Yampa Valley man shares experience at D.C. riots; local leaders offer different views of events
Nathan Butler stood on the steps outside the United States Capitol Wednesday amid thousands of fellow supporters of President Donald Trump. He said they were all there with the same goal — convince Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Butler, of Craig, recalls someone yelling, “Mike Pence is a traitor,” with a megaphone from inside the capitol. And then, a mob of conservative extremists broke past barriers and shattered windows to breach the Capitol after attending a rally in which Trump told them, “We’re going to have to fight much harder. We are going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, congressmen and women, and we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you will never take back our country with weakness.”
Butler said he flew to Washington, D.C., to attend the “Save America Rally,” led by the president and his supporters, but Butler said he had no intention of violence, and he did not enter the Capitol building.
As he watched Trump deliver remarks, Butler noticed a large crowd of people heading toward the Capitol. He said members of the group were all wearing badges with “1776” and the Roman numeral III, the mark of membership in a right-wing group called the “Three Percenters,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an “anti-government extremist group,” though the group’s website disputes that claim.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Butler said, “But looking back, they were probably the ones who broke in (to the Capitol).”
After the rally concluded, Butler followed the crowd to the steps of the Capitol, where he said they chanted “USA! USA!” and sang what he called “patriotic songs,” such as “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen.
“Everything I saw was extremely peaceful,” Butler said. “No one I saw had weapons.”
Butler also said he and other conservatives he spoke with at the event had no intent of physically hurting members of Congress but hoped their large presence would convince government officials to investigate what the pro-Trump group believes to be voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, despite about 90 judges, many of them Trump appointees, ruling against any claim of voter fraud.
Wednesday’s rally and rioting were described by Butler as peaceful protesting, which is in stark contrast to what many national news outlets reported — violence and chaos resulting in one woman’s death, items stolen from inside the Capitol and bombs planted near the area.
“What happened yesterday is textbook terrorism,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference Thursday.
Butler said he learned about the ensuing chaos at the Capitol when he returned to his hotel room. After seeing images of violence on the television news, Butler, along with several other local Republicans, believe far-left groups were to blame, despite national fact-checking organizations rebutting such claims.
“I believe that radical antifa and Black Lives Matter agitators were there to do damage, and I think they encouraged other people to do the same,” said Pete Wood, Routt County Republicans chair.
Politifact, a nonpartisan fact-checking organization operated by The Poynter Institute, issued a statement that proved false the claim that antifa infiltrated Trump supporters at the Capitol as first reported by The Washington Times, a right-leaning newspaper.
Wood acknowledged the Capitol riots as “abhorrent behavior” but added he believed “blame can be made everywhere.” He said a peaceful protest was justified to encourage investigation into what many of the president’s supporters believe to be voter fraud.
“I don’t think the media was fair in covering their allegations of voter fraud,” Wood said. “There is evidence that has been reported in some of the more right-wing media, and that’s where I think the mainstream media has failed.
“What was expected to be a motivating, peaceful, legal rally of American patriots turned into a senseless mob,” Wood added.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents Routt County and the rest of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, shared many of Wood’s thoughts.
Boebert objected Wednesday to counting Arizona’s electoral votes due to a change in the state’s election laws, which she believed led to the casting of unauthorized votes.
“If we allow state election laws, as set forth by state legislatures, to be ignored and manipulated on the whim of partisan lawsuits, then our constitutional republic will cease to exist,” she told fellow members of Congress right before the Capitol was breached.
As for the violent riots inside the Capitol, Boebert issued a tweet stating, “I support peaceful protests and the rule of law and denounce all acts of violence.”
Boebert did not return several requests for comment from Steamboat Pilot & Today.
As for local Democratic leaders, Routt County Democrats Chair Catherine Carson said President Trump is directly to blame for inciting the riots.
“If you have individuals, including the President of the United States, that are perpetuating those unfounded conspiracy theories, you do have responsibility for yesterday’s matter,” she said. “Words matter, and they need to be responsible for their words.”
Carson also believes Boebert was responsible for Wednesday’s insurgence, as Boebert also has pushed baseless theories about voter fraud.
“There was absolutely no surprise that an extremist like Boebert would support something like this,” she said. “It’s disappointing to see that level of extremism in Routt County and in District 3.”
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