Glide resident Abbie Malek spent two days attending protests in Washington, D.C., including a rally Wednesday that devolved into chaos as the U.S. Capitol was stormed.
Senators and representatives went through evacuations and lockdowns after the event grew violent and the Capitol building was breached. A woman was killed during the event, and the ceremonial acceptance of the vote for President-elect Joe Biden was delayed for several hours.
But Malek said she didn’t see any violence. What she saw was peaceful protesters showing support over two days of rallies for President Donald Trump.
Like many of the thousands of people who participated in protests at the Capitol, Malek believes Trump’s claims that the election was marred by fraud. No fraud has been proven.
Malek spoke to The News-Review Wednesday from her hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue after crowds had been dispersed under an evening curfew.
Malek arrived in Washington, D.C. Monday evening, and attended a rally at the Freedom Plaza for most of the day on Tuesday.
She lined up at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to get into the rally on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, where she would join thousands who listened to Trump and his sons speak.
It took her about five hours to get into the inner-gated area that was the closest to the stage where the rally was. As far as she could see around her, people were filling up the street she was on, the side streets, and the hillside.
“It was beyond anything I ever really imagined,” she said. “There’s just no way to really, I guess the only way you could really get a good picture of it is if you were actually in a helicopter going over it. No matter where we were you could never get the whole picture of how many people were there, because there was just so many wherever you looked,” she said.
“People were googling how many people came to the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech and just different stuff,” she said.
Trump told his supporters Wednesday he would never concede, but Malek said she never heard him incite violence.
She said for her, the whole experience was very positive.
“The last two days everyone we’ve been around has been very positive, like happy go lucky, happy to meet each other,” she said.
People stopped to talk to each other, she said.
“It’s like you’re looking at your neighbor when you’re seeing everybody here,” she said.
She said she heard chants, but everyone she saw was peaceful.
“We did see that some people were kind of starting to get up on the scaffolding and waving their flags around,” she said.
She said she did get fairly close and at one point was on the lawn in front of the Capitol.
“We never saw anyone acting violently from our view in the front,” she said.
She acknowledged seeing video of people with plastic shields breaking the windows of the Capitol.
And she caught the scent of something she thought was pepper spray or tear gas.
She said she didn’t see anyone trying to take on police but did see people making their way to the building.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily OK for people to go around breaking into anything, no matter what side of anything you’re on, whether you’re an antifa or a BLM or a Patriot or a protester or whoever you are,” she said.
While she only saw peaceful protesters, if there were protesters involved with those who broke into the Capitol she doesn’t think they should have done that.
“Unfortunately it gives the whole rest of the group a bad name,” she said.
She said she traveled all the way to Washington, D.C. because she felt it was important for people like her to show up.
“I guess I just felt like people needed to see the people who were really truly out there supporting not only the president, but what they feel like is their country basically losing the fundamental, the foundations of what it was built on, and showing up to say, ‘Hey, we don’t want to see that happen,’” she said.