After a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, the Fauquier Times reached out to the people who represent Fauquier County in government -- along with other local leaders and business owners -- and asked them to reflect on the event. These are their responses.
U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st
What happened on Wednesday is a blemish on this nation. We may disagree on policy and who we support for president, but this country is built on law and order. We must continue to stand for the great American tradition of peaceful disagreement and debate rather than anarchy and violence. I stand strongly against anyone who comes to our nation’s Capitol - or anywhere for that matter - to perpetrate violence.
I've been asking myself lately: Where do we go from here? Our nation is hurt and divided. We need to understand that this is an unprecedented time in our history, and tensions are running high, but we also must understand that words matter. Tone matters. Rhetoric matters. We must all work to lower the temperature. Divisive words, tone, and rhetoric need to be tamped down. Every citizen has a responsibility in this quest to unite our nation.
I believe our focus now needs to be on unifying our nation and moving forward as one. By count of the electoral college, Joe Biden becomes the president-elect and Kamala Harris becomes vice president-elect, and the peaceful transition of power will occur on January 20th, just as it has every four years since 1792. I wish President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris the blessings of good health and sound judgement as our nation navigates these unprecedented times.
Former U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th
I felt horror as I watched cowards storm the Capitol. As a former member who had just walked those marbled halls, the fear I felt for my former colleagues and the revulsion I felt towards the domestic terrorists beating police officers and threatening our seat of government mixed with astonishment—this siege was based on fantasy. It was a heady mix of QAnon, “Stop the Steal”, Flynnsurrectionists, white nationalist groups and all stripes of conspiracy theorists and neurotics.
If you were there, tacitly or outwardly supporting this criminal act, you are the problem. If you claim to be Christian and view this as somehow “understandable” you are the problem. If you call those who stormed the Capitol, “patriots”, I am your adversary. If you call yourself a Republican and cannot see this act as an armed insurrection based on disinformation and fueled by demagogues, leave the GOP. Truth and facts are the duty of those elected.
“Whataboutism”, false equivalencies, secret intelligence from Gab, Parler, 8Kun or Facebook -- and hucksters relaying “classified information” into cracked phone cameras from their cars and trucks in the woods -- do not lend to valid arguments. [Former National Security Advisor] Mike Flynn is a sick man. [Trump-allied attorney] Sydney Powell is a charlatan. President Trump spreads disinformation. The siege on the Capitol was an insurrection based on make-believe and ignorance.
Va. Sen. Jill Vogel, R-27th
I was horrified and heartbroken to watch the violence at the United States Capitol. Those who incited the violence and participated in those acts need to be held accountable. For those of us in elected office, it was a sad day and a sobering reminder of how fragile our democracy is. I share in our country’s grief over the tragic loss of life.
Va. Del. Mark Cole, R-88th
I was appalled and disgusted by the violence and lawlessness in Washington and hope that those responsible are brought to justice! Violence and threats only undermine your cause and message. It was true during the Black Lives Matter protests last year and it is true for the election protests now. Mob violence and lawlessness are not the answer and runs counter to the rule of law!
Va. Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st
We saw one of history’s darkest moments Wednesday. We saw a culmination of Donald Trump’s threats to democracy over the last four years, and especially the last few months. We saw an insurrection against the United States government and the death of a Capitol Police officer. I am praying for all of the heroes of Jan. 6, and I know that domestic terrorists will not win. They will not defeat our democracy; our democracy will prevail.
The silence of many Republican elected officials, some of whom have enabled this behavior, is deafening. We saw it last year in Richmond on Martin Luther King Day when armed protesters came to the Virginia Capitol with intent to intimidate.
If you do not speak out and condemn this attempted coup against the United States, if you do not accept Joe Biden as the winner of this election, if you do not call for Donald Trump to be removed either by impeachment or the 25th Amendment, then let the history books note your names for your grandchildren to read.
If we can’t change your minds, we will change your seats. In less than two weeks, this nation’s healing will start. Special thanks to President-elect Joe Biden for addressing the nation and acting as a commander-in-chief in the absence of one.
