Grays Harbor resident Phillip Pine took a trip to Washington, D.C., last week to attend the rally for President Trump. Pine, the former Grays Harbor College wrestling coach and brother of Republican County Commissioner Kevin Pine, took the time to share his first-hand account of what he witnessed over two days in the nation’s capital.
Pine arrived in D.C. Monday afternoon and spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday listening to speeches at the Freedom Plaza before marching toward the Capitol building before a mob entered the site on Wednesday afternoon, causing a delay in the Electoral College vote and members of Congress to seek safe harbor.
Q: Why did you attend?
A: I went there because, like a lot of other people, I’ve seen enough of what I consider evidence of election fraud. All the battleground states stop counting around midnight, there were hundreds and hundreds of affidavits and the courts and legislatures wouldn’t see it, they just dismissed them. So we saw a failure from the judicial system, a failure from the political side of the legislative system and it was like, ‘What else can we do?’ So my thing was I’m going to go there and be part of something, and the speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday were about letting them know we were here. I listened to almost every single speech for two days and there was nothing inciting anyone. It was all positive and about patriotism. There was nothing about attacking the Capitol. It was ‘let’s march to the Capitol so when they are voting on this let them know we are here, peacefully.’ It was just a respectful and peaceful crowd.
Q: Regarding your thoughts on the failures of the judicial system, there were multiple legal challenges that were considered by the courts, including the Supreme Court, and nearly all have failed. What do you make of that?
A: I agree with that. they almost all failed. But the crowd that was there, they felt that the courts should have at least looked at the evidence. From our perception, the court didn’t think it worthy enough to go to court and we felt it should’ve been. … If it would have gone to court and the courts determined (allegations of voter fraud) could be explained rationally then we would’ve been ok with that. But it never went to court. None of the courts looked at it and the evidence was never presented in court.
The bar you have to meet to go to court isn’t as great to the one you have to win or lose a court case. You had hundreds of people signing affidavits saying, ‘Hey, we saw things that were not right.’ A few of them you think it was just sour grapes, but there was just so many of them you would’ve thought a rational person would think the courts should take a look at this, but it never happened. So that’s why we felt the court system had failed.
Q: What estimates can you provide regarding the size of the crowd at the rally?
A: I was close to the action, and it was packed. … You can see (in the photos provided) the crowd size. It was all the way down the avenue and there were two full avenues leading into the capital that was that packed. I’ve been too Ohio State (college football) games and there’d be 100,000 inside the stadium and 150,000 outside the stadium — and this dwarfed that. I’m not sure if it was a million. I have a friend that is with the Kentucky GOP and they were there and their estimate was 1.5 million. I’m not sure if that is accurate, but it was massive. It was like being in a crowded elevator for blocks and blocks and blocks.
Q: Take me through your experience leading up to and during the riot.
A: About a half-hour into the march, I was about a half-hour away from the Capitol and when the news came out there was a breach, everybody was aghast that they heard that because those were never a part of the speeches or the talks for the two-and-a-half days before that I was there.
Q: Can you elaborate on the mood of the crowd near you?
A: They were dismayed. All I can speak for is what I saw, and the people around me were dismayed that happened, as I was, because that was not the purpose of this. The people that broke in, whether it was bad actor Trump people or Antifa people, they should be prosecuted no matter who they are. But I never witnessed any of that. The whole time I was there it was a peaceful, respectful crowd. There was no looting, no cop cars being overturned, no buildings being burned. It was just a law-abiding crowd. Very positive and very friendly. People of all ages. Children and old. There were gay groups there, black groups there, Chinese groups there. People from all over the spectrum were there. It was just a respectful crowd and when we heard about the breaches, we couldn’t believe it.
I saw some white smoke go off when I was up by the scaffolding and I saw some Capitol police come out of the top steps to push people back and they all dispersed. It wasn’t like they were fighting with them. (The protesters) all moved back. I saw zero violence. I know what happened and I’ve seen video of it and what my takeaway of it is it was a huge crowd, not a masked crowd. Some people were wearing N-95 masks, but a very small percent. And the people that attacked the Capitol, most of those people were geared up. I talked to other people that were witness to that and said they were wearing helmets, facemasks, knee pads and elbow pads on. They didn’t fit in with the crowd. So I don’t know if they were just bad Trump people there playing on that or Antifa provocateurs, but that was not what I witnessed the whole time I was there.
Q: When the building was being breached, did you see crowds rushing the Capitol building?
A: Trump was talking, and I’ve heard him speak a number of times, and I left to use the restroom as there were no port-a-potties set up. … I went to the Ronald Reagan building about 20 minutes into Trump’s speech and when I joined back, the march was already going on. From what I could see, because it was slightly uphill, it looked like people had already reached the Capitol while Trump was still speaking. … It was jam-packed. I got to within probably about 1,000 feet or so of the Capitol … so if people were pushing forward, there was nowhere to go.
Q: When you were listening to President Trump’s speech, did you get a sense that he was inciting the crowd?
A: There was no incitement. (The speech) was about that they are voting and let Congress know you are here and be peaceful. … I heard 15-20 speakers and not one person I heard was talking about violence or attacking the Capitol. That’s why when we heard about the breach, we were surprised. It was not the type of crowd that would go out and destroy things. Obviously, there were people there that did that and whoever they were, they should be prosecuted. But all I saw was 100% peaceful and respectful crowd the entire time.
Q: Did you see any counter-protesters or Antifa/BLM type of groups while there?
A: When I first arrived I was told by people that were there a month-and-a-half before to be on the lookout for Antifa posing as Trump people because they’d beat up people walking back to the hotel. They were there to sow discord and create mayhem, but I never saw any of that. There was one person taking pictures of me on the street and I was told they were Antifa and they were going to try to dox me and send pictures to my employer to get me fired, but I’m retired so I didn’t care.
Q: As things started dying down, when did you leave and how did the crowd disperse?
A: I got to the Capitol around 1:30 and somewhere around 2 o’clock I heard the Capitol was being breached and at around 3:30 p.m. a message came out that Trump told everyone to go home, and everyone started going home. I’m not saying everyone did that, but I was out of the Capitol and back at my hotel room around 4 p.m. He said, ‘Everyone leave peacefully and go home.’ … My firsthand account was 3:30ish, Trump said to go home and I left the Capitol and there was a big exodus at that point. I’m sure some people stayed there, but from what I saw, most people were leaving.
Q: What are your thoughts on how it’s being covered in the media compared to what you saw on the ground?
A: The coverage I’ve seen, the focus has been on the break-in, which obviously is awful. But that wasn’t what was apt for most people (at the event) to do. That’s not what I witnessed. I witnessed 100% positivity and it was a great event to go to. It’s sad that somebody was shot and killed. That shouldn’t happen at all and they should prosecute those people (that rioted). … I was there. I saw what happened and it was not how the press is reporting it being an insurrectionist crowd. That was not at all the crowd I saw when I was there. … I saw no fights, I saw no arguing, I saw no hate. I just didn’t see it and it was massive. If that was the overarching theme, I would’ve seen it.
Q: It’s clear that some of the President’s supporters took part in the rioting. Do you think party leaders have a responsibility to try to prevent this from happening again in Washington D.C. or in state capitals?
A: Of course party leaders from both parties should say there should be no violence. I don’t know how often somebody has to reiterate they are against violence, I mean that’s all I’ve heard from the conservatives all summer — no violence. And this was another case of that. There was no talk of violence from any of the speakers. But people are repsonsible for their own actions. You have some idiots doing something on their own, you can’t control that. You can do your best, but you can’t stop crazy.