*This story has been updated to include a statement from the Howard County Democratic chairwoman.* 

Local residents and party officials strongly condemned the violence and actions of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday in hopes to halt the transition of power of President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

The chaos resulted in four deaths – one from being shot by police and three others due to “medical emergencies” – caused some of the nation’s elected representatives to crouch under desks and don gas masks while police futilely tried to barricade the building and delayed, but didn’t stop the finalization of Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump in last November’s election.

Dave Heilman, who considers himself to be “basically a Republican” but doesn’t always vote Republican and does not support Trump, said today’s politics focuses too much on hate.

“We have too many people who are just totally biased, they can’t see the other point of view, and that’s creating the issues, and you saw that yesterday [Wednesday],” he said.

Joshua King, a left-leaning libertarian who is neither pro-Democrat nor pro-Republican, said he was disgusted to see the Confederate flag being carried in the Capitol.

“That is the flag of a treasonous, racist bunch of folks that were defeated,” he said. “Just seeing that fly in our nation’s capital is proof that racism and ignorance is alive and well and thriving and being fueled today. I’m very sad about that.”

A large portion of Wednesday’s violence can be attributed to the false notion that widespread voter fraud was committed against Trump in the general election and that he actually won a second term – claims that have been pushed by both the president and Republicans for weeks.

An unscientific Tribune poll asking if one believed there was widespread voter fraud in November’s election found that 43% of the nearly 300 who participated in the poll believed that there was. The county overwhelmingly voted for Trump in November by a 30-point margin.

Some Republicans, including Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, were planning on objecting to the Electoral College certification of some states but reversed course after Wednesday’s violence.

Despite the change of mind of Braun and others, Nicole Parry, of Kokomo, who supported Biden, said Trump and other politicians’ misinformation about the election are responsible for the events that transpired Wednesday, and called the ability of the rioters to storm the Capitol a result of “white supremacy.”

“He and every single other congressperson who stood against the will of the majority of Americans should hand in their resignations ... If those had been Black Lives Matter protesters, the Capitol would’ve been covered in blood,” she said.

King said he doesn’t blame Trump supporters, though. Instead, he blames a Republican Party that has an increasing amount of representatives and supporters who believe in and promote conspiracy theories.

“I hope born out of this chaos arises something that looks more like the Party of Lincoln that they think they are but are not and haven’t been for a long time,” he said.

“There are people who have deleted their Facebook or don’t come to family gatherings because their loved ones are either Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “Those party lines should never cross in between the love we have for each other. I think everyone is tired of people saying that ... What I think it comes down to is that we have to get money and power out of politics.”

For Josh Layton, though, the events of Wednesday were inevitable.

Layton, of Kokomo, is an administrator of the popular conservative Kokomo Brief Facebook page that has often posted in support of Trump’s mission to overturn his loss.

“January 6th shined a bright light into two very dark corners of our Republic. In one corner, we have a political elite that are shielded from any accountability whatsoever while easily circumventing laws that would guarantee the average American incarceration. Fraud, deception, blackmail, money laundering, bribery – it’s nothing more than an average day to many of these people. And why not, when you have a news media from top to bottom helping them hide it?

“In the other corner, we have just under half of the American population demanding justice, only to find their voices silenced time and time again. So how do I feel about January 6th? My feelings are irrelevant. I knew this day was coming and stated it repeatedly to anyone willing to listen. The fact is, if someone doesn’t start holding these criminal politicians accountable, sadly, January 6th is nothing compared to what we will see in the future.”

LOCAL PARTY HEADS REACT

Both chairwomen of the local Republican and Democrat parties spoke out against the violence. 

County Democratic Chairwoman Dara Johnson had harsh words for Trump and Republicans. Johnson, who is Black, said in a statement posted on the party's Facebook page, said she spent a good part of Wednesday having to explain to her 11-year-old-son why armed rioters were able to "waltz" into the Capitol building "when I can’t even guarantee that he can safely walk to the store and back for a snack." 

"We’ve watched the leaders of the Republican Party sow seeds of hate for the past 4 years and now we’re all forced to harvest them," Johnson said. "The blame lies on the shoulders of Republicans at every level, whether explicit or complicit in their support of President Trump.
 
"To the Republicans I say, save your breath, your call to take the high road is hypocritical and 1,141 days late."

Howard County GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Jack said she too was “saddened” by what transpired Wednesday.

Jack said she is against “all acts of violence” that occurred Wednesday at the Capitol building, including the “rioting, looting and violence” that occurred in various major cities over the last couple of months, and encouraged Republicans to respect Biden’s win.

“I recognize that there are very passionate opinions and perspectives on various sides of this issue and about the political arena in general at this time, so I also continue to pray and hope for an amicable resolution to the differences we currently face as a nation and that calmer heads and thoughts prevail in order to lead us unitedly forward toward our common goals,” Jack said in an emailed statement to the Tribune.

“I have heard enough ‘Not My President’ to last a lifetime. I thought it was disrespectful when it was said about President Trump and I would say it would be just as disrespectful for anyone to say it about President-elect Biden. I urge my fellow Republicans to do better than has been shown to us over the last four years.”

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich

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