The Capitol riots resulted in the rare occasion when local political committees agree. Marshall Keene, local Republican committee chairman, and Jim Restel, local Democratic committee chairman, both condemned the riots.
Speaking in his role as chairman, Keene stated via email that he condemns the violence and law-breaking “in the strongest possible terms.”
“All Americans have the freedom to assemble peacefully and legally. What should have been a clear demonstration of support for the President was overshadowed by acts of violence,” he said. “Thank you to the law-abiding citizens who exercised their right to assemble peacefully and God Bless all Law Enforcement.”
Restel also condemned the riot, saying “we feel that there is absolutely no place for violence of this type for a legitimate election” and “there are legal and some more civil ways of doing it - of declaring your feelings.”
The local Republican and Democratic chairs, however, remain at an impasse over the election’s legitimacy as Keene explained some Culpeper Republican Committee members traveled to Washington DC on Jan. 6 “to continue to show support for President Trump and express their disdain for the apparent voter fraud that has infiltrated our election process throughout the country.”
No one from Culpeper has been criminally charged stemming from the riots and several residents say they participated in the “Save America Rally” but not the Capitol breach.
As the riot unfolded on television, mayoral candidate and Councilman Jon Russell made a post to his personal Facebook page stating: “Patriots have breached the barricades at the U.S. Capitol.” While Russell said he was "OK with them going up to the steps of the Capitol - getting a picture or whatever," the post was deleted because he disapproved of the forced entry into the building.
Russell explained he was “watching in real-time” and “had no anticipation that they were going to go inside the building and wreak havoc like that.”
“That’s not something I would promote or encourage,” he said. “I thought they would just run up the stairs and do the Rocky thing at the top of the stairs. I didn’t envision where that was going.”
While he deleted the post to avoid misinterpretation, he said someone took a screenshot and sent it to local “liberal activists.”
“Because I announced for mayor, they wanted to throw me off message,” he said.
In retrospect, Russell said “I think everyone who showed up for the rally are most definitely patriots” but “the problem is when they went into breaking in the building and started bashing windows and pushing on police. At that point it became illegal, it became problematic. And that wasn’t the intent of the rally itself.”
Several residents supported Russell during a Town Council meeting, sharing general sentiments that it would be inappropriate to punish him for supporting Trump.
While Democratic committee members have spoken out against Russell’s post, Restel said the committee is not calling for his resignation but the organization condemns the post.
Regarding Russell’s explanation, Restel said that “from a layman’s point of view, breaching the barricades means you have gone over a barricade that you’re not supposed to go beyond” and “if Jon Russell wants to differentiate...that’s up to Jon Russell.”
“You can break out Merriam's-Webster [dictionary]...a barricade is a barricade - you have breached it. Trying to come up with another phraseology - ‘well, you know, that really wasn’t what I meant’ or ‘there’s other types of barricades and then there’s inside, outside’ - those are differentiations,” Restel said.
A news release approved by the entire town council - including Russell - and Mayor Michael Olinger states that “we want to make it clear that we do not condone the actions displayed at the Capitol.”
“We do not condone those who participated in the violence...We are fully aware of the impact of words chosen by those in leadership positions, as well as the impact of words that go unsaid. Now is the time for Culpeper’s elected officials and community leaders to stand strong and show other communities what it looks like to work together in the face of adversity,” the news release says.
The release adds that “what we saw was an attack against the democratic election process that included violence, vandalism, and disregard for human life and safety.”
“It showcases the long journey we still face as a nation, both in terms of bridging political divides and addressing racial and social inequalities,” the release states. “As the Council of Culpeper, we recognize that we cannot condone words that further divide and reiterate inequalities. Despite the frustration and disappointment we collectively feel, the Council is hopeful that it will motivate all of us to stand together and protect our democratic ideals, regardless of political party.”
Another elected official, Sheriff Scott Jenkins, stated via a Facebook post that Jan. 6 “was a sad day in Washington.”
“Riots were wrong in 2020 and riots are wrong now. Today I remind my children, as we give a prayer of thanks, that we continue to live in the greatest country the world has ever seen. America will weather this storm,” Jenkins said. “By staying true to our founding principles, I am confident our brightest days are ahead. I hope you’ll join me in praying that God continues to bless these United States of America.”
The day after the riot, Republican Virginia Del. Nick Freitas said “I would no more have stormed the Capitol yesterday than I would have thrown a brick through a window in Richmond or Seattle” but “I will not feign surprise when one group of people adopts the tactics of another group when they perceive them to be effective.”
“What angers me the most, is that the actions of those who engage in such tactics, reinforces that a large component of the population have decided that violence is the best way to adjudicate problems,” he said. “This will inevitably lead to both sides engaging in greater political tribalism and cults of personality. The end result being more government control and intervention at the expense of individual liberty and freedom.”
To Democrats, Freitas said they should “consider the consequences of convincing millions of otherwise peaceful people that force and coercion, whether instituted by a rioter or by a government, is an appropriate way to achieve justice, peace, and prosperity.” Although he said Republicans know election fraud exists, if they believe fraud is the only reason for the results, then “I would argue that we are deluding ourselves.”
The day of the riot, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7th) tweeted out an FBI code that defines terrorist acts as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Spanberger later co-sponsored the articles of impeachment filed against Trump for his alleged role in the Capitol riots. Before that, she encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.
She said Trump “provoked an insurrection,” an act that followed “months of fomenting anger and division and trafficking in conspiracy theories meant to maintain his grasp on power.”
“Make no mistake — the extremists we saw today are domestic terrorists. They are using violence to thwart our democracy and the will of the people,” Spanberger said.