Exclusive: YouTube video in error; Alfie Oakes denies participating in Capitol riot

Alfie Oakes and friends at the Jan. 5, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC. (Image: Alfie Oakes)

Feb. 10, 2022 by David Silverberg

A YouTube video purporting to show local farmer and grocer Alfie Oakes inciting rioters to storm the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 is not, in fact, him, he said.

“That is absolutely not me,” Oakes said in an in-person interview with The Paradise Progressive.

In the Feb. 8 interview, Oakes clarified his role in the “Stop the Steal” rally and subsequent attack on the Capitol.

During that day, he said “I was all over” the area but he did not violate the Capitol grounds, police barriers or enter the Capitol building. He said he subsequently cooperated with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating the day’s events.

A photo he supplied of himself at the rally shows him wearing a different hat than the person in the video. He also claims that the person in the video is speaking with a Boston accent, which he does not use.

When it came to the police barriers around the building, Oakes said “I watched the police let people in.”

He also stated, “I also watched these characters who looked totally different than everyone else and they let them in first.” In the immediate wake of the insurrection, Oakes stated in a Jan. 10 Facebook post that: “Leading the group was the obvious six or eight paid actors (used in other events such as BLM riots, hard to believe they would be that blatant and sloppy) … followed by a small group of aggressive Trump supporters caught up in the moment, these paid actors led the charge.”

Oakes also said he took the time to peacefully text his wife from the rally at 2:26 pm, which was the height of the assault on the Capitol.

Oakes took issue with characterizations of the gathering as a protest or a demonstration. Rather, its purpose was to support the president.

“99.9 percent of the people there weren’t protesters; they were supporters of President Trump,” he said. “I didn’t go up there to protest. I went up to support Donald Trump.”

(To come: A full account of the interview with Alfie Oakes)

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

SWFL reps vote to let Meadows dodge Congress, allow US default–but contempt charge, debt ceiling bills both pass

The United States Capitol.

Dec. 15, 2021 by David Silverberg

In a pair of momentous votes last night and in the early hours of this morning, the US House of Representatives voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress and to raise the debt ceiling, keeping the United States from default.

Southwest Florida’s representatives voted against both measures, which passed on largely party-line votes.

House Resolution (HR) 851, which held Meadows in contempt for refusing to respond to a congressional subpoena, passed at 11:03 pm by a vote of 222 to 208. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (R-at large-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for the measure.

Senate Joint Resolution 33 raising the US debt ceiling to $2.5 trillion, passed at 12:20 am by a vote of 221 to 209. Kinzinger was the lone Republican to approve the measure.

The Meadows matter

Meadows had initially agreed to cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, turning over e-mails and documents related to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. He then changed his mind and refused to testify before the committee despite a subpoena compelling his testimony.

The congressional contempt resolution passed last night will now be referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) took Meadows’ side against the House of Representatives, in which he serves.

“Everyone supporting the political witch-hunt, known as the House Select Cmte on 1/6, amplifies a charade intended to subject Trump-supporting Americans to a kangaroo court of injustice & political theater. Unfortunately, Mark Meadows is another American on the Dems’ hit list,” he tweeted yesterday, Dec. 14. He added in a further statement: “Holding the former White House Chief of Staff in contempt is a disgrace to the rule of law and Congressional oversight credibility.”

Former President Donald Trump Donalds formally endorsed Donalds the same day.

On the day of the attack, Donalds characterized the rioters rampaging through the Capitol Building as “lawless vigilantes” and the attack itself as “thuggery.”

As of this writing, neither Reps. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) nor Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) had commented on the Meadows resolution.

Debt ceiling

The vote raising the US debt ceiling averts a default on US financial obligations. With the House approving the already-passed bill from the Senate, it now goes to President Joe Biden for signature. It will extend the nation’s borrowing capability into 2023.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Nov. 29, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned: “I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue. America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”

Donalds expressed opposition to raising the debt ceiling in a Dec. 9 interview with Jan Jeffcoat of The National Desk, a television program carried by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “We’re just blowing trillions of dollars out the back door, then running to the bond market to say give us more money. If we’re going to increase the debt limit on the nation’s credit card, I think that what we’re doing is highly irresponsible.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Sept. 18: Another sleepy Saturday or Insurrection 2.0 in DC and Southwest Florida?

The US Capitol and grounds in May 2021. Authorities are considering restoring the fencing in anticipation of a rally on Sept. 18. (Photo: Author)

Sept. 9, 2021 by David Silverberg

For most Americans, Saturday, Sept. 18 is just another date on the calendar, one more day in one more weekend.

In Washington, DC, however, authorities are bracing for a demonstration that could be a replay of the Jan. 6 rally and riot that nearly overturned the government of the United States. In Southwest Florida that protest will have an echo on a smaller scale but one that bears watching.

Washington, DC

The “Justice for J6 Rally” is intended to call for an end to prosecutions and the release of those who have been prosecuted and jailed as a result of the January 6 insurrection.

It was first announced by a group called Look Ahead America on July 30th. The group states on its website that its mission is to speak for disenfranchised Americans and “register, educate, and enfranchise these disaffected citizens.”

The group’s executive director is Matt Braynard, who previously served as the Donald Trump campaign’s director of data and strategy.

