Tri-Stater Shares Experience at Capitol Hill Protest

The Dubois County man attended the Washington, D.C. protest Wednesday, and though he was in the far back of the crowd away from the Capitol building, he was hit with tear gas near the night's end.

Posted: Jan 7, 2021 11:30 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2021 8:52 AM

Colby Stafford wasn't initially planning on attending Wednesday's Capitol Hill protest. It was a last-minute decision.

Little did he know, he would witness first-hand, one of the most defining days in modern American history.

He traveled from his Dubois County, Indiana home to Washington, D.C. Sunday night.

"We were at the ellipse around 6:00 a.m. [waiting] all day and then we were waiting for the President to talk," Stafford said.

He was among thousands eager to have their voices heard in support of President Trump and in opposition of November's election results.

"After the President talked, we just marched down towards the Capitol."

But in an instant, protest turned to chaos.

"I'm way back in the crowd, we don't know what's going on except some people are coming up from the front where all that was happening," Stafford said. "They were getting tear gassed or pepper sprayed, whatever was happening -- yeah it was pretty wild."

While Stafford was nowhere near the Capitol doors early on in the day, he said after the National Guard showed up, he was actually hit by tear gas as troops tried to clear everyone away before 6:00 pm curfew set in.

And in all the chaos, one thing weighs heavily not only for Stafford, but also many around the country and back home in the Tri-State.

"The fact that the protesters stormed through the building is very surprising to a lot of people who have been in the Capitol and people who are around Capitol Hill and official Washington," said Matthew Hanka, associate professor of political science at the University of Southern Indiana.

He once lived in D.C. and said Capitol Police should have been better prepared.

"Washington D.C. is very heavy in law enforcement in terms of the number of law enforcement officers per capita, it's huge," Hanka said. "For them not to see this or expect it is very surprising and very disappointing."

Stafford said while he expected some groups considered to be extreme to show up, he did not expect scenes of violence and disorder to unfold.

"We had been hearing stuff that potential hate groups could be in with us; before we were getting sent things like 'watch out for this and this'," Stafford said. "99% of people there were there just to protest peacefully. It's that small few that ruin it for the rest."

He believes despite what happened, fellow supporters of President Trump do not and will not feel disimpassioned moving forward.

"The whole movement of "America First" has already started," Stafford said. "And it's not going to die with Donald Trump."

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