(Vernon Robison | The Progress) – One local elected official had a first-hand witness of the explosive danger in feeding charged rhetoric to a frenzied crowd.
Nevada Assemblywoman-elect Annie Black of Mesquite travelled to Washington D.C. last week to attend the National Mall rally in support of Donald Trump held on Wednesday, Jan. 6. She planned to participate in a peaceful protest. But before the end of the day, she experienced a nightmarish scene as crowds got out of control and stormed through security into the Capitol building.
“I sure wasn’t planning on what happened, that is for sure,” Black said in an interview with The Progress after she returned home last week. “It definitely wasn’t at all what I signed up in attending the event.”
Black, who has attended several Trump rallies in various places during the past year, said that she had received word that a big rally would be held in Washington on Wednesday, the day that the Congress was scheduled to vote to certify the electoral votes in the Presidential election.
“There had been some rallies and protests recently and we really wanted to go,” Black said. “But we stayed home and just watched them on TV and kind of regretted that. So this time, we decided we were going to go and support the President.”
In addition, Black said she has been averaging more than 200 emails every day from people in her Assembly district who were asking her to stand up and fight for Trump and somehow change the Nevada outcome at the state legislature.
“Unfortunately, because of the make-up of the legislature, and the fact that we don’t even go into session until February, there really wasn’t anything that I could do,” Black said. “I did ask Speaker Friarsen to call a special session. But obviously that wasn’t going to happen.”
Black spent all of Wednesday in Washington. She arrived near the Ellipse just south of the White House, where the rally was taking place, at around 8 am that morning. The gathering at the rally was huge. Black said that she could barely see the stage and the sound system wasn’t working well at that distance.
She had heard that, after his speech near the White House, the President would make another appearance later on at the Capitol. So at around 11 am, she and her group decided to just go up to the Capitol Building and wait, hoping they could get better positioning for the later speech.
When they got there, they set up amid a much smaller crowd on the east side of the Capitol.
The President spoke at about 1 pm and they listened to the speech over a loudspeaker that another attendee had hooked to his phone.
“And then, all hell broke loose,” Black said. “All of a sudden there are thousands of people. And they were just fired up. I think a lot of people got caught up in the moment and things got a little crazy. That is not an excuse for what they did. But when such a big crowd gets fired up sometimes things get pretty wild.”
Black said that she had backed away from the activity, so she couldn’t see very well when the front lines of the crowd started to break through the barricades and approach the building.
But she definitely noted a very different feel to the crowd from what she had experienced near the Ellipse earlier in the day.
“It was just a different mixture of people that came there,” Black said. “When the influx of people started to arrive I remember noting that there were people walking around with gas masks and helmets. There were people with American flags that were letting them drag on the ground. It was just a different vibe.”
Black said that she witnessed a lot of people in the crowd who were trying to keep things from becoming destructive and violent.
“When stuff really started to hit the fan, there were a lot of people there who were shouting saying, ‘They’re not MAGA!’ about the people trying to get through the barricade,” Black said. “And when people tried to pull the barriers away, others were struggling with them to keep them in place.”
As the crowd broke through the barriers and began to approach the Capitol building, Black said that she withdrew far back to the east, toward the front of the Supreme Court building.
“When people rushed the fence, I didn’t want any part of that,” she said. “That wasn’t what I came for. I’ve just worked too hard and sacrificed too much to have this opportunity thrown away by doing something stupid like that.”
Even so, there were some Democratic groups that called for Black, and other Republican state legislators from across the event who attended the event, to relinquish their legislative positions and not be seated for the next session.
But Black said that she has no intention of resigning.
“It is ridiculous,” she said. “Those groups have never even talked to me and they didn’t even wait for me to make a statement about it. They just want me to resign for purely political reasons. I didn’t break any laws and I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Black said that witnessing this debacle has changed her life forever, though. She said that it has taught her lessons that she will remember. The manipulative and inflammatory rhetoric on both sides of the political divide needs to stop or terrible things could result, she said.
“When the representatives of either party pumps people full of this charged language and makes folks think it is the end of the world, then where do they go from there?” Black said. “I mean people felt like they don’t have a president to protect them, they don’t have a Senate majority or a majority in Congress; and especially in Nevada, we don’t have equal representation in our state legislature. So people start feeling really desperate and backed into a corner. All someone has to do is throw a rhetorical match in there and everything goes up in flames. I think that is what we were seeing there.”
Black said that the experience will definitely inform her approach to the State Legislature when she is seated in the Assembly next month. She wants to reach across the aisle to political opponents and get to know them as people she can work with.
“I feel like we all need to humanize one another,” Black said. “We need to start understanding that I’m not just a Republican and you’re not just a Democrat. We are all humans and we have things in common.”
“I don’t know how else we are going to fix this, because I am really afraid,” Black said. “We opened a Pandora’s box on Wednesday. And I don’t know if that is something that is going to go away.”