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‘Never be forgotten’: Rep. Andy Kim donates suit worn during Capitol riot to Smithsonian

  • July 07, 2021

WASHINGTON — Six months after a violent pro-Trump mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol building, one lawmaker is preserving the memory of the insurrection by donating the suit he wore while he witnessed it.

“While some try to erase history, I will fight to tell the story so it never happens again,” Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., wrote in an extensive series of posts on Twitter.

As part of that effort, the congressman said he donated his blue suit to the Smithsonian Institution after it reached out to him for contributions memorializing the insurrection.

Kim, a former Obama aide who defeated a Trump ally in his 2018 race for Congress, was adamant that preserving the memory of the Jan. 6 insurrection is important to the story of the country. He hoped his contribution would help in that effort.

“Instead of trying to erase history they don’t like after the fact, politicians should just act in a way that doesn’t produce such shameful results. It’s not hard to not incite or cover up an insurrection,” he wrote.

An ‘unremarkable’ suit, stitched in history

Kim’s decision to wear the suit that day was “unremarkable,” he wrote, coming after the Senate runoff victories of Georgia Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, giving Democrats unified control of Washington.

After the rioters had been cleared from the Capitol, lawmakers, aides and other bystanders surveyed the damage and helped clean the wreckage of the seat of American government.

“Under that great dome was just ransacked, just garbage and debris everywhere, all of it all over the statues, all over the floor,” he told the Washington Post in January. “It was really painful to see this room and this building that I love so much hurting.”

Kim, who was in a separate federal building during the insurrection and didn’t see the extent of the damage until later, was horrified by the looting. He kept a humble tone in his Twitter  reflections months after the violence.

“I saw a mess and cleaned it. I wanted to right the wrongs of that day as quickly and as tangibly as I could. Neither my suit nor my actions are on their own worthy of memory, but the story didn’t end there,” Kim wrote.

The last time the congressman wore the suit was Jan. 13, the day of the House’s impeachment vote of former President Donald Trump. Kim wrote that he swore to never wear the suit again, that it “only brought back terrible memories” and that he could “never separate that suit from the events” of Jan. 6. 

The congressman’s view of the suit and its place in history changed, however, after he began receiving thousands of supportive cards from people across the country, many mentioning it. 

“People wrote saying the blue suit gave them a sense of resilience and hope. For me, I was in a tough place,” Kim wrote. “But feeling of hope/resilience in the cards helped me feel stronger.”

In late January, the Smithsonian Institution, a government-supported museum and research consortium, reached out to Kim about acquiring the suit for its collection. 

“The story of that day wasn’t just destruction. There was hope and resilience. The Capitol Police were heroes that saved lives. Colleagues and staff showed bravery. I hope those stories are told. They help tell a story of light on one of the darkest days in our democracy,” Kim wrote.

It is unclear when and how the suit will be displayed at the Smithsonian.

“We can confirm that Rep. Andy Kim’s suit has been received by the museum as part of a larger collecting initiative to continue to assess now and in the future what historians and the public will know about Jan. 6, 2021,” said Melissa Machado, director for the Office of Communications and Marketing from the National Museum of American History, in a statement to CBS 3 Philly.

Efforts to investigate, remember insurrection polarized

On Tuesday, other lawmakers weighed in on the six-month anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection with condemnations of the violence and urging for a national reckoning.

“This was not dissent. It was disorder. It posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive — a sad reminder that there is nothing guaranteed about our democracy,” President Joe Biden said in a statement marking the anniversary.

On July 1, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tapped several Democratic lawmakers and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., to serve on a commission that would investigate the insurrection’s causes and ramifications of the Capitol attack. The move came after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection.

Many Republican lawmakers have conversely played down the events of Jan. 6, variously arguing that the violence on display was not as severe as reported or understandable given the passions of the mob. 

“Let’s be honest with the American people — it was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde, a first-term Georgia Republican, said in May.

“It saddens me that so many have refused to speak up about what happened, but I’m at peace with my choices—with telling the truth making sure we have a full accounting of the events of January 6,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who voted to impeach Trump, wrote on Twitter.

In his Twitter thread, Kim argued it was Americans’ patriotic duty to remember the insurrection and combat misinformation or a forgetting of the events. He hoped his donation of the suit would be a step toward that effort.

“It’ll be surreal to one day take my kids to the Smithsonian and show them the blue suit behind glass. I hope they grow to know the truth of Jan. 6, but I also hope the story ultimately is one of hope and resilience,” the congressman wrote.  “I hope that is what they and others see in the blue suit.”

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

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