Jan. 6 Rally-Goers Describe Intimidating Visits From the FBI
While many have been arrested for participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 rally in support of President Donald Trump, many others have been questioned by the FBI about their presence there that day. Those who have been questioned say a visit from the FBI is intimidating and made them think twice about speaking their mind politically in the future.
The FBI’s investigation into what happened on that day continues.
“The investigation into the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 is ongoing, led by our Washington Field Office. FBI Philadelphia, like field offices across the country, has provided and will continue to provide any assistance requested by Washington Field Office in this matter,” FBI spokeswoman Carrie Adamowski told The Epoch Times in an email.
The Washington Field Office referred The Epoch Times to the Washington U.S. Attorney’s Office for questions such as how many people have been questioned. The office has not responded.
FBI at the Door
Two men knocked on the door of Devon Hart’s Chester County, Pennsylvania home in April, around 7 a.m. and she figured it was the chimney sweep service she had scheduled for that day. They were early, and she was not presentable.
She opened the door to tell them to go around back. They flashed badges at her and told her they were from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
“I kind of laughed and said, Oh. OK,” Hart told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.
They asked if she was expecting them. “I know you’re visiting everyone who went to the rally,” she said, and invited them to come in from the cold.
She asked to go get dressed and they allowed it. Not wanting to leave her elementary-aged daughter alone with them for long, she ducked into the laundry room, grabbed an outfit, and sent a quick text to her husband, Scott Hart, who was already at work.
“FBI showed up,” she wrote, and he didn’t hear from her again until they left.
The couple had noticed strange black cars parked in the neighborhood a few times recently and joked that maybe it was the FBI.
Scott told his boss what was going on and started for home.
One agent did most of the talking. He asked Hart if she had been in Washington on Jan. 6. She said she had been, and he asked her to walk them through the day.
It started with three girlfriends meeting at Hart’s house between 5:30-6 a.m. They drove to Washington and found a parking spot in a parking deck close to where former President Donald Trump was scheduled to speak, then walked to that area.
“We were walking around, taking it in,” Hart said. The agent was interested in the mood of the crowd. “The atmosphere was kind of somber. We were waiting to see if Mike Pence was going to support Trump. It was just people being there together. I did not feel in danger.”
“He asked what was happening at the rally—did you notice anything odd? I thought it was weird to see lone wolfs dressed in Carhartt gear,” Hart said.
After Trump spoke, one of Hart’s friends, who wore the wrong shoes, said her feet were cold. They decided to head back to the parking deck and go home.
“Had her feet not been cold, this might be a different story,” Hart said. Perhaps they too, would have walked to the Capitol.
On the way home, they heard on the news that there were people storming the Capitol.
“We were nowhere near there at that time,” Hart says she told the FBI. “Then the agent says, ‘So you’re telling me, you were not in the Capitol that day.’ And I said yeah. And he said, ‘If you were not in the Capitol that day, they’re lying. Either they, or you are lying.’”
Hart doesn’t know who he was talking about.
“Then he said, ‘You know, there are ways we can prove you were in the Capitol,’ and I said, if you can prove that it must be by facial recognition, and that means I have a doppelganger out there, and I’d like to meet her because that’s pretty cool.”
“At this point, I was in such disbelief,” Hart said. “I knew somebody reported me to the FBI.”
Nothing to Hide
Not long before the FBI visited, someone called the whistleblower’s hotline at Hart’s work and reported that she had been at the Jan. 6 rally. She met with human resources, they looked through her Facebook page and told her she had not violated company policy; everything was fine.
A software salesperson, she didn’t talk about politics at work but some of her coworkers followed her on Facebook and saw she posted about going to Washington.
The FBI questioning continued. They asked for the names of the women with her, and asked her to tell the story again. “What time did you get home? Was it dark? Do you know any militia? Are you associated with any militia? Did you see any militia?” She answered “no.”
“He asked, ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what are your feelings about what happened on Jan. 6 with the insurrection?’ I said, I don’t condone violence whatsoever, in any situation. But I do not feel that this was an insurrection, and I’m really wondering why you are sitting here in my living room and not figuring out who killed Ashli Babbit.”
It has since been reported that Babbit was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer inside the Capitol.
“The other guy spoke up at this point,” Hart recalled. “He said, ‘I want you to know most of us think similarly to the way you do. We are not necessarily on opposite sides.’”
She took their card, the agents said they would be in touch if they had other questions, and they left.
“I get the sense that they were trying to figure out who I knew. I don’t know anyone who would hurt anybody.”
Her husband arrived home about 15 minutes later and asked why she let them in.
“Because I don’t have anything to hide. I’m not a terrorist,” Hart said.
“After they left—I never felt that way before. Intimidated, violated, it was a feeling of intrusion. I’m just an average everyday person.” Hart said she stopped attending political events for a while, removed some of her Facebook posts and is more careful about what she posts. “I felt like I couldn’t feel free to say what I wanted all the time.”
She believes someone at work may have reported her after her workplace didn’t reprimand her for attending the rally. It felt uncomfortable and ultimately led her to leave her job.
But it wasn’t over. In September, she got a call from a different FBI agent out of Philadelphia. He told her someone had reported her for terroristic activities on Jan. 6 and he had all the same questions for her. This was a new report, he told her.
He wanted names of people and when she hesitated, he told her if she didn’t cooperate, he would open an investigation on her and she would be in the system.
“He said, ‘when you are in our system it will show up on your background check when you go to get a job.’ It was very intimidating,” Hart said.
But she says she would go to a rally today.
“But of course, I would have reservations,” Hart said. “This is a free country. If people don’t stand up for their God-given rights, who will? If not me, then who?”
