Leaders in politics and law enforcement spoke out Thursday about the pro-Trump mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Yesterday was a sad day in Washington. Riots were wrong in 2020 and riots are wrong now,” Culpeper Sheriff Scott Jenkins posted Wednesday on the Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page. “Today I remind my children, as we give a prayer of thanks, that we continue to live in the greatest country the world has ever seen. America will weather this storm. By staying true to our founding principles, I am confident our brightest days are ahead. I hope you’ll join me in praying that God continues to bless these United States of America.”
Asked Thursday by the Star-Exponent if he condemned the demonstrators’ violence against police and property damage during the hours-long siege of the halls of Congress, the sheriff responded by email, “Yes, of course.”
The protesters, most of whom were peaceful, were in the nation’s capital at President Donald J. Trump’s invitation to protest U.S. lawmakers’ certification of states’ Electoral College votes electing Joe Biden president and Kamala Harris vice president.
Madison County resident Annette Hyde, a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 30th House District, called Tuesday evening for an immediate end to such violence.
“Today, an armed and seditious mob—encouraged by the president—stormed our nation’s capital and made a hamfisted attempt at a coup,” Hyde said in a statement. “Instead of a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, we have stabbings, a deadly shooting, vandalism, and elected representatives cowering in gas masks. This must end NOW.”
She urged Congress to immediately remove Trump from office for trying to subvert the peaceful transfer of power and failing to defend the U.S. Constitution.
“Our policy differences have no bearing on our devotion to the Constitution,” Hyde wrote. “I know that Del. Freitas honorably served in our military. He swore an oath to defend and uphold our Constitution. I believe he is a patriot and that he will stand with us and the Constitution.”
Hyde is challenging state Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, in the next General Assembly election. She asked Freitas to join with her in issuing a joint statement about the Capitol rioting.
Freitas posted his thoughts on his Facebook page at midday Thursday.
“I would no more have stormed the Capitol yesterday than I would have thrown a brick through a window in Richmond or Seattle,” he wrote in response to people’s requests for comment. “But I will not feign surprise when one group of people adopts the tactics of another group when they perceive them to be effective.”
The conservative legislator said Wednesday’s events exemplify why he does not “particularly like politics.”
“For months, we have watched as politicians, the media, academia, and other political and cultural institutions have either been silent or given approval to rioting, destruction of private property and the harming of innocent people under the auspices of achieving ‘justice,’ ” he wrote in a long post. “Some of those same politicians, reporters and professors are now shocked when another group of people have decided that their concerns over injustice warrant a similar response.
“You cannot act in such a way that diminishes people’s faith in processes and institutions and then act surprised when people turn on those processes and institutions,” Freitas continued.
Neither Freitas nor Joe Desilets, his campaign manager during his 7th Congressional District election bid, responded to a Star-Exponent email Thursday evening asking the delegate if he condemned Wednesday's violent acts at the U.S. Capitol, as many leaders have done.
Culpeper County School Board member Marshall Keene decried the mayhem at the Capitol.
“Destroying property and committing acts of violence against one another is wrong, regardless of political affiliation,” Keene posted on his Facebook page. “As Americans, we all are afforded the right to assemble peacefully and petition our government. Violence solves nothing and is clearly not the answer. We condemned the violence throughout our country in the summer/fall and must condemn the acts of violence now.’
The Culpeper County Republican Committee, which Keene chairs, chartered three buses that transported about 120 demonstrators from Central Virginia to Washington for the pro-Trump rally.
Former U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger, whom Trump appointed to the Eastern District of Virginia, offered to help Justice Department colleagues investigate the Capitol riot and arrest suspects.
“This is despicable, a travesty, and the darkest day since 9/11,” he tweeted. Terwilliger will leave office on Jan. 16.
Other departing U.S. attorneys across the nation decried Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol. At least 12 pledged to charge anyone from their state who violated federal laws during the melee.
In Roanoke, acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar condemned the violence during Wednesday’s Save America Rally in Washington, D.C.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey joined him in the statement. Both men asked Americans to provide information about individuals involved in criminal acts of violence.
“We strongly condemn the violence carried out by rioters yesterday at the U.S. Capitol, which was a reprehensible attack on our democracy,” Bubar said Thursday. “Here in the Western District of Virginia, we are quite familiar with the use of the federal Anti-Riot Act, and are working with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute any individuals that traveled from the Western District of Virginia to Washington, D.C. to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of these riots. We will continue to carry out our mission to support and defend the Constitution and the rule of law, undeterred.”
They asked anyone with information, tips or digital media that identifies persons or depicts rioting and violence at the Capitol to visit fbi.gov/USCapitol or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
If people know of individuals who traveled from the Justice Department’s Western District of Virginia to the capital and engaged in violence, they are asked to call the FBI’s Richmond Division at 804-261-1161.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also spoke.
“The violence and destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol building yesterday showed a blatant and appalling disregard for our institutions of government and the orderly administration of the democratic process,” Wray said in a statement Thursday.
“As we’ve said consistently, we do not tolerate violent agitators and extremists who use the guise of First Amendment-protected activity to incite violence and wreak havoc. Such behavior betrays the values of our democracy,” he added. “Make no mistake: With our partners, we will hold accountable those who participated in yesterday’s siege of the Capitol. ... We are determined to find those responsible and ensure justice is served.”
Wray said FBI agents and analysts “have been hard at work through the night gathering evidence, sharing intelligence, and working with federal prosecutors to bring charges.”
He urged members of the public to help by providing tips, information and videos of illegal activity to fbi.gov/USCapitol.
On Wednesday, as the breach was ongoing, former Attorney General William Barr said “the violence at the Capitol Building is outrageous and despicable.”
On Thursday, in a statement to The Associated Press, Barr called President Trump’s actions a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”
He said Trump was responsible for “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress,” calling his former boss’ actions “inexcusable.”
Barr, who ran the Department of Justice, was one of Trump’s most loyal defenders in the Cabinet.
In early December, Barr said the department had found no evidence of widespread voter or election fraud that would support overturning Biden’s victory.