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Columns Main Slider Tom Baxter

Sheep in wolves’ clothing head up the docket in riot’s aftermath, as the real wolves lurk

By Tom Baxter

Who were those rioters who so unceremoniously ripped Georgia’s stunning election off the top of front pages last week?

Watching them on television from the safety of the White House, President Donald Trump is said to have complained that the Capitol invaders looked “low-class,” although he was thrilled by what they were doing. In fact, this was a relatively well-heeled crowd.

Many stayed in expensive hotels, and a few even arrived by chartered plane. That guy in the buffalo-horn outfit is demanding to be fed organic food at his detention center, according to his mother. There were corporate executives, some of whom have already been fired, and retired military officers who could go to prison for what they did last week. This mob was not the 1 percent, but a lot of it was the small town and suburban 10 percent.

Like every other riot I’ve witnessed, there was a core group of instigators and hot heads which spearheaded the assault. Some of them smoked joints,
pissed on the the marble floors and smeared excrement on the walls. Some appeared bent on much, much worse.

Yet photographs and videos of the intruders on the Senate floor and in the Rotunda make it plain that many of the intruders came armed only with their Go-Pros and tricked-up camera phones. They seemed no worse than stereotypical Ugly American tourists, smugly ignoring the No Photographs signs in some European museum.

These were the chumps, the sheep in wolves’ clothing. They got swept up in the moment and went along for the wild ride, but intended only to stand on the sideline, as Roseanne Boyland of Kennesaw promised her family she would do. These are the people who have already paid, and undoubtedly will pay, the heaviest price for what they did last week.

“I put my arm underneath her and was pulling her out and then another guy fell on top of her, and another guy was just walking [on top of her],” her friend Justin Winchell told Channel 46 after Boyland’s death. “There were people stacked 2-3 deep…I mean there were people just crushed.”

Maybe there were some left-wing provocateurs, like the right-wing provocateurs who were identified at riots after the death of George Floyd. Conservative social media reached that conclusion immediately. Maybe there also were some agents of foreign countries, more adept in snatching what was really valuable than that Florida man who was photographed walking off with a lectern.

But this has to be the most thoroughly photographed and documented riot in history, and when it comes to prosecution, there are easy pickings among the true believers. Cleveland Meredith, a former Smyrna car wash owner and Q Anon follower, assured a family member that law enforcement knew he was “harmless” because he’d been on their radar for a while. Then, according to the federal charging document, he texted something about putting a bullet in Nancy Pelosi’s head and drove to Washington with two firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his truck.

Some of those who mugged for the cameras and posted themselves online quickly recanted. Josiah Colt, who made himself famous climbing down from the Senate balcony in combat gear, posted a statement saying he’d brought shame on himself, that he’d gotten caught up in the moment, and that he’d warned other rioters about “stealing stuff.” This should all be taken into account at his sentencing hearing.

Where there are sheep there are also wolves. The great danger in coming days comes from the insurrectionists who haven’t incriminated themselves. Six people have died as a result of the riot, the latest being Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, the son of a former Senate sergeant-at-arms, who committed suicide Saturday. This will be a fortunate country if these are the insurrection’s only casualties.

 

*Photo acquired from @Jayyorkman via Twitter.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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4 Comments

  1. Charles McNair January 12, 2021 9:43 am

    Great column, Tom. As ever. Stay safe! cReport

    Reply
  2. Dana F. Blankenhorn January 12, 2021 11:40 am

    I want to know how Georgia businesses react to this over the next weeks and months.

    They have been Republican for ages.

    But many say the Republican failure to take any action against this goes beyond the pale. Will they pull back from the party, or pretend that the Republicans they support aren’t like this when so many clearly are?

    I think Saporta Report is in excellent position to follow this part of the story as it develops. I’ll stay on top of it as well at InvestorPlace.Report

    Reply
  3. Lynda Idleman January 13, 2021 9:55 am

    I too marveled at the number of people who looked like they were simply sightseers. What did they think they were doing!? Even if they were not part of the core group of instigators, they should have been or should be charged with trespassing.Report

    Reply
  4. Bailey Barash January 16, 2021 10:32 pm

    Actions speak louder than words, before, during and after the insurrection. Those who went to Washington all had the choice of whether to march to the Capitol; those who marched to the Capitol all had the choice of whether to storm and break into the Capitol. Those who chose to break into the Capitol are guilty of insurrection.Report

    Reply

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