Fauquier County Supervisor Chris Granger
Granger made the following remarks at a Jan. 7 meeting of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors.
As a veteran and a first responder, the actions of those folks yesterday heart my heart. I have always had the upmost respect for our country’s institutions and those that serve it.
Agree with them or not, this is a country of laws. This is a country of discussions because we are a country of laws. Because we are that – because we are a republic – we elect people to have those discussions. That is part of the beauty of a democracy, of what a republic is. We elected the people to be in those room yesterday to have those hard conversations.
Even though they were on both sides of it, those folks should have been allowed to have those conversations. I was glad to see they came back and finished those conversations.
Even if your guy didn’t win, the election is over and I hope to see the country move forward. I know there are a lot of disappointed folks on one side and there are a lot of exuberant folks on the other. But what happened yesterday is not how our government was designed to work and not what our founders saw.
This community is a great community and a lot of people live in Warrenton and Fauquier County for a reason. It’s a close community, it’s a tight-knit community and it stands up for those within the community. And I would expect nothing less than that over the next year as our country moves from one president to another. And we will come out of this thing as a stronger county and a stronger nation.
Fauquier County Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel
The mob attack on the Capitol on Wednesday was the culmination of an attempt to overturn the most sacred and sober duty of our country: the peaceful transfer of power. Democracies are fragile and recent events have taken ours to the edge of the abyss.
There are two quotes from that day that I want to share.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah said, “The best way we can show respect for voters who are upset is to tell them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma said, “We disagree on a lot of things ... but we honor each other even in our disagreement. … The other person is not my enemy, but my fellow American.”
Let's all take a deep breath, reflect on the privileges that allow us to vote in fair elections and engage in public and peaceful discourse. We cannot take these for granted, as they can be easily lost.
Fauquier County Supervisor Rick Gerhardt
Cedar Run District
I am thankful we live in a country that provides citizens the right to openly protest and exercise free speech. However, when protests turn violent and property is destroyed, that right is no longer protected by the 1st Amendment, regardless of who is protesting.
What we witnessed on Jan. 6 was a situation where people were killed and property of one of our most sacred institutions was vandalized. Moreover, our Congress was forced to come to a brief halt, as a result of what, ultimately, turned into mayhem. I am appalled by what I saw.
While I understand the results of this election have brought disappointment, consternation and frustration to many, what happened Jan. 6, in the end, was horrific. Lives were lost, people were hurt and democracy was briefly strained. Hopefully, some of the deep divides that separate us politically will, perhaps, be diminished as a result of what happened.
After all, as U.S. citizens, we are Americans who live in the greatest country in the world and are ultimately governed under one of the greatest documents - the United States Constitution. We must respect the document and each other to prevail.
Fauquier County Supervisor Chris Butler
I wholeheartedly support the right to free speech and peaceful protest. I do not support riots, vandalism and harming innocent people as a result.
What we all witnessed in our nation’s Capitol was appalling and those that perpetrated these violent acts should be punished to the fullest extent the law allows.
Now is a time to heal and unite like we did on 9/11. Let's move on and learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.
Fauquier County Sheriff Robert Mosier
The acts of lawlessness that we have witnessed and most recently at our nation’s Capitol Building, truly undermine the rule of law. This adherence to the rule of law is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is a right or wrong issue.
America has always ultimately stood on the side of what’s good and what’s right. We were the first people as a nation to put this on paper keeping faith with the idea of America. This idea is what separates us with dignity and justice.
Make no mistake, what happened in Washington D.C. was an attack on the essence of our great republic and we as law enforcement have and must continue to stand as guardians for the rule of law against any foe.
Warrenton Town Councilman Sean Polster
The events of last week have left me with more questions than answers.
Why at the very time we are fighting this virus and its devastating economic disruption, do some choose to destroy our very foundations? Have our political parties truly devolved from parties of principles and ideals to personality cults?
We were shocked and saddened by the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol and the direct physical threat to our legislators. Was this unexpected? It shouldn’t have been based on their rhetoric.
