In the wake of the protesting and rioting that took place at the nation’s capital on Wednesday, local political leaders shared their thoughts about the events that took place.
“To see the whole thing fall apart was one of the saddest times in my political life,” said former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson. “Seventy million people voted for (President Donald) Trump and most of them are law-abiding, but these bums were incited by him. They’ve been lied to by Trump every day since the election.”
Many thousands of people came to the rally in support of Trump’s effort to disprove the results of the November election won by Joe Biden, alleging claims of voter fraud and irregularities. At least one Cody family was in attendance, but asked to not be identified.
“It was absolutely the most disgusting, heartbreaking production I’ve ever seen in my life,” said former State Sen. Hank Coe. “It did its best to destroy the American values.”
More than 100 people breached the Capitol building, breaking windows in order to gain access to the interior where lawmakers inside were voting to certify the election results. The intruders were not completely removed from the building for around three hours, causing the Senators and Representatives to seek safety in an underground bunker and other secure locations.
“I’m saddened, angry and ashamed by what happened in D.C.,” said Park County Commissioner Chairman Lee Livingston in a Friday email. “I am proud to be from a part of America where respect is still in place.”
Kelly Tamblyn, chairwoman of the Park County Democrats, said unity is what this country now needs more than ever.
“How can we start building where our country needs to be and help us move forward? It’s really been scary,” she said.
On the same day as this event, Martin Kimmet, chairman of the Park County Republican Party, and others helped organize an informal rally that took place outside the Park County Courthouse on Wednesday to show support for Trump and his effort to challenge the November election results.
“It was to show support for Trump and try to get people aware of the fact irregularities took place in the election in contested states and to show support for the fact there should be an investigation into those results,” Kimmet said.
A number of Republican lawmakers called for an investigation of the election results.
“At this point it’s probably pretty hopeless,” rally participant Robin Berry said, “when people in charge of the laws are in violation of them. Our right of assembly is already being squashed.”
Berry said there were countless examples of irregularities and fraud that occurred on election day. Although thousands of these allegations have been levelled, courts have ruled that none would’ve changed the outcome of any election. A December Quinnipiac University poll found 77% of Republicans believe there was widespread fraud in the election – the same poll found 60% of Americans believe the election was fair and sound.
“This is what happens when a minority of Democrats attempt to usurp the majority of people in this country by voter fraud and refuse to allow the allegations to be investigated and proved,” Berry said in a Facebook post, referring to the events in Washington, D.C.
Although only about 20 people were in attendance in Cody, attendee Carol Armstrong said it was what the event symbolized that matters most. She said they were greeted by mostly support from passing drivers, honking their support during the warm and sunny day.
“We gathered for the Constitution,” she said, “more than anything for the Constitution and our democratic republic.
“We enjoyed ourselves and had lots of fun.”
Who or what to blame?
Kimmet and Armstrong criticized U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for blaming Trump for inciting the rally.
“We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our constitutional duty,” Cheney posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
Kimmet acknowledged a mob presence took over the event, but he also suspected that Black Lives Matter and Antifa, a militant left-wing anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement, played roles in the break-in. Armstrong said she believes these people were staged at points in the crowd.
“People infiltrated the crowd in an attempt to create a mob setting,” Kimmet said. “It was probably Antifa. There are videos of Antifa buses there and them being escorted in. I’m not the judge and jury, but it bears a lot of investigationary action unsteady of knee-jerk reaction.”
The F.B.I. has said there was no evidence of an Antifa presence in Wednesday’s riot. The Park County Republican Party issued a statement regarding the event in a letter written to Cheney, Sens. John Barasso and Cynthia Lummis on Sunday, imploring the lawmakers to refrain from inciting the 25th amendment to impeach Trump for his alleged role inciting the riot. It reads, “An otherwise peaceful protest of an estimated 500,000 people in which 100 or more individuals far exceeded their right to ‘peacefully assemble’ has been described as ‘insurrection’ that threatens to ‘dismantle our democracy.’”
The President gave a speech to rally goers on Wednesday and not once did he tell the audience to storm the Capitol building and sack congressional offices, although he did use phrasing such as, “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” in his speech.
At least five people died in the event, including a Capitol Hill Police officer.
Ninety people have been arrested in connection to or identified as being at the Capitol riot including two known supporters of the President who were heavily armed. Zip ties and pipe bombs were also found on suspects and at the Capitol building. Although most of those arrested were identified as Trump supporters not all have been. There was at least one confirmed Black Lives Matter activist in attendance at the rally.
Where to go from here?
Kimmet said he spoke with Barasso on the phone Friday but was not highly encouraged by what he had to say, although he said Barasso agreed with him that even though questions of election fraud are a “state’s rights issue, … he did not dispute something could be done in D.C. about it.”
“It was a pleasure getting to talk to him, but he’s a politician,” Kimmet said.
Simpson, who served in the Senate for 18 years during a time of less partisanship, said Trump did achieve some positive legislation while in office, but said the man did more to divide the country rather than unite. He is not hopeful unity will come to the capitol anytime soon.
“I’m tired of listening to both sides alarm the public,” he said. “There used to be respect on both sides of the aisle.”
He worked with Biden for many years in Washington during his time in the Senate including time they both served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and does not find him to be an extremist.
“This is not the beginning of a socialist regime taking America to the pits,” he said.
Armstrong is not optimistic about a Biden presidency.
“It could hurt the country forever,” she said. “With his anti-fracking and fossil fuels agenda, it will put Wyoming out of work.”