He said he was just earshot away from the group of savage sickos who dragged, beat, stomped and nearly impaled a Washington D.C. police officer with an American flag last week at the Capitol.
This Fishtown local, who declined to be identified for purposes of this column, said that he went to our nation’s capital on his own, with the sole purpose of hearing the president speak at the rally. He said he knew it would be a “wild” time, but wasn’t quite sure what that would entail.
Yet, this Philadelphian – who I’ll call “Phil” – and who also claimed to have attended Black Lives Matter protests over the summertime – found himself amidst the crowd who dragged a Washington, D.C. cop down a flight of steps from the Capitol building on Wednesday as the angry mob of Trump loyalists grabbed him by his helmet, kicked him, punched him, and bashed him repeatedly with a pole flying an American flag. This appeared to happen roughly 10 minutes after Trump tweeted a video telling the crowd: “We love you. You’re very special.”
Phil described what he saw as the police officer was getting pummeled:
“We all started chanting ‘Let him go!’ We were not there to riot or to hurt people…But that guy could have died, easily. He was pulled away by some other sympathetic protesters and led out of the danger area. It could have been a lot worse and it was intentionally not taken to another level.”
I asked Phil how the day began and if he went down to D.C. with any intent. He said the day started off peacefully.
“The plan was to go down and hear the president speak…I had never seen more people at one time. I was relatively close to the stage, but when I looked back, it was just a sea of people as far back as the Washington Monument,” he said.
“One of the reasons why I think this protest was so historic is because people on the right don’t typically do things like this…
After Trump told his supporters to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol and “fight like hell,” Phil said he saw people of all ages and demographics – families and children – young and old. He said about halfway there, he got an alert on his phone that the Capitol building had been broken into, and that’s when he began smelling whiffs of tear gas. Despite this, Phil and his friends kept going in protest, following the direction of their leader.
At this point during our interview, Phil begins switching back and forth between referring to the rioters as “they” and “we.”
“They didn’t go there to start an insurrection. They were going there to walk into the Capitol – much like the #Metoo protesters or maybe the Kavanaugh protesters did where Democrats walked into a Senate atrium without the domestic terrorist rhetoric that is all around for when we do it,” he said.
Asked whether he actually went inside the Capitol building, Phil said no.
“I explicitly made the choice not to go in,” he said.
But rather than heed the half-assed ask from his commander-in-chief to “go home” – after the damage had already been done – Phil and his comrades stayed at the Capitol to witness more bloodshed. He said he was surrounded by tear gas and pepper-spray balls were being shot at people all around him. “Possibly” rubber bullets, too.
We’ve never had a reactive protest…It’s not something we know how to do. This is sort of beneath us, in a way. Protests are something we are horrendous at. It’s not in our DNA.”
“At some point, they started throwing flash bang grenades at us, which was a new experience for me,” he said.
“That’s when I decided it was probably time to get going. It was scary because there was a lot of ebb and flow of the crowd where people would back up to the front of the police line and then the police started to advance everybody and push everybody back at the same time. It was almost like a stampede situation.”
Phil said he was grateful he wasn’t injured last week, but he did see a man catch some shrapnel from a flash grenade in his leg.
“A big chunk of his shin was missing. I think I saw his bone. I told him he needed a doctor right away. That was the most egregious injury I saw,” he said.
So why keep pressing on? I asked. Phil said this type of behavior was abnormal for civilized Republicans, but he saw something special in it, too.
“One of the reasons why I think this protest was so historic is because people on the right don’t typically do things like this…We’ve never had a reactive protest…It’s not something we know how to do. This is sort of beneath us, in a way. Protests are something we are horrendous at. It’s not in our DNA.”
Then why’d he go? I asked.
“When you’re getting shot with tear gas, the perception of who [the police] are in the moment gets tricky.”
Phil plans to go back to D.C. on the 20th to protest Joe Biden’s inauguration. When he does, expecting a peaceful demonstration but suddenly finds himself in the midst of a melee, maybe he shouldn’t be so surprised when he’s promised a wild time.