Compare the images of last summer’s protests -- both the protestors and the police response -- to the free-for-all that happened at the Capitol. The anger of those who have experienced broken promises and unequal treatment is understandable. Rioting is not the same as protesting under the 1st Amendment. Whatever the anger is that causes peaceful protesters to become a violent mob should never be directed at those officers sworn to protect and defend.
We prepare for the peaceful transition of power. Something that defines us. We are a nation governed by words and not violence. Our democracy is a relatively young experiment on the world stage and many would love to see it fail. I am not one of them, and if you agree, I’ll stand by you.
Warrenton Town Councilman Bill Semple
I cannot express my condemnation enough about what happened on Jan. 6 in our nation's capital, and my admiration for those who placed their lives on the line to protect the Capitol, the Congress and all those within those hallowed halls serving the public.
As the events unfolded on my television screen, I wondered whether we had come to a point in our nation’s history where we had lost all faith in the institutions that have been so important to where we have come from and where we are as a nation. I worried that anarchy would become the rule of the day; and that we could wake up one morning in our own wonderful town of Warrenton and learn of a similar group storming our town hall.
For us to survive collectively or as individuals, indeed for us to be a society, we need a place in our world, the community at large, and our neighborhood, that is sacrosanct, a place where, whether in the middle of a war, civil strife, or a pandemic, we can count on to represent our ideals and hopes, and to protect us from threats without and within.
Until yesterday, for all Americans, that place was the U.S. Capitol. I am encouraged with our national response, with Congress’s diligence in following through with its obligations, and I hope that the attack has now erased all doubt that demagoguery has no place anywhere in our society, whether at the national, state or local level.
Chairman of the Fauquier County Republican Committee
I strongly condemn the mayhem that occurred at the Capitol last Wednesday. The responsible parties need to be prosecuted, as opposed to those who were waved in unimpeded by Capitol Police and were peaceful or the hundreds of thousands who also conducted themselves peacefully. But I will not surrender to the prevailing narrative promulgated by the media, most Democrats, and some Republican politicians blaming President [Donald] Trump for “inciting an attack on the Capitol.” His speech contained no incitement to violence.
Those who blame President Trump for this incident are the same ones who stoked and winked at the flooding of congressional office buildings during the Kavanaugh hearings and at the Black Lives Matter and antifa riots in multiple cities for days upon end last summer with violence, deaths, looting and burning, to include establishing “autonomous zones.” If these are not insurrection, I don’t know what is.
The media and many politicians and corporations are selective in their attribution of cause, blame and which violence and mayhem they choose to condemn. [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s impeachment talk, [President-elect Joe] Biden implying senators are Nazis and social media and corporate censorship of free speech will do more to incite unrest on a wide scale than anything they claim Trump said or did.
Whitney Petrilli and Larry Jackson
Fauquier County Democratic Committee Co-Chairs
Anger, disbelief, and fear for our democracy were among the emotions many of us felt on Jan. 6.
After the election on Nov. 3, we as a country waited and watched numerous recounts, legal challenges, and presidential interventions, all leading to Congress’s job of confirming the election results.
On Jan. 6, Congress was doing that duty. At the instigation of our president, domestic terrorists rioted, committed insurrection and occupied the Capitol. Confederate flags were proudly waved in the halls of Congress. Members of Congress had to be escorted to safety. Their lives were endangered, not by a foreign army or agents, but by American citizens. This is incomprehensible for us as patriotic Americans.
Hours later, early on the morning of Jan. 7, Congress did their duty, accepted the Electoral College vote and declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the lawful winners of the 2020 Presidential election.
And now? Those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
On Jan. 20 we will have a new president and we can put the last four years, and the horrific events of the mob insurrection on Jan. 6 behind us.
God bless America.
Owner of Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse in Delaplane
I see us at such a dangerous interregnum. One path ahead leads to irreconcilable conflict and civil unrest with fringe elements on both sides agitating for mayhem and ascendancy. The other path somehow allows us to return to a shared understanding of justice and respectful disagreement that supports community engagement and accountable, collaborative solutions.
