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Local pols react to Capitol riots

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jan 8, 2021

Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Jim Atterholt said an independent commission was needed to review the presidential election

Local pols react to Capitol riots

By NATHAN MAYBERG

nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com

Scenes of scores of pro-Trump demonstrators fighting past police lines through barricades and over fencing to storm the U.S. Capitol during the certification of a presidential election by Congress in a deadly riot this week, brought out differing reactions from local politicians.

So far, the death of a U.S. Capitol Police officer struck by a fire extinguisher and a civilan who was shot and killed storming the Capitol have been attributed directly to the violent struggles of the riots while there were three deaths attributed to medical emergencies during the rioting.

Mayor Ray Murphy said there has been a "greater animosity towards public service" and that the heightened tensions seen on the U.S. Capitol will take time to overcome.

The nation watched on television and on their phones as a mass of rioters, many wearing or carrying gear supportive of President Trump, charged into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify the election. Tear gas and pepper spray filled the air as windows in the halls of Congress were smashed, blood stains were left on a bust of former President Zachary Taylor, congressional offices were looted and ransacked, attacks were reported against media members and other acts of desecration in the most violent episode at the Capitol since British soldiers set fire to the Capitol Building and White House in 1814.

The Washington D.C. Metro Police reported in the aftermath of the violence that the storming of the Capitol followed a speech by President Donald Trump to thousands of supporters. Police said rioters fought with police and deployed chemical irritants after Trump’s rally at the National Mall which ended with a call  for those in attendance to go to the Capitol.

For more than one hour, Trump decried the results of the election and alleged that the election was stolen from him despite decisions otherwise from dozens of state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court against lawsuits challenging the results of the presidential election.

The Fort Myers Beach Observer spoke to three local politicians for their reactions to all that happened Wednesday.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy called Jan. 6 a “terrible day for America. It’s pretty pathetic when the president of the United States sends people down to disrupt the well-being of our Congress in such a seditious manner. How low do we have to go?”

Lee County GOP Chair Jonathan Martin said local Republicans were disgusted by the riots at the Capitol Building this week

Murphy credited the members of Congress for reconvening and “finishing up what they had to do. It shows the terrorists didn’t win. The people won despite the futile attempts of these homegrown terrorists.”

Murphy said those who charged into the Capitol have “been lied to all along. They are relying on bad information.”

He believes the division over this presidential election will “take time” to overcome. “I doubt it’s going to go away overnight,” he said. 

Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Jim Atterholt, a former chief of staff to former Indiana Governor (and current Vice President) Mike Pence, said “the violence that occurred in Washington D.C. is unacceptable and it’s always unacceptable.”

Atterholt said “the blame goes all around” for the storming of the Capitol. “It’s not about blame at this point. It’s about everybody doing better to support our democratic process. It starts with having a tolerance for differing viewpoints.”

Atterholt said there was a need to treat “each other with kindness and decency.”  

Atterholt said he wished “from the immediate aftermath of the election both sides would have called for more transparency.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Atterholt said “there were a lot more mail-in ballots than ever before” and said he believes there is a need for a “third-party” or “neutral observer” to be involved in the election process.

Atterholt doesn’t dispute President-elect Joe Biden won the election. “Procedurally, he won the election. I just wish there was more transparency,” Atterholt said.

Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Martin said he was “really upset about” the violence but said President Donald Trump did not incite the acts.

“Every Republican I’ve spoken to is really disgusted” by the rioting that occurred, he said. An independent commission was needed to investigate the election results “to restore faith and hope in the process,” he said.

Martin said that even if all of the alleged “irregularities” were proven, they would not change the outcome of the presidential election but said it’s “important to restore faith in the system.”

Despite all that happened on Wednesday, Martin said “nothing has changed” in people’s opinions. Those who believe there were no issues with the election and those who believe there were problems, have not changed their minds, he said.

Before the riots occurred, thousands of Trump supporters attended a rally at the National Mall which ran about four hours with speakers railing against the results of the presidential election and calling on the crowd to take action to save the country.

“They want to steal the election. The radical left knows exactly what they are doing. They are ruthless and it’s time that somebody did something about it and Mike Pence I hope you are going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country.”

Trump alleged widespread election fraud in the counting of ballots, the allegations of which which has either been found to be unproven or unfounded with dozens of lawsuits rejected by state and federal courts.

“We won in a landslide,” Trump said. “This is the most corrupt election in the history of maybe the world.”

Trump called the election system a “national security” issue and called on Congress to pass election reforms “and you better do it before we have no country left.”

He called for the end of mail-in balloting, proof of citizenship to vote and other additional requirements to be able to vote. Trump said “they defrauded us out of a win in Georgia and we’re not going to forget it.”

He said “our fight against the big donors, big media, big tech and others is just getting started.”

Trump said “this is the greatest movement in history” and “we must stop this deal.” 

Trump told the crowd “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

He told supporters “The best is yet to come. We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue and we are going to the Capitol.”

He said supporters needed to remind “weak” Republican members of Congress to objection to the election results. 

“We are going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country so let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.” 

House Democrats were planning to impeach Trump Tuesday over the alleged incitement.