Several Potter County residents made the trip to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday where thousands gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump.
Trump, who lost the 2020 election to former Vice President Joe Biden, has repeatedly disputed election results without any evidence and encouraged his supporters to attend a rally on Jan. 6 as congress was set to confirm that Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
The day turned ugly when a mob of people stormed the Capitol, pushed past security and entered the building, forcing congress to evacuate as the counting of the electoral votes were debated.
Cheryl Main, owner of Larry’s Sport Center in Galeton, said many people here were interested in making the trip to support Trump so they sponsored a bus so people could attend whether they had money to go or not. The bus left Coudersport around 3 a.m. and contained about 50 people from Potter, McKean and Tioga counties, as well as some from New York and surrounding areas.
Main said when they arrived in D.C., people were already pouring in. Because of Potter County’s Trump Thunder ride over the summer, they were in contact with the Bikers for Trump organization. They were able to be in an area that was guarded by the secret service, she said, and listen to Trump’s speech.
Main didn’t think his speech incited any violence, but rather encouraged his supporters to peacefully protest at the Capitol.
“They’re saying that he incited the violence, but there was no tone like that. We were all right there,” Main said.
She said the march took place over several streets and proud patriots were walking at a normal pace and taking pictures. People were singing the National Anthem and the overal atmosphere was upbeat.
The group that Main was with was across the street from the Capitol when they stopped for lunch. While in line, they noticed someone acting strange. Main asked her what was wrong and the lady told them her mom had called and told her she saw on the news that there were bombs.
Later, someone in their group got a call from someone and they learned the Capitol had been overtaken. Then they saw a flare that indicated the Capitol was in distress, she said.
“But it was after it was already on the news, which was strange to us. Then we start seeing cop cars coming out of everywhere,” Main said.
She said there were four people on the bus who were on the steps of the Capitol “when things were going down,” and they were pepper sprayed. Main said no one on their bus was inside the capitol and all returned safely.
Their bus was planned to leave at 3 p.m. that day, so around 2:30 they started to head back.
“I’m glad I was there, because when you watch the news and what they're saying, when you were there, you have a better idea of what is happening. And they’re calling it a ‘mob,’ well if we didn’t even know anything was going on, it certainly wasn’t that,” Main said.
Karen Cahilly, chair of the Potter County Republican Committee said she did not go to Washington, D.C. said she didn’t condone the violence that occurred at the Capitol.
“We can have so many protests, riots and destruction going on all summer long and I don't remember hearing the level of outrage” as what has been seen since Wednesday, she said.
“Why is one more egregious than the other when you have innocent store owners dying, fires and destruction of whole cities,” she asked. “I don’t find any one of them acceptable.”