A Winfield man who participated in the election protest last week in Washington, D.C., said he did not think the President incited the violent mob that stormed the Capitol, and that he did not know about the attack on the building until after he’d left the demonstration.
A devoted Trump supporter, Page Butler, 47, said he was determined to attend the rally. Despite dozens of failed court cases and no proof of widespread election fraud, Page said he thinks the election was stolen.
One example, he said, are questions about the final count of the Georgia vote stemming from a live-action video shown during a hearing held by the Georgia Legislature. (Fact checking organizations have reported that claims about the video showing illegal activity are false.)
Butler said his questioning of the election is about protecting the First Amendment, everyone’s right to free speech, including the right to have one’s vote counted.
”You have the right to petition the government,” he said. “I don’t care who the winner of the election was; I care that whoever the winner was won fairly.”
When Butler heard about the planned march to the Capitol to protest the Electoral College vote, he was determined to go “to be part of history,” he said.
Congress could have taken their allotted 10 days to certify the vote to look more closely at the evidence that he believes suggest fraud by people running elections.
About the trip to Washington, Butler said, “I can only tell you what I saw. Everything else is opinion.”
He and a couple of friends drove to Washington, arriving there on Jan. 5. They visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. The people they met as they walked around were singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and waving American flags.
At one point, Butler said, he started walking down a street and was stopped by a Secret Service officer.
“He was very polite but very forceful” when he told Butler he could not go down that street.
On Jan. 6, Butler and his friends got to the Ellipse early, with their backpacks, food, gloves and head warmers.
“It was very, very cold,” Butler said more than once as he told his story.
Secret Service officers respectfully searched everybody, told them there was no parking nearby, no flags, no backpacks. Butler ended up parking more than a mile and a half away from the Ellipse.
President Trump was more than an hour late for giving his speech, so the crowd heard from Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and others while they waited, Butler said.
By the time President Trump started speaking, Congress had already started deliberating. The president spoke for more than an hour, Butler said.
“It was pretty boring. It seemed like they were trying to keep us there.”
According to Butler, the president said nothing incendiary.
“He was not trying to rile people up. … There was no incitement at all. I’ll stand by that 100 percent.”
As Butler and his friends were leaving the area, he started receiving texts from other friends asking him if he was OK. Someone asked him if he was going to be part of the coup. What coup? he said he wondered.
Walking from the Ellipse to the Capitol was like being at Arkalalah, he said. “It was so festive, so happy.”
Video on his telephone shows people laughing and smiling and talking as they walk toward the Capitol. Several are carrying signs saying “Jesus loves you” and other Christian messages.
He said he heard no calls for violence.
At the Capitol steps, he along with many others started climbing the steps. Some people climbed the walls. People were waving flags, singing the national anthem. The police were standing there, not saying anything, he said, not telling anybody to stop doing anything.
Watching them, he wondered what he would do if they started to shoot. He thought, “All I’m doing now is being cold. I’m willing to die for the truth.”
Where he was standing, he was never aware of any problems inside the Capitol. The police never made any kind of announcement to let the crowd know what was going on.
As had been the case at the Ellipse, he said, there was no cell phone service for those standing outside the Capitol. He said the only cell phone message that came through was the announcement of the 6 p.m. curfew imposed by the D.C. mayor.
Butler said he and his friends left the steps at 5 p.m. because of the curfew. They knew nothing of the melee inside the building until they were on the road back to Kansas.
Butler said he does not condone the violence that took place inside the Capitol. Like other Trump defenders, Butler mentioned rumors that Antifa people dressed like Trump supporters had been brought in to start trouble. Fact checkers have said claims of Antifa instigation lack proof, and that known figures on the political right were among those who publicly showcased their participation in the riot.
Butler said he was very distressed by the shooting of the unarmed woman veteran as she jumped through a broken window in a door that led farther into the building.
“Why did the officer kill her? She was unarmed. She was just jumping through a window. I think that is the real story,” Butler said.
Butler said he has been called a conspiracy theorist, but his definition for that is someone who questions what doesn’t seem right, who searches for the truth.
“You don’t have to know the truth to know you’re being lied to,” he said.