Though law enforcement feared reports of hundreds showing up at each of the 50 state capitols to support President Donald Trump ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, few came on a sunny Sunday in Baton Rouge.
Eleven days ago, a group of Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol, causing Congress to delay certifying that Biden won the Nov. 3 presidential election. Five people were killed and scores were injured.
The National Mall has been shut down and more than 25,000 National Guardsmen have been deployed in preparation of Wednesday’s inauguration. Law enforcement feared further violence and warned of confrontational rallies being planned Sunday at all 50 state capitols.
Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunda…
In Baton Rouge, three men in camouflage and carrying weapons attracted the attention of police. They weren’t pro-Trump but were there, they said, to engage in dialogue.
Few were around with whom to hold conversation.
One man held a sign supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. A woman held a sign that questioned the validity of the presidential election results.
The only Trump supporter was Austin, of Port Allen, who wouldn’t give his last name. Dressed in a blue blazer and a red Make America Great Again, MAGA cap. Austin said he feared that dressing in camouflage would provoke the media to tarnish Trump supporters. He had heard of rally, came to show his support and was disappointed so few came.
Police and media outnumbered everyone else.
Mostly it was the three men with guns discussing politics with Austin and passersby out enjoying the day weighing in for a time before moving along.
The three argued that neither left nor right wings were properly representing regular people – elected officials on both sides only work to tighten government’s authority that increases control over the people. They said voters need an alternative to only Democratic and Republican candidates.
Austin tried to persuade the three that really it was the Democrats who sowed discontent while the president worked hard for regular people.
But Galaxy – one of the armed men who he wouldn’t give his real name publicly – countered that Trump was pretty much the same as President-elect Joe Biden.
He said the three were there because they believe individuals need to make their voice heard. He said they came because through dialogue people will be better able to overcome differences despite opposing views.
The group drew in Brooke David, a 20-year-old LSU student from New Orleans who had been passing through the State Capitol gardens on a Sunday walk, asking her political views after finding out she cast her ballot for Biden, and finding points on which they could agree. “It was interesting,” said David, adding that she wasn’t at all uncomfortable talking to armed men.
About three dozen Trump supporters came to the State Capitol on Saturday, as they do most weekends. But their speakers thanked the police and reiterated that they were peacefully protesting.
“We are Americans who love our country and despise insurrection,” said John Santiago from the Capitol steps. Pointing to the State Capitol, he added, “This is a hallowed building.”
They left after about two hours to eat pizza for lunch.
During the afternoon Sunday, police removed the barricades that had blocked off parking and access to the Capitol for much of the weekend. As the afternoon sun turned to twilight, police stood in their own group waiting to be relieved so they could go home and watch the Saints game.