The Hillsdale County Republican Party faced backlash after hosting an “Insurrection Anniversary” on Thursday, Jan. 6, one year after the Capitol riot.
The HCRP’s “Insurrection Anniversary” took place during its monthly meeting on Jan. 6, according to party secretary Jon Smith. The event, which took place at 6 p.m. in Sozo Church Hillsdale, featured several speakers who attended the Stop the Steal rally.
The “Insurrection Anniversary” made national headlines when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow tweeted about the HCRP on Jan. 6, criticizing organizers’ bad grammar.
“‘Food and drinks will be provide,’” Maddow wrote, including a screenshot of the event description.
A Jan. 7 MSNBC article referred to this event as an “‘insurrection anniversary party.”
Republicans also criticized the event. In an interview with Jackson TV, state Sen. Mike Shirkey, R‑Clarklake, condemned what he called the HCRP’s “celebration” of the Capitol riot.
“They are setting up to establish a celebration of Jan. 6, 2021, which I think is horrible,” Shirkey said to Jackson TV. “Nobody should be celebrating what happened on Jan. 6 2021, but they’re doing it.”
Hillsdale County Republicans took 104 people and two buses to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Smith said.
“We invited guest speakers to come up and talk about their experience,” Smith said.
Speakers included Hillsdale City Councilman Robert Socha, Indiana pastor Micah Beckwith, and congressional candidates Joseph Rocha and Angela Rigas, Smith said. According to Bridge Michigan, both Rocha and Rigas attended the protest outside the Capitol in 2021.
The public reacted negatively to the event, according to Smith.
“I get a lot of bad calls,” Smith said. “I encourage it. Any time I can trigger a liberal, I’m game.”
The Hillsdale County Democratic Party issued a statement that expressed disappointment in the HCRP for celebrating “an event whose goal it was to interfere with the democratic process and to undermine the outcome of an election.”
“Many people were injured and some lost their lives, this should never be a cause for celebration, no matter your political convictions or affiliation,” the Hillsdale Democratic party wrote.
Smith partially blames Republican state Sen. Mike Shirkey for the negative response to this event.
The HCRP censured Shirkey on Feb. 4 for a series of “actions and inactions,” according to MLive.com. The county Republicans secretly recorded their meeting with Shirkey, according to WILX, and Shirkey later apologized for making “insensitive comments” in the video.
“The guy that we censured from our party, the guy that we clashed with, we undercover videotaped and totally destroyed his political career, went on TV and said that this was a celebration,” Smith said, referencing a Jackson TV interview with Shirkey. “That’s what caused the backlash.”
Smith also acknowledged that the event’s title may have fueled criticism.
“The word insurrection is a trigger word, let’s be honest,” Smith said.
While the HCRP labeled this a “fundraising event” in the Facebook announcement, party Chair Daren Wiseley said no fundraising was involved.
“All of our monthly meetings cost $10 to cover food and rental costs; there was no special ‘fundraiser’ regarding the event,” Wiseley said.
“This is a little absurd, it’s all for political points, and it’s really silly,” Smith said.
The Collegian could not reach Shirkey for comment in time for publication.