by Heidi L. Everett
On Jan. 6, 2021, a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving five people dead and 140 law enforcement officers injured. St. Joseph resident Brad Nolden and his family were there.
“Two days before, Trump was saying come to this rally,” Nolden said. “When he asked that, it was just a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I figured if we went there, Trump would be president again.”
So Nolden, his wife, Phatcharin, and their 12-year-old daughter, Leana, packed up the car – including their “really big” Trump flag – and drove 17 hours to Washington D.C. to stay at a hotel walking distance to the rally.
“I thought it was going to be a celebration, and it was. People were so happy,” he said. “We walked down to the rally, and everybody was super happy.”
Nolden said people were shouting “freedom” and “U.S.A.”
“It was a cool thing to go. It was unreal,” he said.
While the rally was peaceful in the morning as crowds gathered outside the White House, by 1 p.m. the rally turned riotous. Mobs made their way to the U.S. Capitol where certification of the 2020 election results was happening.
The mob broke through barricades around the Capitol. By 1:30 p.m., the mob overtook Capitol police, and by 2:15 p.m. insurgents broke through windows and doors of the Capitol building. Members of the House and Senate were evacuated.
At the same time, pipe bombs were found at the national committee headquarters of both the Democrats and Republicans.
When the mob broke into the Capitol building, the Nolden family was several blocks away getting something to eat, he said. They learned of the break-in on their walk back to the rally.
“By the time we got back down there, most of the patriots were walking back,” Nolden said. “We got right up there, but you still knew people had broke(n) in. We thought something else was going to happen.”
That night at the hotel, Nolden said they received emergency broadcast messages on their phones that a curfew was in effect and streets were closed.
“You could see the cops out on the street. We couldn’t even go outside the hotel doors to have a cigarette,” he said. “I was swearing at the cops. It was just so wrong.”
A majority of members of the House of Representatives also believe events that unfolded Jan. 6 were wrong.
On May 20, the House voted to create an independent commission to investigate the Capitol assault by a vote of 252-to-175, with 35 Republicans voting in favor of the commission. The bipartisan commission would include 10 experts to investigate the causes of the attack, security shortcomings and intelligence information leading up to Jan. 6.
At the time of this writing, the Senate had yet to vote on the formation of a commission to investigate the violent, historic moment; however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came out against it, stating current investigations by other government agencies, including the FBI, are sufficient.
A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey of 1,945 registered voters conducted from May 19-20 shows voters also are split on whether Congress should launch its own investigation into the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Fifty-two percent of respondents say the riot warrants a congressional investigation. Conversely, 48 percent believe the current FBI investigations into the attack are sufficient.
Nolden prefers to do his own research. He said he doesn’t trust media, although he reached out to the Newsleader to share his story. He also was interviewed by a Swedish media outlet while in D.C. and is quick to share the footage.
“Censorship, if that doesn’t wake people up,” he said. “I want to see both sides of the story. You go down rabbit holes for yourself, and you learn.”
For his part, Nolden tends to rely on information from known right-wing conspiracy groups who propagate unfounded information. For example, he doesn’t believe the insurgents who stormed the Capitol were Trump supporters. He also believes aliens built the pyramids in Egypt. “Even with elephants, people couldn’t move rocks that size,” he said.
Regardless of who spearheads an investigation into the attack on our democratic process, an independent bipartisan review and report should establish a detailed historical record of what happened, how events came to pass and who was involved in the attacks at the very least to set the record straight.
At this time, 494 people have been charged in federal court in the District of Columbia related to crimes committed that day at the U.S. Capitol, including three people from Minnesota, according to the Justice Department website.
Back home in St. Joseph, Nolden proudly waves flags in his front yard, including his large Trump flag and the non-family friendly “F— Biden” flag.
“There’s a lot of evil people out there,” Nolden said. “We were happy we went to stand up for our country.”