SEVIERVILLE — Two Sevier County women who were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday shared their perspective of a mostly peaceful event, but they also shared a video of a man who appears to describe a fatal shooting inside the Capitol building.
Betty Farley and Serenity Kelly work for Hidden Mountain Resort, and they and some other local residents drove together to the rally to show their support for Trump and to show they wanted an investigation into reported irregularities in November’s presidential election.
“We were there to support President Trump, that was our whole reason for going,” Farley said.
“He asked people to show up and we just felt like we needed to.”
Farley said she left the event as Trump was speaking, because they’d been there for some time so she and another of their friends were ready to go back to their hotel room.
For most of the time she was there, she said, there was no sign of any confrontation or anger that she could see.
It was just a bunch of patriots, everyone was happy, everyone was joking and cutting up,” she said. “There was no arguing, no fussing around us, everyone was just having a good time.”
The mood did seem to shift, she said, when word started going around that Vice President Mike Pence said he would not support a bid to overturn the election or to postpone certification of the votes of the electoral college.
While the rally was going on, a joint session of Congress was meeting to certify the results of the electoral college, giving former senator and Vice President Joe Biden a 306-232 victory in the presidential race.
Trump and many Republicans have claimed there were irregularities and possible fraud in several battleground states that went in favor of Biden.
While they’ve gotten recounts in some cases, including Georgia, several GOP senators and representatives were set to object to some results.
Although Trump said he believed Pence had the power to block certification, the vice president issued a statement Wednesday saying the Constitution did not grant him that authority.
And Farley said she believes there was a shift in the crowd’s mood after word of that decision went around, although they remained peaceful.
“Some people started chanting ‘this is our house, let’s take it back,’ ” she said. “That was the mood.”
Kelly and some of their friends stayed, and Kelly said she went with some of them to the area around the Capitol, where Congress was meeting but would be disrupted after civilians made it inside what was supposed to be a secured building.
The vote would be suspended for hours as Pence and Congress were evacuated, and so far five deaths have been reported, including one officer from the Capitol Police and one woman who was shot.
Kelly said the people she saw moving up the Capitol steps weren’t forcing their way in — the police moved barricades to let them advance.
People were singing and waving American flags on the steps and the exterior of the building, and then they started getting alerts on their phones saying they needed to disperse, and officers were firing tear gas and rubber bullets, she said.
“The police had waved them up there and they started tear gassing,” she said.
Later, some of the people they met would say they’d just walked into the Capitol Building — that the doors were open. Some said they were pushed inside.
While she acknowledges there were moments of violence, she said she believes some of the people causing damage at the building were “Antifa,” and they were trying to stir up the crowd and create problems.
“Some of (the fighting) was Trump supporters trying to stop Antifa or what we think was Antifa from doing damage,” she said.
She believes the truth of what happened is being censored and curated by national media.
As they left, there were reporters asking for interviews, but she said they appeared to only be interested in interviewing people who were angry or who saw violence.
“When we didn’t give the answer they wanted, they were done,” she said.
And since they came back, she said she’s had pictures from the event and posts about it removed from social media platforms — even though they weren’t of violent events or graphic images.
“It’s very concerning that they’re blacking out the other side,” she said.
“It’s literally people standing there singing ‘America the Beautiful’ is being shut down.”
While she didn’t personally witness any acts of violence, she shared a recorded conversation with a man who appears to describe events inside, including a shooting.
That man said he was a veteran, and had been inside when a woman was shot by police, Kelly said.
As the recording begins, he can be heard saying “ Probably 10 minutes after we started storming, a big fight broke out and a gunshot went off and a girl got hit in the neck,” he said.
“Everybody kind of backed up and they tried to like help her and then the fight started,” he said.
“They drug their guys and somebody grabbed her and then they took off.”
He indicated he used pepper spray against someone after that.
“We just kept staying there and they sprayed us with pepper spray and kept spraying and I was like dude do it again and I’m going to spray you back and he did and I sprayed back and got like 15 of them and then that’s when they shot me with that big cannon with rubber bullets in it.”
Kelly said they believe the man witnessed the fatal shooting of one of the people who breached the Capitol building because he said he didn’t understand why whoever fired didn’t use a rubber bullet.
However, she said she thought the people he pepper sprayed were “agitators,” and not police.
Like Farley, Kelly said she went to show her support for Trump and for the request for an investigation into the election.
She said she was also worried about the possibility of another lockdown for businesses, because she and her husband own a small business as well as working at Hidden Mountain.
Many people up there were concerned about regulations that were hurting their businesses or restricting them from going to church, she said.
But the reason for Wednesday’s event was to show support for the president, and for the legislators who said they would object to the results and demand an investigation.
“That would calm a lot of people, if they could show there was an investigation and here’s what we found,” she said.
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