Six Bangor-area Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump condemned the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, but none squarely blamed Trump for inciting the mob, as some elected Republicans have.
Those interviewed all lamented Wednesday’s violence, but there was no consensus on who was responsible or even on whether the 2020 election was fair. No Republicans said they were distancing themselves from their party, and Wednesday’s events didn’t change their views of Trump. No one supported moves to impeach him a second time.
Furniture, Mattresses and More Owner Kathy Harvey had become engulfed in local controversy in the days before Wednesday’s session of Congress after she requested sweatshirts featuring the insignia of the far-right group the Proud Boys for a group traveling to Washington, D.C.
While she has supported Trump for his tax policies and agreed with recounts of the 2020 presidential vote, Harvey said she was disgusted by what had occurred at the Capitol. Two of her children had attended the accompanying “Stop the Steal” protests, though she said they didn’t take part in the violence.
“Biden is now [going to be] president, and we need to move on,” Harvey said. “You honor and pray for your president, no matter who they are.”
Ed Youngblood, a former state senator from Brewer, said there are likely to be people perpetrating violence at any political gathering, even peaceful ones.
Youngblood — who said he had supported Trump “to a small degree” throughout his presidency while often criticizing him — said he didn’t hold the president directly responsible for the violence, which followed a rally at which Trump called on Vice President Mike Pence to block certification of the electoral votes confirming Joe Biden’s victory.
Heightened rhetoric from Trump and political leaders including Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had escalated political tensions in the country, Youngblood said.
“They have to take a leadership position. It can’t be done by one party and not the other,” he said. “Stop doing things that are aggravating people.”
Lisa York of Dixmont, acting president of the Maine Federation of Republican Women, said she had little to say about an event she had not attended, other than that it should not have occurred.
“It’s a terrible situation that I do not support, no matter who was involved,” York said.
Jennifer DeGroff of Bangor didn’t closely follow rioters’ actions on Wednesday, but said they went “way beyond what is appropriate behavior.”
“I can imagine going and protesting. I cannot imagine not walking away when people start acting like that,” said DeGroff, a former Bangor School Committee member who has twice voted for Trump even though she’s a registered Democrat. “I think that people need to be arrested for the appropriate charges.”
DeGroff said she took particular issue with rioters who brought the Confederate flag inside the Capitol.
“When I see someone with a Confederate flag I do not think there’s a patriot,” she said. “I think that’s a problem.”
John Hiatt, who serves on the Bangor School Committee and is the Penobscot County treasurer, said he was “shocked and upset” by what he saw of the riots.
“Had the Black Lives Matter protesters come to the Capitol, I think police I would have been a lot more heavy-handed than they were yesterday, and the National Guard would’ve probably come quickly,” he said.
As a lifelong Republican, Hiatt said he hopes his party returns to normal and accepts the result of what he thinks was a fair election.
“Some of these Trump people are trying to revise history to make it seem like there was no Republican Party before Trump,” he said. “And that’s pretty scary.”
Brett Baber of Dedham — a one-time Republican state Senate candidate — said Wednesday’s events were “fundamentally at odds” with the rule of law and a symbol of increased radicalization in America on the left and right.
The events were the culmination of efforts to undermine the presidency under both Barack Obama and Trump, Baber said. Trump’s incitement of people to keep Congress from certifying the 2020 election results contributed to the chaos just as much as what he described as Democratic attacks on Trump because of his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Until there is broad support for the institution of the presidency, and our presidents respect the sacred office they hold, we will continue this descent toward anarchy,” Baber said.
Like many Republicans, Baber saw Vice President Mike Pence as a stabilizing force through Wednesday’s tumult.
“I am grateful that Vice President Pence had the moral courage to tell the emperor that he had no clothes,” Baber said. “We need more leadership like the vice president’s.”