Two days after the events on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Fixed Point Foundation executive director Larry Alex Taunton sat down with a couple that participated in the rally. Was it an “insurrection” as media has characterized it? Or is there more to the story?
On Wednesday January 6th, 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered on the Washington Mall. Attendees to this latest “Trump Rally” came from all over the United States. Before the day was over, these same “patriots,” as they often call themselves, would be labeled “insurrectionists” hellbent on the overthrow of the government of the United States.
And who are they?
Among the assembled were Simon and Angela, a couple from Birmingham, Alabama. Frustrated by media reports in the aftermath of the rally, the two contacted me. They wanted to tell their story. I sat across from them in a cramped restaurant booth, Angela clutching her phone, flipping through photos and videos she had taken of that day’s events. Simon did the same. Occasionally each would turn the face of these devices to me to offer photographic evidence of their narrative.
In a sense, both are typical Trump supporters. At 63, Simon has enjoyed a successful career in sales while Angela, 60, has kept herself busy with an online business she started once their children were grown. Evangelical Christians, they have unsurprisingly strong convictions on faith and family, free speech and free markets. Raised in an era where American youth were taught to love their country and the God who, they believed, had blessed those who populated it with unparalleled wealth and opportunity, they were likewise taught to cherish their country’s traditions, its founding documents, and the sacrifices of those who had made bequeathed it to them.
It isn’t so much that they are dedicated to Trump. It is, rather, that they feel that he and he alone, stands between them and the radical Leftist mob that makes no secret of their desire to obliterate all that people like Simon and Angela hold dear.
Let me be clear from the beginning what this article is not. It is not a defense of violence. It is not a defense of Trump supporters per se. Those responsible for the violence on Capitol Hill—be they Trump supporters or those who fill the ranks of Black Lives Matter or Antifa—must be apprehended and tried just as the perpetrators of similar events in a dozen U.S. cities must also be apprehended and tried. Nor is this the sort of article of which there are already too many in circulation where the logic goes something like this:
Your side did this at Portland, Kenosha, New York, Chicago, Ferguson, et al., so you can’t complain even if we did storm the Capitol Building!
Wrong. The hypocrisy of the Left, their total disregard for the rule of law, and their contempt for the people of this nation are well-established facts that need no commentary here even if one finds little about them in, say, The New York Times or, for that matter, National Review. Even the radical Left, dishonest as they are, know this to be true. No, this column is an attempt to understand, if only from a very limited perspective, what happened in our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021.
While I ate a chicken sandwich, Simon and Angela ordered nothing, their minds too preoccupied with a story they simply had to tell.
“Why did you go to the rally?” I began.
“We think the election was stolen,” Angela said passionately. “We wanted to do something. We couldn’t sit by and do nothing. We could never face our grandchildren.”
Simon nodded his agreement. This is a consistent theme among Trump supporters. You can dismiss it as nonsense. You can call them crank conspiracy theorists or the tinfoil hat crowd. But you cannot dismiss their genuine moral conviction that their country is being stolen from them and that they, like their forebears, must fight to prevent it from becoming yet another banana republic.
“Had you ever been to a Trump Rally before?”
“Yes, we went to ‘The Return’ in D.C. in September.”
“What was it like?”
“Friendly. You see a lot of families, children, even dogs—”
“—no cats,” Simon added with a grin.
Angela, amused, continued. “You see people who are mostly our age, but there are some younger ones, too.”
“Was this rally like the one in September?”
“If anything, it was friendlier,” she said.
“So, what happened?”
Together they described Rudy Giuliani’s speech, the cold, gray weather, and the long wait for Trump’s appearance on the Mall. Some stood for hours waiting.
“The clouds broke for a moment as he appeared,” Simon said. “His speech was just his typical stump speech.”
Afterward, cold, they walked back to their hotel to warm up. A half hour later they returned to the Mall to join the crowd going to the steps of the Capitol Building.
“Were there any signs of violence?”
“None,” Simon said. “It was peaceful.”
Angela agreed. “No, nothing. It remained very friendly. Standing on the steps, some were singing things like ‘God Bless America’ while others chanted ‘We the People!’ or something like that. But there was no sign of violence.”
At this point, let me say that I have known Simon and Angela for many years. We are not close, and we don’t do much socializing. But we might have had we attended the same churches or our children the same schools. As it is, we share a number of social acquaintances and we have done business together. I have even been abroad with Simon who was, as I recall, a lively travel companion game for just about any adventure. I find them credible witnesses who have, like any thoughtful person I have ever known, strong convictions. But I never sensed that it compromised their testimony.
“When did you think things were going sideways?” I asked.
Angela looked pensive. “I probably thought it before Simon did.”
“She has a better sense of smell,” he put in.
“Smell?” I was confused. Gunpowder, I wondered?
“Yes, smell,” she said. “Somebody with a loudspeaker on a tower was encouraging people to come up the stairs, so we did. We thought it was okay. I was standing next to a schoolteacher, a woman, who was going up just ahead of me. A man helped us up as there were a lot of people. Like others, he was an older guy, probably from Kansas or Missouri or something, and when we reached the top, we took some pictures. I wanted a video of the crowd singing. I thought it was neat. I felt totally safe.”
“But the smell? The violence? When did it go sideways?” I was trying to piece it all together.
