Why a Trump supporter who went to Washington, D.C., rally says she understands the frustration of the rioters
Georgia resident who came to Trump rally says she condemns violence but sees riot as product of frustration
To Sandi Ferguson, who drove nearly 1,000 kilometres to attend the rally planned for Washington, D.C, last Wednesday, the subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol was a culmination of the frustration she and many other supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump feel about the results of the U.S. election.
Ferguson — who says she believes Trump's unfounded claims that the presidential election was rigged and travelled to Washington from her town of Cornelia, Ga., last Wednesday to protest the electoral college vote that was formally certified that day — said she condemns the deadly violence caused by the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol building.
"Let's call it what it is," she said in a phone interview. "It was an insurrection."
But at the same time, she doesn't believe the day itself should necessarily be viewed as a stain on U.S. political history.
"I don't feel like it was a dark day," she said. "It was a historic day for our leaders to realize when we put you in that Capitol building, we need you to listen to what we're saying."
Ferguson didn't take part in the assault, she said. By the time she and her two sons, who accompanied her on the trip, made their way to the Capitol building, they couldn't see the violence taking place or that people had forced their way inside, she said.
Still, when asked about that violence, denounced by Democrats and Republicans alike, she said: "I understand."
"If you were to go back to the American Revolution, like, when is enough enough? And you start saying, 'No, listen to what we are saying,'" Ferguson said.
"Not that I'm saying that we needed an insurrection or revolution, but I do feel that they pushed about 75 million people to feel they are not being heard."
Millions believe unproven claims that election was fixed
Ferguson is one of millions of Trump supporters who believe Trump's unfounded and false claims that voter fraud cost him the Nov. 3 presidential election, which he lost to president-elect Joe Biden by 74 electoral college votes.
Election officials across the country have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election, as has Trump's former attorney general, William Barr. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden's victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states.
Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.
Still, Ferguson subscribes to many of Trump's conspiracy theories about the election and also questions the results of the recent U.S. Senate run-off races in Georgia that saw two Democrats claim victory.
But she said there's one main factor that makes the U.S. presidential election results, which saw Biden finish with more than 81 million votes and Trump with over 74 million, impossible for her and other Trump backers to accept.
"That Joe Biden got more votes than President Trump and [former president] Barack Obama is mind-blowing" she said. "People just don't believe it's true."
It was with that mindset that Ferguson travelled to the "March to Save America" rally in support of the Republican politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate who were planning to raise objections to the certification of Biden's electoral college victory in a joint session of Congress that day.
Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress's formal approval of Biden's win in the Nov. 3 election.
Ferguson and her two sons had packed up her BMW Tuesday morning from their small town of Cornelia and travelled nearly 1,000 kilometres — almost a nine hour drive — to their hotel in D.C.
"We didn't even plan on going," she said. "I mean, it was just one of those final moments like, 'Let's do this. This could be fun and exciting. I mean, never in our wildest dreams did we think that it would be anything other than fun and joyful."
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As they arrived for the rally at the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House, that cold Wednesday morning, the mood was "so much fun, just enjoying the excitement, the energy," she said.
She and her sons were pretty far back from where the president spoke at the podium, she said, but they could watch him on the big screen.
Trump was particularly bombastic that day, reciting his false allegations of electoral fraud.
He told the thousands in the crowd to walk down to the U.S. Capitol.
"You'll never take back our country with weakness," he said. "You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
Shortly after that speech, a mob of people stormed the Capitol building. Five people died as a result of the riot.
On Monday, the U.S. House Democrats introduced a resolution containing a single article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack.
But Ferguson said she doesn't believe Trump should be accused of inciting and whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, noting parts of his speech were boring, as he repeated the same allegations of fraud that many in the crowd knew by heart.
Thought the plan was to protest
When Trump told the crowd to march to the U.S. Capitol, Ferguson said she didn't think it was particularly significant as she believed the plan for the rally was always to go to Capitol Hill and protest.
"He didn't say storm the doors or, you know, bust in," she said.
After Trump spoke, Ferguson and her sons walked back to the hotel to warm up and drink some hot chocolate, she said, then headed back to Capitol Hill.
She said there were thousands of people in front of her and that she still thought the prevalent feeling was one of good-spirited patriotism.
WATCH | Trump supporter Sandi Ferguson's video of crowd at March To Save America rally:
"People were singing, 'U-S-A!' or 'I'm proud to be an American,'" she said. "And so you don't really see what's going on in front."
Ferguson and her two sons made their way closer to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol building, where, at one point, she said, a police officer was waving them through.
As they got closer, her sons went a bit ahead, then turned around to say, "Something's going down up there, and we don't want to be a part of it,'" Ferguson said.
'What in the world transpired?'
They were able to see the tear gas, and pepper spray from a distance and figured it was time to leave, thinking, "What in the world just transpired," Ferguson said.
It wasn't until they returned to the hotel and turned on the television that they learned about the violent clashes with police and the storming of the building, she said.
"[I thought], 'This just can't be right.' It was just like an alternate universe."
Yet Ferguson believes it's too early to cast judgment on the day's events.
"It may be in 10 years, we look back and go, 'Wow, that was what needed to happen,'" she said. "Or we could look back in 10 years and go 'That was a bad, bad day.'"
WATCH | How the Capitol riot unfolded:
With files by The Associated Press