While most Franklin County residents interested in politics electronically watched people gather to protest in Washington DC on Jan. 6, Lindsay Madsen watched it from the ground. She traveled to DC with her mother and brother to support election security.
“I was having trouble sleeping because of all the chaos. I have fears of my own, seeing how people are treated because of their basic ideaology,” she said. So instead of staying at home and being “super frustrated at home, thinking how I can help my country, how can I help my neighbors,” she “decided to just go. Take a stand.”
I thought “Let’s show in numbers what we believe,” she said. Estimations as high as half a million people have been reported that came to the capitol last Wednesday to listen to President Trump, who then invited them to walk to the capitol and protest the election results.
“We were packed in there so tight,” she said, which was nice because of the cold weather, she said.
“President Trump talked for about 45 minutes...during his speech I never once heard him call for violence, or that we were going to storm the capitol,” she said.
“There were lots of speakers, flags, families, languages represented there. It was really a Kumbaya feeling. There were people holding up signs — even the Chinese Communist Party. I thought it was cool that (so many different) people were using that (event) as their platform.” She noted that passengers on both her flight to and from DC spontaneously sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“My mom kept saying, ‘I hope this is what heaven is like, everyone is so nice.’ You could talk to people just like before covid and cell phones. They were interested in you and your life. That was the overall vibe from start to finish, in all my experience. It was nothing like on TV.”
At the end of the rally, as she and her family were close to Pennsylvania Avenue, it didn’t take long for them to reach the capitol. That made it all the more surprising to see so many people at the capitol when they got there, she said.
People were already up on the balconies of the capitol. She could see that people were trying to get other people away from the building’s windows and doors, but never saw a lot of fighting for pushing. “I did see tear gas,” she said. But the few guards she saw were “just standing there, allowing people to be there.”
Madsen and her family enjoyed the camaraderie with other protesters for a couple of hours, then sought hot chocolate and a restroom at a cafe on Pennsylvania Avenue — one of the few businesses that had not been boarded up.
“I knew there were people angry enough that they could possibly cause violence,” she said, but she never felt concern until she noticed a couple of SUVs full of men in helmets and bullet-proof vests drive up near the cafe they were at.
“They were not part of capitol police. I thought, ‘This is scary. This is what Antifa is.’” After watching the men discuss the area, Madsen said she and her family felt like they should leave.
“My opinion is that something was planned for that area.” Before then, “nothing seemed out of control — a little unruliness, but hardly a riot or dangerous. I thought it was exactly what a protest should be — just peaceful,” she said.
Later that evening, having traveled back to their hotel by subway because their reservation for a DC car rental was not honored, they visited with a teenager who boasted that his friend had gone inside the capitol and put his feet on Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s desk. “He made it sound like there were Trump supporters and Antifa or BLM members in the building,” she said.
“People were mad at him... breaking into the capitol was inappropriate,” she said. “We didn’t even know, the whole time we were there, that people had broken into the capital.” National news has reported that five people died at the rally: a woman was shot inside the capitol, a security officer died from injuries sustained when he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher and three died from health-related reasons.
Another thing that surprised Madsen and her family was that their phone batteries were all dead by 2 p.m. “We didn’t have internet, phone service anything.”
“I just wanted to share that my experience was not what they showed on TV — I dare say 99 percent of the people felt the same,” she said. “We were all confused (by the TV reports). It was not why any of us came. Everyone I talked to (except the teen) had a different opinion because it wasn’t their experience,” she said.
Now she is home, Madsen has reflected on the experience and although she is still glad she went, she has come to some disturbing conclusions about the aftermath.
Seeing the president kicked off social media sites*, as well as thousands of other conservative people, is especially concerning to her. “I don’t know how much more vocal I will be. I think there will be consequences for anyone that was there thinking like this.”
“They are going after the politicians (who support the president). Who’s next? If they can remove someone for a difference of opinion, that’s a problem -” especially when such anti-freedom philosophies as the Chinese Communist Party are free to share their ideas.
“We need to remind people that we’ve got to keep fighting — and not physically, Trump wouldn’t want that — for these ideals for the greater goal of freedom,” she said.
*originally this was reported as "the internet"