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San Diego’s connection to Jan. 6 remains even if many want to move on

As the nation commemorates the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, San Diego leaders say it’s important to recognize its impact locally now and in the future.

San Diego’s connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection was forged in a flash when local resident Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by a police officer as she tried to enter the Capitol building through a broken window. On Friday, Babbitt’s mother – Micki Witthoeft – was arrested in Washington D.C. for blocking traffic during a demonstration.

In the last two years, at least four local men have been arrested for participating in the breach. They include: Carlsbad resident James McGrew; Coronado resident Jeffrey Alexander Smith; Erik Herrera of El Cajon and former Oceanside resident Philip James Weisbecker.

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Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna said the region still has its share of extremists. They include members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, two far right groups largely responsible for the carnage on Jan. 6, 2021.

“While local law enforcement tries to keep an eye on them, I’m not sure we really have a good feel of just how things could get in San Diego if it becomes a really divided national scene by 2024,” Luna said.

Since the insurrection, the House Jan. 6 committee has investigated the Capitol attack, held months of hearings and referred former President Donald Trump for criminal charges. But Luna said San Diegans have largely checked out.

“Locally, I think we've just kind of ignored it,” Luna said. “It’s such an East Coast thing. We’ll just keep going on with our San Diego stuff and pretend it’s not going to affect us.”

Democratic Rep. Mike Levin of the 49th District, which includes northern San Diego and southern Orange counties, told KPBS that he understands why people might want to just move on. But there’s a risk of turning away from what happened two years ago.

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“I do worry there has been an erosion of our democratic institutions and there is a desire to just forget or to be nonchalant about what was truly an attack, an insurrection unlike what we've seen since the early 1800s,” Levin said.

He added that part of moving forward includes accountability. He applauded the arrest of more than 950 so-called foot soldiers for participating in the attack. But he said it would be catastrophic if Trump is not prosecuted for his role.

“That would be untenable,” Levin said. “That would create a permission structure for future insurrections, for future sedition frankly. And that is something we cannot have.”

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-50) did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Jordan Gascon, executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County.