Eureka Springs residents who participated in multiple peaceful protests in Washington D.C. were shocked at seeing the failure to protect the Capitol and members of Congress on Jan. 6, resulting in the building being overrun by a mob during counting of electoral votes by Congress.
Scenes of protesters fighting with police and breaking down barriers and glass windows in doors leading into the Senate and House chambers were something few people had imagined. Comparisons were drawn to the much stronger police and National Guard presence during Black Lives Matter protests last summer. BLM is an international human rights movement that was protesting the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Betty Adkins was arrested for peaceful resistance eight times in 2018 and 2019, most of those times as part of actions by the Center for Popular Democracy.
“As peaceful protesters, we never resisted arrest and few officers were needed,” Adkins said. “We willingly submitted to arrest and never lifted a finger to harm or engage in destruction. I believe if the rioters on January 6 had been people of color, the Capitol would never have been breached because federal forces would have used deadly force before the protesters ever made it up the steps. Trump would have used combined forces. Instead, the Capitol Police were deliberately put in danger.”
Adkins had sympathy for Capitol Police who were overwhelmed quickly by thousands of protesters. She was not critical of police allowing most protesters who ransacked the building to leave without being arrested.
“It is confirmed by videos taken in the building that any attempt to arrest someone would have endangered the lives of the capitol police,” Adkins said. “They were doing their best to protect the lives of all who were working and visiting as the mob broke through. They were overpowered and had no backup, unlike Black Lives Matter protests that were over policed. This threat was known beforehand and [President] Trump himself is responsible for not calling in the National Guard and for adding fuel to the fire.”
Another resident critical of response to protect top political leaders is Justice of the Peace Harrie Farrow. She was arrested nine times for non-violent civil disobedience in D.C. in multiple actions, a few in the Capitol building. Most were in the nearby congressional buildings.
“One arrest resulted in me being banned from the Capitol building for four months for shouting from the galley during the midnight Senate vote on the GOP tax scam bill,” Farrow said. “One thing I observed over the course of the actions I was involved in is that Capitol Police respond to each situation accordingly. That’s part of what they have to do, be ready for any number of scenarios.”
Farrow said their protests caused the Capitol Police to hire more officers, and they were having problems training them fast enough. Over time, she saw the force go from being impressively professional to becoming poorly trained and more inclined to be aggressive and abusive.
“At my last arrest outside Senator Susan Collins’s office the day of the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, the Capitol Police were in complete disarray and acting totally out of character, and that actually shook me up quite a bit,” she said.
Farrow said what she saw during the mob’s riot Jan. 6 was that it appeared police had not amped up or shifted to a greater threat type of scenario.
“Everyday people paying attention to the planning for that event could see there was plenty of reason to expect a need for massive escalation in security,” Farrow said. “Just the sheer numbers of people expected should have warranted way more protection than I saw. Another thing I witnessed during my actions is that any time those at the highest levels of government are present, more security is also present. Just consider who was in that building at the time.”
At first, she was shocked by the Jan. 6 rioters being escorted out of the building as she was involved in one action where more than 600 of her fellow protesters were arrested. The police knew this action was going to happen and had actually set up rows and rows of tables out in the park across the street and marched the protesters out there to process them.
“But, then again, we were not a violent, desecrating mob, armed and dangerous,” Farrow said. “My guess is that they were trying to restore order as quickly as possible to allow Congress to continue this task of confirming the Presidential election (for the whole world to see) with as little violence and upheaval as possible; again, they were shockingly not prepared to handle the task any other way.”
There were widespread threats of violence on social media even before Trump urged supporters at a rally preceding the riot to not let Joe Biden become president.
“We’re going to have to fight much harder,” Trump said. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and …you have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Donald Trump, Jr., told the crowd, referring to people in Congress, “If you’re going to be the zero and not the hero, we are coming for you.” Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
Farrow said lawmakers and perhaps the FBI must get to the bottom of these questions: Why were Capitol police so unprepared? Why did some officers seem to aid and abet the protesters? Why was the National Guard held off too long?
Donna Curtis of Harrison, another participant in earlier pro-democracy protests, said her group of protesters was treated very differently than the violent protesters who got in the Capitol.
“All the time we’ve been there, the police and security wouldn’t even let us take in a small sign, let alone get in, without going through security,” she said. “We’ve been with 1,000 protesters and the police were always in control.”
She was surprised about the pro-Trump protesters’ ability to get past police and inside the Capitol. She doesn’t think this is over for those who support Trump.
She said even at their peaceful protests, there are always one or two who try to stir the crowd up.
“We are trained to ignore them because we have our purpose,” Curtis said. “One of our protests was thousands of us protesting against migrant children in cages and children being separated from their parents at the border. The police arrested 576 of us, a historical record of arrests in one day. All this was done peacefully. Ours were actually protests, not terrorist attacks. I would never approve of any terrorist attacks like this past week.”