Local Republican officials offer perspective on events in D.C.
PARKERSBURG — Two Mid-Ohio Valley Republican officials who attended Wednesday’s Save America March in Washington, D.C., said the event had a very different atmosphere than the rioting and violence that followed at the U.S. Capitol.
President Donald Trump addressed the crowd, repeating unsubstantiated claims that the election had been stolen through widespread fraud. Results were certified by state officials, both Republican and Democrat, and many court challenges have been rejected.
Trump then encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol. Many observers agree his rhetoric was the spark that ignited the flames of Wednesday’s chaos.
West Virginia Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, disagrees.
“That’s an absurdity from the left,” he said Friday. “There was nothing he said, absolutely nothing, to” incite violence.
Trump has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” and “Let the weak ones get out. … This is a time for strength.”
Angie Adams, chairwoman of the Wirt County Republican Executive Committee, said it was clear that Trump’s use of terms like “fight” didn’t refer to physical violence.
Adams, who attended the rally with her college-age son, said she was “disgusted” by the riot at the Capitol.
“(That was) in no way representative of anything I experienced at the White House” rally, she said Thursday, describing the rally crowd as a “very diverse, very large, very peaceful group of people.”
Adams did not join the march to the Capitol. Azinger said he and the group he was with, including his sons and some friends, walked that way but were at the back of the crowd.
“What we saw walking to the Capitol was tens of thousands of Trump supporters, waving flags,” he said. “It was just the voice of the people, in a peaceful rally.”
Azinger said he heard there was something going on at the Capitol, but wifi reception was poor and he did not learn more about the events that unfolded until Thursday.
Media reports have described the mob as Trump supporters, but Azinger disputes that.
“The people that are responsible for that were Antifa, and there’s evidence of that,” he said, referring to videos that have been circulated online. “Trump people don’t destroy property. That’s not what we do. … They’ve been burning cities for months now.”
The Associated Press has reported there is no evidence of left-wing groups being involved with Wednesday’s breach of the Capitol.
Azinger didn’t dispute that Trump supporters were inside the building but said there have been videos posted online of Capitol Police opening doors and letting people inside.
“I don’t think Trump people broke into the Capitol.”
Adams did not witness any of the activity at the Capitol firsthand, but said it seems like the violence at the Capitol was not spontaneous.
“I truly feel like the people who stormed the Capitol … they planned to do this from the beginning,” she said. “I think anyone involved with this needs punished, no matter who they are.”
Both Adams and Azinger said they attended the rally over concerns that the presidential election was not properly conducted.
Adams said that in some cases, states’ election rules were changed by entities other than their legislatures.
“I don’t know if these things would mean Trump wins or Trump doesn’t, but for me … it’s a Constitutional issue,” she said.
Azinger said he is confident Trump won the election “in a landslide.”
“Marxists stole the election, and Marxists are about to take over, and that is what this battle is at its core,” he said, clarifying when asked that he meant an ideological battle rather than a physical conflict.
But with Trump acknowledging Biden will be the next president, Azinger said supporters will likely turn their attention to the next election.
“I think if the president is conceding, then there’s really no other route that we’ll be taking,” he said.
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.