AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Well, it is too soon to tell whether the hearings about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will resonate with the American public. But in cities all across the country, liberal activists organized about 90 watch events to encourage people to take in the first hearing together. NPR's Juana Summers was at one in Philadelphia and has this story.
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: At a church in northwest Philly, people trickled through the courtyard, eager to hear from the House committee that has spent a year investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
MELANIE BRENNAN: I expect to be shocked, and I didn't want to be shocked at home by myself.
SUMMERS: That's Melanie Brennan. She came with friend Chauncey Harris. I asked him what he hoped to see and hear.
CHAUNCEY HARRIS: I hope now they'll be able to show people what the truth is and we can get rid of our personal opinions and just judge the fact on the facts. That's what I hope happen. I hope that we will get some justice in this country.
SUMMERS: Handwritten signs on big pieces of poster board pointed the way inside the stone church. People piled their plates with deli sandwiches and cracked open cold sodas. Tim Brown, one of the event's organizers, presided over a satirical awards ceremony.
TIM BROWN: The first award of the evening is the golden boot award, given for the most servile, degrading act of bootlicking by a political toady.
SUMMERS: The nominees for this award, really not an award, were three Republican senators - Mitt Romney of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas.
BROWN: Who thinks it should be Ted Cruz?
SUMMERS: A woman accepted the trophy standing in the front of the room, arms outstretched, holding a single spray-painted golden boot. I asked Tim Brown, the organizing director of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, about these awards.
BROWN: I think it's important to add levity to dark situations in some instances to take the pressure off people. But also, humor is a good way to get the point across.
SUMMERS: By the time Chairman Bennie Thompson gaveled the hearing in, more than 40 people had gathered to watch the livestream.
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BENNIE THOMPSON: The select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol will be in order.
SUMMERS: As the hearing began, people mostly watched quietly. Occasionally, someone would offer up an aside about something that had been said during the hearing. That was until Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the select committee, spoke. She addressed fellow Republicans who have boycotted the proceedings, painting them as illegitimate.
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LIZ CHENEY: Tonight I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible - there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.
SUMMERS: And the applause was so loud that it was hard to make out what Cheney said next. This was a moment that stuck with Raymond Torres. I spoke with him when the committee went into a brief recess.
RAYMOND TORRES: The Republican senators have not really confronted Trump and says he needs to stop lying. And at least Liz Cheney has been willing to do that.
SUMMERS: Organizer Tim Brown worried about who would watch the hearing. He said some people told him directly that if they couldn't watch collectively, they wouldn't do so at all. I asked him why.
BROWN: Trauma - people were shocked at some of the things being said. One woman came up to me. She said, I couldn't watch this alone. This was too terrorizing. When you saw those people breaching the Capitol and the cops fighting for their lives, it was just horrendous.
SUMMERS: The committee's second public hearing will be held on Monday.
Juana Summers, NPR News, Philadelphia.
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