Protesters. Insurrectionists. White supremacists?
The thousands of Americans who went to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and their intentions on that day, have been described in many ways.
Were they there to: Have their voices heard. Register concern over election accuracy. Overthrow the government?
The narrative of that day depends on who is telling the story.
The loudest narrative, the one that demonizes attendees, comes from the federal government, politicians, and many media outlets.
The people who can best tell the other side of the story are still suffering the consequences from that day. Four people, all Donald Trump supporters, died. Some attendees are still in prison, some have been getting visits from the FBI, others have had their reputations smeared for attending.
Rick Saccone and his wife rode a bus filled with Pennsylvanians to Washington in support of Trump. He says it was mostly senior citizens peacefully demonstrating.
“People were dancing, singing, and one man dressed like Uncle Sam was walking on stilts in the crowd,” Saccone told The Epoch Times. They had no knowledge of violence until they got back on the bus toward home.
Saccone of Allegany County is a former Pennsylvania state legislator, retired Air Force officer, and current candidate for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. His attendance in Washington on Jan. 6 is low-hanging fruit for media outlets wishing to impose an unflattering lens on his campaign, but he is not bothered by their efforts.
“You have the media twisting this story. It is a deflection of what happened in Portland and Seattle. That is the definition of an insurrection, and nothing has happened with that,” he said of rioters who attacked federal buildings in those cities and tried to set them on fire.
Since Jan. 6, there have been investigations, calls for the public to turn in attendees, home visits from the FBI, arrests, and long prison stays.
“It has a chilling effect on the First Amendment, and we can’t have that in this country,” Saccone said. “We have the right to challenge our political leaders. All those First Amendment rights are being challenged by a small minority of left-wing media that are monopolizing the narrative, which is why we have to speak out and correct the narrative.”
Saccone says too many people, including elected Republicans, are cowering in fear.
“We’re going to tell the truth about Jan. 6 and flip the narrative. Our founders didn’t cower in fear; they stood up for their rights,” Saccone said. “The truth is, a half million people exercised their First Amendment rights.”
The ones who got violent, he says, were not true Trump supporters.
Ned Lang of Sullivan County, New York, has not seen his son Jake Lang, 26, since Christmas, 2020. Jake has been in prison since Jan. 13, 2021, charged with assaulting a police officer on Jan. 6.
When Ned first heard the charges, he was so disappointed that he refused to speak to his son. He didn’t raise him that way and figured, you do the crime, you do the time. But Jake begged his dad to hear his story.
“He said, ‘Please, dad, just look at the videos. I saved this man’s life. I was there when Roseanne Boyland died. The police attacked us. We weren’t doing anything wrong. They attacked us for no reason,’” Ned relayed to The Epoch Times.
It is difficult to discern what is happening in the videos which can be seen online at j6truth.org.
The Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
It is clear that Boyland, 34, was on the ground.
In media reports, Capitol Police say she was being trampled, police went into the crowd to save her and were attacked by protesters.
Protesters say she was beaten by police with a baton and they were trying to stop police.
Ultimately, law enforcement dragged her into the Capitol building and she died. Her death was blamed on a drug overdose but her family has publicly questioned the cause.
Jake was among those who intervened.
After the rally, he went home to Orange County, New York, where, on the evening of Jan. 13, around 15 federal agents broke in his door and arrested him.
“My son has not had a haircut, no shave, in a year,” Ned said. He is Jewish and has not been allowed to go to synagogue.
Ned saw his son during a September court bail hearing. He described his son’s condition as thin with a scraggy beard that touches his chest, and hair down below his collar. Jake has not been offered bail yet. He has been offered a deal that includes 10 years in prison.
“We’re not doing that,” Ned said. “You have all these folks (in Portland, Seattle and the summer riots in Washington D.C.) that were actually attacking cops, trying to burn down federal buildings, and all the horrible things that they were doing. And my son and the rest of the J6 patriots are being harshly persecuted by the same folks that are letting all these other folks just walk after doing the same type of crimes, or worse.”
“My son was in 202 days of solitary confinement,” Ned said. “The water in solitary was so dirty—so rusty—that he had to strain the water with a sock in order to be able to drink it or use it at all. It was pure brown and full of dust. He was in total isolation. Just before the rally this summer, the whole patriot unit was locked in the cells for 24/7 for two weeks.”
