Here is a First-Person Account of the Capitol Invasion

by Bill Sniffin

Wyoming folks and citizens across the country are still reeling as a result of the invasion of the Nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Here is a first-hand report of that event:

Cheyenne’s Darin Smith said the riot in Washington, D.C, was caused by a “mob mentality” among a minority of the 50,000 protesters attending a pro-Donald Trump rally. He said it was a situation that was poorly handled by security forces at the U.S. Capitol.

Smith, an attorney and former chair of the Laramie County Republican Party, was in Washington, D. C. with his friend Rob Statham, also of Cheyenne, in support of President Trump’s protest of the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

He said most of the more than 50,000 people attending the rally were peaceful one moment, and “then everything got weird.”

“We were in the front of the Capitol and some agitators headed for the barricades,” he said. “There was about a quarter-mile of barricades set up and not many Capitol police manning them.” 

Smith was in the Washington, D. C. airport getting ready to fly home when I chatted with him a day after the tumultuous events.   

He said when the agitators starting pushing down the gates, he picked up a bullhorn and started the chant “back the blue” as a way to get folks to help the police keep the agitators back. 

“I tried to tell people not to go in but it was like trying to hold back water after the dam had burst,” he said. “Then I saw the Capitol police open the barricades and let these people in and I thought ‘What the heck am I doing trying to help them?’  I think a couple of rednecks with some bear spray could have held them back but there was little official resistance. Maybe they were just moving back to establish another perimeter, I don’t know. But it was weird.” 

He also thought it was odd that there were so few law enforcement officers in the entire Capitol complex when such a big rally was being held.  

What he said really bothered him, though, was the gravity of the situation.  

“Here we have the most important body in the world making the most important decision in the world and these people are disrupting them!”  

He was stunned. 

“It was insane,” he said. “It was a wild and crazy time. The mob mentality kicked in. Again, I was just shocked at the lack of resistance from Capitol police.”

He said among the giant crowd there was a group of older people he called the “geriatric folks” who were huddling near the front of the Capitol because it was so cold and windy.  

“Just before the riot, the agitators moved in front of them and suddenly these agitators seemed to be running things,” he said. “These punks were dressed in outfits that seemed like they were ready for combat.” 

Smith still supports Trump and believes the Nov. 3 election was stolen from the president by supporters of President-Elect Joe Biden. 

“I am not sure what else the president could do to stop the invasion of the Capitol once it started,” he said.  “But a much bigger issue is how all these different things came together: first, the impotent response by the Capitol police; second, the sudden appearance of these agitators who had not been that visible during the earlier rally; and third, the police opening up the gates so the agitators could rush on in. I saw these things with my own eyes.” 

Smith summed it up by saying the security forces were guilty of “massive incompetence.” 

And finally, he heaped praise on the 99% of the more than 50,000 people who protested peacefully. 

“Heck, we were outside singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘God Bless America’ when these punks were inside stopping the most important government business in the world,” he said.

As I write this column on Sunday, Jan. 10, it remains to be seen how the country and Congress are going to react to those awful events at the Capitol.  Talk of impeaching President Trump is the big news in the House of Representatives.  Some Republican senators are chiming in saying President Trump needs to resign. 

Here in Wyoming, as the state that supported President Trump more than any other, these are huge issues in the Cowboy State. More than 70 percent of Wyoming voters favored Trump in 2020 as they also did in 2016. 

The national media is anxious to insist that Donald Trump is finished. Stay tuned. 

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