About 40 people participated in a Pro-Trump rally in Oak Harbor after rioters protesting the presidential election results stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing members of Congress to flee in the midst of certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
One woman died after being shot by police when she tried to get inside the Capitol building, and a Capitol Police Officer died after sustaining injuries during the riot.
Elected officials of both parties who represent Whidbey residents condemned the violent attempt to overturn the election.
While the violence was ongoing, a group gathered at the intersection of Highway 20 and Pioneer Way, waving flags and holding President Donald Trump campaign signs.
Some signs read “Stop the steal” and “God save America.”
There was a steady stream of cars honking at they drove through the intersection.
The residents, who came from both ends of the island and beyond, left the intersection after a couple hours and drove down Southeast Pioneer Way in a makeshift parade.
After most of the group had left, several Oak Harbor police cars arrived at the intersection for reports of an alleged assault.
Oak Harbor Police Chief Kevin Dresker said officers who responded learned that two men were involved in a shoving match after one of the men made a derogatory comment about the other man’s wife just after 3 p.m. No arrests were made.
Dresker said that although the police were not present at the rally, they were aware of it. He said he personally drove by twice and saw it appeared peaceful.
There was no prior coordination with the rally’s organizers, he explained, which is why there was not a police presence.
In contrast, organizers of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer invited the police to be present, which is why officers were there.
“This group yesterday, we didn’t have any pre-information with them,” Dresker added.
Patrick Gaddie, an Oak Harbor resident who took part in the rally, said the event was organized through the Island County Republican Party Facebook page and by word of mouth.
“We’re not protesting anything, we’re supporting our president,” Gaddie said.
He claimed that there was voter fraud in the presidential election and urged lawmakers to investigate.
“Do the investigation. People know their votes were stolen,” he said. “It has nothing to do with (Democrat) or (Republican). It has everything to do with the Constitution.”
Christie Koch of Anacortes attended the rally with friends. Koch said she was also supporting the president and claimed there was voter fraud in the election.
“That could be done in so many different ways,” Koch said when asked how the voter fraud could have occurred.
Bill Thompson and his wife Nancy live on South Whidbey.
In addition to showing his patriotism, Bill Thompson said he was protesting the Supreme Court decision not to make a decision about the election.
In December, the high court dismissed a case brought by Texas to throw out election results from several key states that Trump lost.
In a brief order on Dec. 11, the court said “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”
Bill Thompson said allegations of voter fraud should be a bipartisan issue.
“This thing right now shouldn’t just be a Republican thing,” he said. “It should be a Democrat thing, too, because of the peril the country is in now. I think the Supreme Court is really abdicating their sworn duties.”
“It is not acceptable to me.”
He said there was no question that there was voter fraud in the election and alleged it could have been done both electronically and by poll workers.
Tim Hazelo, an Oak Harbor resident and former U.S. House of Representative candidate, spoke at the rally after coming from another rally in Everett.
“We need to continue this fight on,” Hazelo told the crowd.
“We want to make Island County the basket of conservatism that we know it can be.”
In response to Wednesdays attack on the nation’s capitol by Trump supporters, Island County Republican Party leaders denounced the rioters in an emailed statement Thursday night.
“While we will always support peaceful demonstrations by American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights of assembly and speech, we adamantly condemn any and all acts of violence such as those seen in our capitol and on the streets of our nation earlier this year,” said a statement signed by Hazelo and Morgan Cooper, chairman and vice chairman of the Island County Republican Party, respectively.
“No matter who perpetrates such actions, they are wrong.”
The statement also said they would work toward making elections more transparent.
Washington state Sen. Ron Muzzall, a Republican, also condemned the riots.
“I think it was despicable. I think we have the right to peaceably assemble but they crossed the line and I’m a firm believer that lines were created for people to follow, and when you cross those lines you have to be held accountable,” Muzzall said Thursday.
Asked if he believes there is evidence of widespread voter fraud, Muzzall said he could only speak for Washington state, but not the rest of the country.
“I have full confidence in our secretary of state,” he said. “While there may be some anomalies, I can’t see any numbers that impacted the outcome.”
“As far as nationally, I can’t speak to other states. Each state does things differently,” he said.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, a Democrat, sent out an email about the riots to Island County elected officials and department heads.
“Those who subscribe to these dangerous anti-democratic ideas have a foothold in communities throughout the country, even here,” he wrote.
“I encourage you to consider how the faithful execution of your duties advances the rule of law and the preservation of our system of government.
“I also encourage you to share your thoughts with your employees. Reinforcing these fundamental ideas is one means of protecting the republic from the corrosive ideas that led to today’s unthinkable acts.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat whose constituents include those in Island County, was in his office in Washington, D.C. Wednesday. His office is probably the furthest away from the Capitol building, but he was nonetheless told to shelter in place.
Larsen said he has asked for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment, declaring the president unfit for duty. He said he is willing to vote for impeachment after Wednesday’s events.
Larsen said he considers the rioters to be domestic terrorists.
“I’m saddened by the disrespect the people showed not just to the building itself, which is a great symbol of democracy, but I’m also saddened by disrespect of the constitution and continuing to believe the lies the president is telling,” Larsen said Thursday.
“I will always be willing to vote for impeachment if it’s necessary. No member in Congress wants to vote for impeachment, but you get to a point where you have to.”
When asked what he would tell local supporters of the president who believe Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, Larsen did not mince words.
“They’re wrong,” he said.
“Flat out they are wrong in believing the president’s lies, and they need to come around to support the Constitution.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Jan. 8 with comments from leaders of the Island County Republican Party, Washington state Sen. Ron Muzzall, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.