News & Politics

A GOP Event to Support Accused Insurrectionists Went Off the Rails Pretty Quickly

Far-right members of Congress are rallying against alleged mistreatment of Capitol rioters

Photograph by Evy Mages

A small group of Republican lawmakers held a press conference in support of the January 6 arrestees, but it didn’t even last ten minutes. Instead of being met with supporters, the legislators were chased out of their own presser.

Earlier today, other members of Congress teared up while listening to police officers’ gripping eyewitness testimony on the opening day of Congressional hearings about the January 6 insurrection. However, a small group of their far-right legislative colleagues was on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue speaking out about a rather different cause: The alleged mistreatment of the folks who had stormed the Capitol that day.

Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, and Matt Gaetz—all members of the so-called “Sedition Caucus” of legislators, so named because they all voted against the certification of President Joe Biden‘s presidential victory—gathered reporters outside the Justice Department in what they described as an effort to demand answers from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the treatment of “January 6th prisoners”.

“[We are] standing up to people whether they’ve done right or wrong,” Gohmert said after claiming that the “prisoners” have been arrested without evidence of their wrongdoing. “They deserve due process.”

Unfortunately for the legislators, the press huddle hadn’t been going more than ten minutes before—irony alert!—it was disrupted by protesters, albeit ones who did not appear to be carrying bear spray or wearing body armor. One man blew a whistle repeatedly; another dressed in a giant Donald Trump costume; several carried signs calling both Gaetz and the former president “rapists” and “traitors.” One of the protesters also asked Gaetz, who is under investigation for possible sex trafficking and an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old, whether he was a pedophile. (He has denied any wrongdoing.)

And just like that, the legislators who had only moments earlier heard Greene declare that they “will not back down” and “will not stop asking questions” skedaddled back to their hatchbacks as  journalists and protestors chased after them.

Meanwhile, in another too-spot-on bit of symbolism, the crowd of anti- and pro-Trump supporters remained long after the politicians fled. They were soon joined by local go-go band, Critical Condition Band, playing from a truck bed. The music, which involved messages of unity, appeared not to calm anyone’s nerves. A small altercation broke out between a woman holding a “TRUMP MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN” flag and a group of leftist protesters holding “TRAITORS + RAPISTS: SIT DOWN” signs.” The fight stopped as quickly as the presser did.

Kecia Pettey, who came to the press conference in support of the GOP lawmakers, was surprised at how the event turned out and thinks that those who were arrested for participating in the Jan. 6. riots shouldn’t be in prison. “Ninety-nine percent of them were accidentally in [the Capitol],” Petty said. “What is so criminal about that?”

While the other GOP lawmakers haven’t made public statements about the uproar, Gohmert later blamed “Marxists” for shutting down the press conference.

Here are some photographs that Washingtonian photographer Evy Mages took during the event:

Photograph courtesy of Evy Mages
Photograph courtesy of Evy Mages
Photograph courtesy of Evy Mages
Photograph courtesy of Evy Mages

 

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Damare Baker
Assistant Editor

Before becoming an assistant editor, Damare Baker started out as an editorial fellow for Washingtonian. She has previously written for Voice of America and The Hill. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied international relations, Korean, and journalism.