Yet I fear that what we saw in Washington could infect our community further. How do we come together again? I have ended my Facebook connections with most who feel differently than I. It hurts me to see their posts. I imagine that it is the same for them with mine.
Increasingly, I am trying to reduce reposting memes which capture my emotions and instead share posts that capture my thoughts. And I think that we all should stop with the “Yeah … but what about” -isms. That is getting us nowhere really.
Yes, it is hard to empathize with those who see this moment through such a different lens. But I have to try. There are valid reasons why we disagree – but demonizing others tears our commonwealth. I think we all need to really try harder to engage in a new dialogue based upon respect and humility so that we can build a responsible and safe future for our children.
Continuing as we have will disgrace and destroy our national endowment. Perhaps in the sacking of our nation’s venerable Capitol we can find the foundation for a commitment to again respectfully address and solve our differences.
Owner of Piedmont Press & Graphics in Warrenton
What happened at our Capitol last week is a horror. What can WE (people of Fauquier) do now? WE can work to restore our sense of community, put aside our political parties and go back to being Fauquierians.
When this community has had a challenge, WE all showed up regardless of our political beliefs. When WE shopped, WE shopped locally regardless of how someone voted. Yes, WE continued to debate local issues when appropriate but then WE went to share a meal because WE are in this together. I know that it starts with me challenging myself to do better.
To help with this, I ask the local media to hold true to their core values of community reporting -- focusing on issues in our county. No more polls or articles about national politics. They are divisive.
Local publishers need to uphold the editorial standards that are the pillars of community news organizations, especially citizens’ comments. A letter to the editor with your real name and town was verified before publication. Restoring this standard would change the dynamics of our community as much as anything else. No more anonymous comments to articles with fake names. Without true journalism, our fragile democracy dies.
Chair of the Northern Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
As a white southerner raised in Richmond in the 50s and 60s, I didn’t instinctively feel much fear when I saw a group of white males waving the Confederate flag. Though not justifiable, through the lens of race it’s predictable that people underreacted on Jan. 6 and didn’t feel the need to protect the Capitol and the lives of our congressmen from the insurrectionists.
Then we watched live video of this mob, carrying that flag and many others, shattering windows and ransacking offices, and later we find out they killed a Capitol Police officer with a fire extinguisher.
In that same segregated society in Richmond, I was raised to fear Black men, just like children had been taught from the days of slaveholding and then Jim Crow. So again through the lens of race, it was predictable that a White-majority society will overreact with fear and harshness to Black Lives Matter protests this past summer.
Yet the vast majority of BLM protests—more than 93% — have been peaceful, according to a report published by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that researches political violence and protests across the world.
These different perceptions and realities are examples of the systemic racism that we must address not only as a country but in our own hearts.
The Plains resident
The storming of the Capitol by insurrectionists last week was shocking, to say the least. The most disturbing aspect of it, aside from those participating thinking it was the right thing to do, is that President Donald Trump incited their actions.
His lies and deranged behavior have threatened our democracy by constantly impugning the integrity of one of the most basic elements of our democracy, our election process. He was joined and abetted by four of Virginia’s congressional delegation including newly elected Bob Good, this in spite of virtually every legal challenge having been dismissed by the court systems across the country for lack of merit. The election was conducted openly, fairly and legitimately.
The circular logic used to justify the seditious attempt to overthrow the expressed will of the people was merely a ploy to enhance their own political ambitions, not an effort to protect our democracy and constitution -- quite the contrary.
I am hopeful that our state senator, Jill Vogel, R-27th, and our delegate, Michael Webert, R-18th, will each make a public statement condemning the seditious actions of the insurrectionists and call for a thorough investigation of the failure of law enforcement to control the mob.
Jan. 6 will live forever as a stain in the history of our country. Our elected leaders need to stand up for lawfulness and truth. They need to let their constituents know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must cease the proliferation of the language of the fringe element that promotes violence and disregard for the truth and find our way to peaceful and constructive discourse. Anarchy serves nothing but chaos in our democracy.