Prisoners at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington D.C. are able to communicate with family through electronic tablets, although Jake has not had communication privileges for a few weeks recently, Ned said.
He is proud of Jake for standing up and enduring this pain, with the knowledge that, one day, they will be able to tell the true story what happened on Jan. 6.
“I don’t care what side of politics you are on. It is not OK for any government to simply pick you up off the street with whatever charges they want to put against you, and purposely not give you bail,” Ned said. “Right now, there’s bail reform going on throughout the whole United States and these people are being politically persecuted because they’re Trump supporters and that’s not OK. Today, it’s our sons and daughters. Tomorrow when you have a different government with a different political philosophy, it could be your sons and daughters.”
“As Putin said so famously, ‘For the first time ever, America has political prisoners.’ America no longer has a high ground to justify punishing another country because of political persecution of their citizens, as America now is doing the same thing,” he said.
After the 2020 election, Guy and Nicole Reffitt of Collin County, Texas mulled over what to do to make their voices heard.
“Not just in regard to ‘Stop the Steal’ but stop stealing our democracy,” Nicole told The Epoch Times. “We made the decision to go to D.C., because we felt like it was a numbers game—that we had to show up in numbers. It is our duty as Americans, when we see an issue that is plaguing our democracy, to show up. To be idle will kill our country. And we just felt that it was time. If it wasn’t us, who is it going to be?”
But Nicole had to work, so Guy, her husband of 21 years, drove from Texas to the Jan. 6 rally without her.
As usual, Guy 49, brought his guns, which he typically carries everywhere. Nicole says he is well versed in the rules. While in Washington, his guns were left secured in his vehicle at the hotel parking lot with the ammunition and guns stored separately.
He attended the rally and was on to the Capitol steps but never went inside, Nicole said. He returned home without incident.
But a family member started political conversations with Guy and secretly recorded him, and then shared the recordings with the FBI, Nicole said.
Court papers say he told his kids that if they turned him in to the FBI, they would be traitors and, “You know what happens to traitors, they get shot.”
This got him charged with obstruction of justice—hindering communication through physical force or threat of physical force, court papers show. He was also charged with transporting firearms with intent to unlawfully use the firearms.
“Between the hours of 5 and 6 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 16, the FBI raided our home with flashbangs and a counterterrorism unit,” Nicole said. “They removed me and my teenage daughter and two of her friends and put us behind the battering ram truck. They then took Guy and other than one brief moment at a court hearing when he was still in Dallas, that was the last time I saw my husband. It has been 350 days since I’ve seen him. He’s been denied bail every time for being a danger to the community. Guy has no prior criminal charges against him ever.”
Guy works in the Texas energy sector and Nicole is in retail. He was the main breadwinner. Without his paycheck, they couldn’t keep his truck. At the end of December, the family had just $134 and Nicole didn’t know how she was going to make the January rent. She and her daughter, 24, have been working as many hours as possible to make ends meet.
Since Christmas Day, Guy and others being held in connection with Jan. 6 have been locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, Nicole said. He went for 11 months without a haircut or shave, from January to December, but one day last month they took him out of his cell and cut his hair.
“He’s being punished for something that he hasn’t even been convicted of yet,” Nicole said. “And it goes against everything I feel inside of me not to scream at the top of my lungs at everybody about what is happening because it doesn’t even matter at this point what political aisle you’re on; what’s happening is just complete injustice. And if they’re going to punish us for using our First Amendment rights, if they’re going to punish us because we’re conservatives, they will do that to any other person. If you’re not with their status quo, you are going to be punished, and that is the point that they’re making with our patriots that are being detained now.”
“There’s no insurrection. No one has been charged with insurrection, so that is just a falsity,” Nicole said. “That is just a word they keep pushing into people’s faces.
“The assault on our democracy has been going on for years. They’ve chipped away at our freedoms. The American people can only take so much and if you just keep complying, you keep allowing them to bend our Bill of Rights, they’re going to have complete control over our country,” she said.
“The fortitude of our election integrity should be foremost in any free country. And to not even pause to say, ‘Let’s take a look at this,’ just proves that the people in power, at this point, do not care if they lie to us, or what they do. They’re going to keep pushing the narrative that they want. The majority of the people that were there love our country.”