Rep Andy Kim’s suit in the Capitol cleanup photo was from a J Crew sale. It now belongs to the Smithsonian

“I never expected the Smithsonian or frankly anyone to find meaning in the suit I wore on January 6, but the responses – thousands of letters and emails – show how much people were looking for something positive after that day’

<p>Rep Andy Kim in the Rayburn Building on 2 October 2020 in Washington, DC</p>

Rep Andy Kim in the Rayburn Building on 2 October 2020 in Washington, DC

When Representative Andy Kim put on a bright blue suit on 6 January, he was feeling good about the day.

“I woke with the news of the wins in Georgia,” the New JerseyDemocrat wrote in a Tuesday tweet. “I decided to wear the blue suit. 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.”

Then a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, littered the grounds, destroyed property, and interrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Soon, Kim’s suit would take on new meaning as photos of the congressman kneeling in it while picking up trash in the Capitol rotunda went viral.

Now, Kim is donating the suit to the Smithsonian, he announced Tuesday, as a symbol of “hope and resilience” and “a story of light on one of the darkest days in our democracy.”

“I never expected the Smithsonian or frankly anyone to find meaning in the suit I wore on January 6, but the responses – thousands of letters and emails – show how much people were looking for something positive after that day,” Kim told The Washington Post in a statement.

Officials at the Smithsonian Institution did not immediately respond to questions about a possible exhibit on the Capitol riot or plans for Kim’s suit. It’s not clear which of the museums might display it.

Kim’s announcement came exactly six months after the mob entered the Capitol. Some 500 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, and the House last week voted to form a select committee to investigate it. On Tuesday, some Democrats, including Kim, used the anniversary to chide Republicans for blocking efforts to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the violent insurrection.

Yet while Kim in his tweets accused Senate Republicans of “trying to erase what happened,” he also explained how his blue suit could go from a rack at J Crew to a possible Smithsonian exhibit.

The suit, he said, was nothing special, a “holiday sale” purchase.

He bought it for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but decided to wear it early – on 6 January, when Congress would vote to certify the 2020 presidential election. It would be a good way to give the garments “meaning,” Kim wrote on Tuesday.

Instead, Kim spent six hours that day hiding with a staffer in the Rayburn House Office Building as the mob swarmed the Capitol across the street, he told GQ magazine in January.

After the building was deemed safe later that night and proceedings resumed, Kim walked around the Capitol surveying the damage. “There was trash and debris everywhere, broken furniture and broken flags, coats and gloves, cigarette butts and car keys,” he told GQ. “Trump flags and random bits of food. There was some body armour. This was probably the worst condition that room has ever been in. It broke my heart – I almost started crying.”

So, Kim started picking up trash. “Like my suit, what I did on Jan 6 on its face was unremarkable,” Kim wrote Tuesday. “I saw a mess and cleaned it. I wanted to right the wrongs of that day as quickly and as tangibly as I could.”

That’s when a photographer from the Associated Press captured the now-famous image.

But that was not the last time Kim wore the suit. A week later, he said, “I wore it when I walked onto the House floor to cast my vote for impeachment.”

“The suit still had dust on the knees from 6 January. I wore it so I would have no doubt about the truth of what happened.”

After the vote, Kim vowed never to wear the suit again. “I even considered throwing it away. It only brought back terrible memories,” Kim tweeted. “I could never separate that suit from the events of 6 January. I hid it in my closet as I never wanted to see it again.”

But in the following days, he added, he began receiving cards from people who said the image of him picking up trash in the blue suit “gave them a sense of resilience and hope.”

Later in January, the Smithsonian called and requested the suit, Kim said. “Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about how the day would be remembered as I was still living it," Kim wrote.” In fact, after the call, I had to pull over on the side of I-95 as I started to tear up uncontrollably while driving home. I was still not [okay].”

Imagining what an exhibit of the 6 January insurrection would look like, Kim said he pictures “broken glass from shattered doors, torn flags and signs.” But, he said, those are not the only images from the day: “There was hope and resilience. The Capitol Police were heroes that saved lives. Colleagues and staff showed bravery.”

So, he agreed to donate his suit.

“The suit however is just a symbol,” he told The Post. “The image of me cleaning up is only as powerful as our ability to finish the job, to understand why the events of that day happened, and make sure it never happens again.”

Washington Post

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