset and anxious.”

“The violence that occurred at the Capitol Building was unconscionable and difficult for many adults to understand,” he said. “For children, seeing and hearing news about circumstances like this can be even more challenging to process…[Following this event], our amazing team of LPS educators has worked to support our students by speaking to them in age-appropriate ways about current events, and have gathered resources to guide them in doing so objectively and effectively.”

The school district has since provided families with resources to help them communicate about these events at home and encouraged parents to contact their child’s school counselor or principal for further assistance as needed.

Resources provided through LPS can be found below:

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