Six friends and I drove almost 20 hours to attend the Save America Rally on Jan. 6 in Washington D.C. with hundreds of thousands of people: families, young people, old people, veterans, Americans of every conceivable ethnicity and background. I stood in the freezing cold, shoulder-to-shoulder with other Americans to the point I simply couldn’t move, there were so many people crowded together.
My group reached the grounds of The Ellipse at 6:30 a.m. where a crowd—already pressing people along with considerable force—was just beginning to assemble. President Trump was scheduled to speak at noon, so we stood dutifully, our toes freezing and joints stiffening, for five hours to hear him speak, hoping to hear how we could navigate the muddy water of election irregularities necessary to save our republic.
The crowd went wild with appreciation as Trump took the stage, yet as soon as he began to speak, a sea of voices stilled to listen. After touching on his hopes for his vice president, his disdain of cowardly Republicans including Mitt Romney, President Trump said to us, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong” (16:25).
Later, he said, as the transcript verifies, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” (18:16). I heard President Trump praise manymembers of Congress, but heard nothing to incite violence, unless by a weak-kneed Republican like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Again, we heard nothing from Trump calling for a riot. He used his usual strong language, strongly criticizing those he disagreed with and repeating claims the election was “stolen,” but he did not call for any violence and specifically asked for “peaceful” expression of disagreement. Using his words to excuse crime is on the criminals.
The same is true of his other statements that day, such as the video Twitter banned. It shows Trump acknowledging his supporters’ anger but telling them violence is not the solution: “We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you, you’re very special.”
After the president’s speech, we began to be shoved along toward Pennsylvania Avenue as gracefully as overwrapped mummies. For what seemed like hours, we shuffled along at a snail’s pace until our personal space returned and we could once again take full strides.
As the crowd turned over to Pennsylvania Avenue on their way to the capitol, our group turned up 14th Street to our hotel to get something to eat and use the facilities. It was while we were there that we heard of what had happened at the capitol via the major media. We were absolutely, completely shocked beyond comprehension to hear of any violence, considering our previous experience at Trump rallies and after hearing the president’s speech at this one.
Let me be clear. Many of us at that rally felt disenfranchised, overlooked, and angry, but those I met and heard are Constitution geeks whose main interest was seeking proper redress of government through our right to assemble and have our voices heard. Violence from our side was the last thing we would have expected, encouraged, or participated in, ever. Never would we have thought of breaching the capitol, let alone assaulting congressmen.
There were hundreds of thousands of people all standing together peacefully in one spot for more than five hours. A small percentage of this group entered the capitol and perpetrated mayhem while hundreds of thousands were peacefully milling around outside. Video of the event shows other attendees remonstrating with some who broke windows or stood on statues, telling them to stop.
As we sat in the hotel room in various states of shock, glued to TV news, we were consistently surprised at how what the reporters were reporting simply didn’t even match the footage they were showing. If there was so much chaos, disorder, and confusion, why were people milling around and not running for their lives?
Our hotel was at the corner of 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue, so we had quite a view. All we could see from our 10th-floor window were all kinds of Americans walking slowly away from the capitol as though they’d had a leisurely day sightseeing. No one appeared panicked or even the least bit concerned. No one was turning over cars, breaking windows, starting fires, or committing any other crimes like the kind we watched during the “mostly peaceful” leftist protests of the spring.
We decided to walk outside for a better look. We asked people going by, “Why are you leaving the capitol?” Invariably the answer was something like, “My feet hurt,” “We’re exhausted—we’ve been standing all day,” “We’re hungry,” or “We have to use the bathroom.”
Neither seeing nor feeling any danger, we continued our walk. Along the way we saw impromptu street markets stocked with Trump merchandise, often with long lines; street performers of all kinds, music playing, and more of what we’d seen all day: families, dogs, kids, young people, old people, and people of every ethnicity.
Upon arriving at the capitol, we saw masses of people in the street, along the reflecting pool, strewn across the grounds and along the balconies. We saw people listening to street preaching and entrepreneurs selling their wares. We saw a giant flag hanging from the scaffolding prepared for the presidential inauguration and people sitting in the inaugural stands and along the stone balconies.
We saw international media, but no legacy media. Any other media we saw was blocks from the Capitol building. There were no Americans running, or screaming, or turning over statues, or vandalizing or tearing down anything. Here, there was no evidence of any violence of any kind.
We stopped at the stone wall surrounding the capitol grounds and observed for some time. At one point we saw what looked like DC police throw flash-bangs and pepper spray to try and disperse the crowd from around the Capitol building. Minutes later, we witnessed several people stagger by us, one with swollen eyes, tears pouring down his face like a faucet, and others visibly affected by the spray.
We headed back to the hotel, buffeted by the cold wind. Up in our warm hotel room eating a dinner we had brought, we noticed lines of police cars, lights flashing, descending on the hotel. We looked down from our window to find we were being surrounded by 16 vans of DC police in full riot gear, accompanied by even more police cars. At one point the fire alarm rang, jangling our nerves, but we were concerned about leaving the room.
One of the more adventurous of our group went down to the lobby after the (false) alarm ended, to find the hotel entrances completely blocked by DC police. Even those people attempting to leave the hotel to smoke a cigarette were being forced back inside and threatened with arrest. The entire hotel was locked down.
Knowing other people staying in other hotels across the city, we called them, only to find they were also under lockdown, unable to get food or even venture outside to smoke. As soon as the 6 p.m. curfew lifted, we were out of the people’s capital city.
Why are we seeing video of Capitol Police opening barricades around the capitol and beckoning people to come in? Why are there videos of some people inside the capitol singing patriotic songs and taking pictures, as if they did not enter to riot or commit other crimes? Why are people being told that Trump incited a riot when transcripts of his speeches show he explicitly called for peaceful behavior?
As we checked out of our last hotel in Indiana to finish the long drive home, we chatted up the girl pouring our coffee. She was sweet and talkative. She asked where we were from and we told her. From above her mask, her eyes looked soft and kind. She asked where we had come from and we told her, only to watch her eyes glaze over in fear.
Those who hate us have succeeded. We’re now the enemy they intended to make us, starting when we began to push back against their agenda as the Tea Party. They’ve now determined that we are just what they want us to be: “Deplorables.” But that’s not us.
Like the other 74 million Americans who voted for Trump, we are peaceful and patriotic, not criminals or “seditionists” like the media and Democrats are now wildly and frighteningly claiming. The rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 do not represent us at all, but the left has decided to use the crimes of a relative few to crack down on half the country in a frightening purge that seems to have no logical stopping point.
Except for the few bad actors, who deserve due process and the just punishments the law calls for, like every other rioter, the vast majority of the American citizens who marched on Jan. 6 were guilty of nothing more than a desire to see free and fair elections and of keeping our country a constitutional republic. We did not come to start violence or “sedition,” but to peacefully protest and call on our representatives to do their jobs.
And we will not go away. We have as many questions about the capitol unrest as we have about 2020’s election processes—and none of those are being addressed by corporate media.
As we try to move forward while being falsely attacked for violence we did not participate in and do not condone, I am taking strength from Winston Churchill: “Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”