Andy Kim donates suit worn for Jan. 6 riot clean-up to Smithsonian

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Rep. Andy Kim said Tuesday that he donated to the Smithsonian Institution the blue suit the New Jersey Democrat wore as he cleaned up the U.S. Capitol building after it was ransacked by rioters on Jan. 6 protesting President Trump’s election loss.

Mr. Kim said in a series of messages on social media that the Smithsonian asked for and has now acquired the suit he can be seen wearing in viral images that captured him cleaning up debris strewn on the floor of the Capitol just hours after the rioters were cleared from the building.

“While some try to erase history, I will fight to tell the story so it never happens again,” Mr. Kim said in the first of some 17 postings on the platform Twitter detailing his donation.

The Smithsonian has confirmed it acquired the suit. 

Mr. Kim, a second-term congressman and one of the first of Korean descent, was photographed wearing the suit as he collected trash on the floor of the Capitol. Images showing the lawmakers on his hands and knees gathering trash beneath the building’s storied Rotunda subsequently went viral and resulted in him receiving national attention well beyond the Garden State.

Describing the “unremarkable” suit in the series of Twitter posts, Mr. Kim said he bought it from JCrew during a holiday sale with the plan of wearing it for the inauguration of President Biden on Jan. 20.

Mr. Kim said he decided to wear the suit two weeks earlier than he originally anticipated to mark the planned congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s electoral victory over Mr. Trump on Jan. 6.

“I bought it to be a suit of celebration, and I thought what better way to give the suit meaning than to wear it when I confirm the Electoral College and then later to the inauguration,” Mr. Kim tweeted.

Trump supporters notoriously delayed that certification by storming the Capitol, for a time occupying both the House and Senate chambers. Six months later, the Department of Justice said 535 people and counting have been arrested on charges related to the day’s events.

“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 Valeska M. Hilbig, deputy director for the office of communications and marketing at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

There are currently no plans to display the suit, Ms. Hilbig told The Washington Times.

Mr. Kim said he last wore the suit when he voted with fellow House Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump on charges of inciting the rioting on Jan. 6. It “still had dust on the knees” from two weeks earlier, he tweeted.

“When I got home I vowed to never wear the suit again. I even considered throwing it away. It only brought back terrible memories. I could never separate that suit from the events of Jan. 6. I hid it in my closet as I never wanted to see it again. But then something happened,” Mr. Kim continued. “In the following days, I started to receive thousands of cards from across the country. Many from kids. Strangers who wanted to tell me how they felt when they saw the photo of me. They talked about the blue suit. The suit meant something different to them than it did to me.”

Mr. Kim explained that people told him the suit gave them a sense of “resilience and hope,” and he said that before long the Smithsonian was requesting it for its growing collection of artifacts related to the events of the day.

“The story of that day wasn’t just destruction,” he tweeted. “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.”

He added, “There are many stories of [January 6]. Mine is just one.”

More than a dozen of the more than 500 defendants charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot have pleaded guilty, and the Justice Department said Tuesday it was still looking for numerous suspects.

Previously, the Smithsonian said it deployed a team of “rapid-response” collectors to gather and preserve ephemera such as posters, signs and banners the day after the siege of the Capitol building.

“We are grateful to all our partners, including Congress, who have contributed to the Smithsonian collections,” said Ms. Hilbig at the history museum. “Our curatorial staff, including in the division of political and military history, continue to monitor the evolving situation regarding the election of 2020 and the Capitol building insurrection and interruption of the final ratification of that election.”

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