Banned From Facebook
Andrew Walker, 33, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania had been running political rallies and convoys in support of President Trump for two years leading up to the election. He organized these rallies through a Facebook page with around 800 followers. When he got home from the Jan. 6 rally, he posted a few pictures.
“I wrote a little thing on Facebook but within a couple days, I couldn’t log on anymore,” Walker said. “I thought it was a fluke. I waited a few days. A message came up—Facebook labeled me a domestic terrorist and banned me for life. I was also banned from YouTube and Amazon.”
He tried several times to create new accounts under different names but within a few days the accounts would be shut down, each time more quickly than the last. Finally, his IP address was banned.
That happened in the first 10 days after the rally, so he didn’t get a chance to tell many people about his experiences that day.
Walker drove to Washington the night before the rally and met up with some friends at a hotel. He wanted to support Trump and be a part of history.
From the hotel, he and his friends took a train into Washington early, between 6 or 7 a.m., because they wanted to beat the crowd. But the crowd was already big when they arrived.
Walker forgot something at the hotel and tried to go back, but by that time the trains were shut down so people could not come or go from the area.
“We thought, that’s kind of weird. It just felt off to us. We slowly made our way back to our group,” Walker told The Epoch Times. They watched the speeches standing near the Washington Monument. Trump’s speech was similar to others he had given, and they were cold, so they left before he was done speaking and started walking toward the Capitol, stopping at a food truck to eat and warm up.
“That’s when it got weird,” Walker said.
“I heard two pops, like a cannon, from the Capitol building area. I said to my buddies, that didn’t sound right. Then every 10–12 minutes, you would hear this bang. It sounded like tear gas guns,” Walker said. “This was way before—nobody was doing anything—no yelling, nothing out of the ordinary.”
Walker and his friends were 200–300 yards from the Capitol’s back steps, where the inauguration stage was located. By now there were around 1,000 people gathered.
“We don’t know what’s going on, on the other side of building. All of a sudden we hear people screaming, ‘I’ve got pepper spray in my eyes!’ and I thought why? Nobody’s doing anything. Then I saw a canister of tear gas in the air. It landed about 20 feet from me.”
He saw senior citizens with bloodshot eyes wiping their faces. There were children too, including one in a stroller.
“I was standing there wondering why is this going on? It just kept happening. There was more and more commotion way up in front of us.”
Walker says cell phones were not working but he had a walkie-talkie because he likes to be prepared. He says he and his group did not go inside the Capitol, but they saw thousands of people climbing on the building in areas where they didn’t belong, and they heard someone had been shot inside, but were not sure if it was true.
“A gentleman came running out of the building. There was a hole in his cheek. He had blood coming down and said he got shot by a rubber bullet. He said he was in the Capitol building- and I thought, if you were in there, how did you get out without being arrested? We knew not to go in there. He was just walking around freely.”
They started to walk toward the hotel and eventually were able to find a working train to get back to the hotel.
“My eyes were burning. We were all pretty shaken up and in awe of the confusion,” Walker said. “We went to a restaurant that had TVs and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. They were claiming there was a riot—from what they showed on TV, it did not look like what we just walked away from. They made it sound like Trump supporters started a war. Right there, we all knew something more was going on. We figured it was Antifa.”
He drove home that night.
The following Monday, five days after the rally, on his drive into work, between 4:30-5 a.m., he noticed a black car with tinted windows that seemed out of place in his neighborhood.
He told his family it felt like he was being followed.
Within days, right after work, Walker opened the door to his house. Two FBI agents had knocked, and wanted to talk with him. There was that black car, in his driveway.
“They questioned me for 45 minutes to an hour. I told people, see, I told you I was being followed.”
They asked about his Facebook posts. One post of interest was a meme that said “I would lay down my life for this country.”
“He asked me about that, and I said absolutely I would,” Walker said. “Apparently it was a red flag to them.”
They asked if he went into the Capitol, if he owns any guns, and about the black flag he sometimes flies on his truck.
“It felt like they were trying to make me feel like I did something wrong for being there. That what I’m doing and what I’ve done is wrong. They said ‘We’re here because you’re a very outspoken leader and you’ve got a pretty big following.’ But I’ve never done anything illegal.”
After the FBI visit, a few of Walker’s friends, his brother, and mother told him maybe he shouldn’t be so outspoken and perhaps he shouldn’t attend any political rallies for a while.
“Every day for a while, I was looking over my shoulder, feeling like I was being watched,” Walker said.
The FBI was not done with Walker. Last week an agent called to set up a meeting. He agreed to meet Monday during his 30-minute lunch break. Two new agents questioned him for an hour, standing outside in the cold of a gas station parking lot. He didn’t feel comfortable getting in their car.
“This felt more uncomfortable,” Walker said. “It seemed they were pressing a little harder.” They were looking for someone suspected of being inside the Capitol that day and thought he could lead them to that person. It was not someone he knew well.
“It felt like they were trying to link me to white supremacy,” Walker said. “But I didn’t know anything. I didn’t do anything illegal or wrong, but they made me feel like I did. They made me feel like ‘We are watching you.’ It feels like it could be for the rest of my life. They made me feel like I’m hiding something. They were pushing for information I don’t have. It seemed like they didn’t believe what I was saying.”
They told him they are all for the right to protest and he should continue his activities, but if there is any talk of violence, he should let them know. That was unsettling because Walker says he only associates with peaceful people.
“If they think I’m involved with anything like that, they are not done with me,” Walker said. “They came across as nice guys, but there was that uncomfortableness, that they are not believing me.”