She showed me a video and pointed to a doorway. “See that? Right in there something was happening. We couldn’t really tell. But I could smell tear gas.”
“How did you know it was tear gas?”
“It burned my nose!”
“Then some guys in full riot gear, big guys, twentysomethings, pushed through the crowd right past us going back down the steps,” Simon said. “They had been ‘maced.’ We had seen them going up earlier shouting ‘Fu*k Antifa!’ But now they seemed like they were fleeing a crime scene.”
“You think they were Antifa?” I was discerning the direction of his thoughts.
“Yes, I do. They didn’t fit the demographic at all.”
“Yes, I mean, how hard is it to infiltrate a rally like this? Put on a MAGA hat and done! These aren’t violent people, I don’t care what they say.”
“But could it have been actual Trump supporters?”
Simon thought for a moment. “Yes, it could have been. Could some trucker get pissed that his vote didn’t count and decide he wants to punch somebody? Sure. There is no way for us to know for certain. But she’s right, it’s not what these crowds are like.”
Angela nodded. “People pray, sing, and just enjoy being with other people who share their feeling that something is very wrong with this country.”
“If there was a plan to storm the Capitol Building,” Simon said with eyebrows raised, “the crowd was not in on it. People just stood there.”
“I had this feeling we should leave,” Angela said.
“No. I don’t think people realized something had happened.”
She handed me her phone with photos of this moment. They offered a view not visible to all in the crowd at the top of the Capitol steps. Some people were snapping selfies, others were laughing or talking with those next to them, and all seemed completely unaware of what was going on only yards from them at the entrance.
“It was then that our son sent us a text linking a story that someone, a young woman and Trump supporter, had been shot inside. We couldn’t believe it.”
“Did you hear gunshots?”
“Nothing. And on the other side of the building they were actually letting people in.”
She swiped the screen of her phone to a video showing exactly that: Capitol Hill Police standing aside as a crowd casually strolled into the Capitol Building. It had the appearance of a group tour. No one rushed, pushed, or showed the slighted inclination to violence or destruction of property. It even looked respectful.
“So, you left?”
They described how they stood at a distance and watched, but there remained no sign of violence. It was an odd moment. People still standing on the steps with their families singing and praying without any idea that inside the building shots had been fired.
“How did you feel when you saw media reports? Did they seem accurate?”
Angela didn’t hesitate. “We were angry. It was a total mischaracterization of that crowd. These weren’t violent people trying to overthrow the government. They just wanted to be heard.”
I had to think about that. Trump supporters, mostly from so-called “red states,” revere the Constitution, and revere no amendment more than the Second Amendment for the simple reason that they believe all the other amendments hang on that one. Had they insurrection in mind—it has been done before in this country, you know—they are certainly armed to do it. Whatever this was, it wasn’t an “insurrection” as the media so rapidly labeled it.
So, what actually happened?
“We aren’t sure, but we think it wasn’t done by people who represent what the people at that rally are about.”
We may never know what happened, but the idea that it was a mass of violent Trump supporters seems an exaggeration at the very least.
Some will find the idea of Antifa infiltrating the crowd too conspiratorial. You shouldn’t. History is full of examples of tyrants who either used or manufactured tragedies to justify the seizure of power. I am thinking of the Reichstag fire in 1933, which Hitler used as a pretext for annihilating his opposition in government, and the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, which Stalin used to begin his murderous purges. But, really, you need look no further than the massive government overreach in some states during the pandemic. This phenomenon is not unique to the German and Russian experiences.
It’s American now.
Indeed, Democrats have wasted no time in capitalizing on these events, and Big Tech, emboldened to utterly dismiss anti-trust law and plain decency, have joined them in advancing their radical agenda, suppressing all dissent with an efficiency Hitler and Stalin would envy. This is only the beginning. It will get worse if the American people allow it as they have allowed the burning of their cities, the rigging of their elections, and the censorship of their speech.
We chatted a bit longer, but with their story told, Simon and Angela were ready to move on with their lives and to other topics if only for a while. It is good people like this that elitists have long discriminated against or altogether dismissed as irrelevant nonentities. And those elitists are found not only on the Left; the Never Trump mafia is full of them. These are the smug types who, for what I believe to be reasons that are more sociological than political, simply don’t want to be associated with what they regard as the hairy unwashed masses in middle America.
But the Left ignores them, suppresses them, and bullies them—no less than 74 million strong—at their own peril. Throughout history, stupid governments and their useful idiots have been characterized by just the sort of behavior we are now seeing and will undoubtedly see more of in the months and years to come. The end is always the same as if such policy violates a law of history itself, provoking an inevitable and equally dangerous response. As George Kennan once observed:
“Wrong a person … deny him all redress, exile him … if he complains, gag him if he cries out, strike him in the face if he struggles, and at last he will stab and throw bombs.”
America is on the brink. May God help us.
Larry Alex Taunton is the Executive Director of the Fixed Point Foundation and a freelance columnist contributing to USA Today, Fox News, First Things, The Atlantic, CNN, Daily Caller, and The American Spectator. He is also the author of The Grace Effect, The Gospel Coalition Book of the Year The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, Around the World in (More Than) 80 Days. (Available to order now) You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com and find him on Twitter @larrytaunton.
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