Iowa Trump supporter describes his experience at last week’s U.S. Capitol protest
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (WOWT) - It’s been five days since the riot at the U.S. Capitol, and questions still linger about how things escalated and why there wasn’t more police on hand.
6 News spoke with an Iowa man, Gary Leffler, who attended the protest in Washington, D.C., that day.
He said he began his Sunday morning attending church with his family.
A picture Leffler posted on Facebook on Monday evening, Jan. 4, before what turned into an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building shows him posing behind the security gates. His post reads, “There is just something so special about our Nation’s Capitol.”
Leffler has made several trips to the Capitol for other patriotic endeavors.
The West Des Moines farmer is a strong supporter of the military and law enforcement. Leffler spoke highly of his son who is an Army captain. He said that’s another reason he frequents Washington, D.C., to visit Arlington National Cemetery, just across the river in Virginia.
With all his trips to D.C. and conversations with Capitol Police prior to Jan. 6, Leffler said his first intuition as he got closer to the Capitol building was that things were not normal that day.
The day started as what he said was “the most patriotic day” of his life.
People marching eight lanes with flags wide in support of President Trump, he said, singing the National Anthem by the thousands. Worship music could also be heard from the stage awaiting the president’s arrival.
Leffler was about six rows back listening to Trump give his speech earlier that morning, which made him somewhere in the middle of the crowd as he arrived at the Capitol building.
“I watched those doors open from the inside,” Leffler said. People were basically welcomed up onto the Capitol steps that day, most he described as being in patriotic bliss, thanking police officers and chanting “American pride.”
He wasn’t expecting a riot and it seems neither were Capitol Police.
Then Leffler began to notice the men who were in tactical gear, face masks, and climbing the walls in front of him.
Leffler said he watched as certain members of the Capitol Police turned their backs from the crowd.
Three days before supporters of President Trump arrived at the Capitol, the Pentagon asked the U.S. Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. As the mob descended into the building Wednesday, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times, according to senior defense officials.
“I don’t think people realized what was happening at this time,” Leffler said tear gas began to go off and Leffler said that’s when he looked at his friend and said they needed to leave.
He said they encouraged others to leave as well as they knew things were turning bad.
Still, he said, there was never direction from police at any time to leave.
Leffler said he had no idea things had turned violent and that two people had been shot as a result until he got back to his hotel that evening and turned on the news.
He said the actions of “Antifa, right-wing extremists or whoever they were have created an injustice to Trump supporters.”
“I would say out of the 1.2 million people that were there, 99.9% of those people had no idea what was happening. In their minds, they were going up there to let our representatives know to back our president, back our country, and let them know that we felt something was terribly wrong with the election.”
Among other Trump supporters, Leffler is upset the actions of those who stormed the Capitol overshadow the peaceful protest that came before it.
Copyright 2021 WOWT. All rights reserved.