Matt Braynard (Image: LAA)

In a Jan. 29, 2021 letter to the US Justice Department in the immediate wake of the Capitol insurrection, Braynard argued that “Many of the protesters who entered the Capitol reasonably believed they had permission” and “we should not further compound the tragedy through vindictive and selective political prosecutions.”

Braynard is trying to overcome the images and opprobrium of the insurrection. He wants the Sept. 18 rally to be “laser-focused” on the issue of Capitol prosecutions and avoid the symbolism and disorder of the riot.

“Be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers” Braynard urged would-be demonstrators in a 4-minute, 46-second video on the group’s website. “If they ask you to do something, please, do so.” He also urged rally-goers to stay in groups, notify the organization volunteers if there’s any trouble and not wear attire other than that related to the specific goals of the rally.

Nonetheless, extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend the Washington rally, according to media reports. Capitol Police and security officials are already on alert and have been weighing whether to reconstruct the fence that surrounded Capitol Hill after the insurrection.

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told the Associated Press on Sept. 1 that his department was “closely monitoring September 18 and we are planning accordingly.”

According to Manger: “After January 6, we made Department-wide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence, internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe.”

Despite Braynard’s efforts at non-violence and lawfulness, security experts are wary. Andrew McCabe, former Federal Bureau of Investigation acting director, warned in a CNN interview on Sept. 7 that the rally should be treated as a potentially violent threat.

“I think they should take it very seriously,” McCabe, a CNN contributor, told interviewer Poppy Harlow. “In fact, they should take it more seriously than they took the same sort of intelligence that they likely saw on January 5.”

But for law enforcement officers there are “a few factors leaning in their favor” this time, said McCabe. “You don’t have a sitting president actively fanning the flames and trying to get people to attend the rally. And on the other hand, it looks like, from all indications, our law enforcement partners are well prepared for this one. They seem to be taking the intelligence very seriously, which raises a question as to whether or not they did on January 6, but that’s another issue.”

Southwest Florida

Alfie Oakes takes aim. (Photo: Facebook)

Southwest Florida will be marking Sept. 18 with its own “Patriot Fest” at the rural North Naples farm of Francis Alfred Oakes III, known to the world as “Alfie,” owner and operator of Oakes Farms and Seed to Table market.

Oakes’ Patriot Fest is scheduled to feature a number of speakers including Rogan O’Handley, a conservative commentator who goes by the stage name “DC Draino;” Jack Prosobiec, a One America News Network commentator; and Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, where she lost in 2020 to Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.).

According to its announcement, Patriot Fest will feature food trucks and entertainment by politically conservative musician Jason Beale. It costs $20 to attend and $200 for deluxe tickets—although Eventbrite, which initially took reservations, decided to drop the event, refused to handle arrangements and refunded all the tickets it had taken.

As a committeeman in the Collier County Republican Party and a prominent conservative activist, not to mention a farmer and grocer promoting his businesses, Oakes is very much a local public figure. However, Oakes, who has become famous—or infamous, depending on one’s perspective—for his far right, Trumpist politics, fierce opposition to anti-COVID masking and vaccinations and pronouncements on social media, has gone to a level that merits special attention.

Starting in early August, Oakes openly called for rebellion against the US government and did not mince words: “I think the time has come for us to revolt against our tyrannical government,” he stated on Aug. 6 on Facebook.

Then, on Aug. 8 he posted a photo of himself firing an automatic weapon, writing: “I pray we have election integrity in 2022…. if we don’t we must prepare for the worst! Our second amendment right is specifically to revolt against a a tyrannical government! Prepare for the worst and pray for the best” [sic, no punctuation at the end of that sentence].

On Aug. 14 the thread continued: “Ivermectin beats Covid hands down! Anyone with the slightest bit of Critical thinking knows the government is screwing over the people! And nearly every crooked politician in DC is guilty of letting this happen! Time for the Revolution !!!”

Then, on Aug. 16, the threat became direct, aimed at civilian teachers: “These corrupt teachers unions are the enemy of our country and our citizens! We need to take them down by force!! ALL enemies foreign and domestic !!! Time for a revolution!”

As extreme as these expressions are, they can arguably count as free speech under the First Amendment. They can also be regarded as inflated by passion and hyperbole—except that on Aug. 20 Oakes dialed the volume up to 11.

The “We the People Fight Back” event in Naples, Aug. 20. (Photo: Facebook)

On Aug. 20 and 21, like-minded conservatives gathered, unmasked and undistanced, at the Naples Hilton to hold the “We the People Fight Back” event, an activist workshop and conference.

Among the speakers was Oakes, who posted elements of his speech on Facebook.

In a rambling address that veered from COVID to the nation’s founders, Oakes told his audience: “I’m telling you that my threshold of where this goes to, like, the next level is getting close for me.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be ‘before’ but if they try to steal the next election, the ’22 elections, I’m all in. We don’t want to talk about what that is but we have to be all in,” he said to cheers from the audience.

But it was his next sentence that merits particular attention: “I have enough guns to put in every single employee’s hands.”

Analysis: Evaluating the force

In a July 22 dialogue with a reader on Facebook, Oakes gave his employee workforce as 3,200 people. This no doubt includes farm laborers.

If his statements are taken at face value that would mean that Oakes is saying he owns the weaponry to arm 3,200 people. That’s the equivalent of three US Army battalions and two companies, a formidable force that could give any local—or even state—law enforcement agency a serious challenge. If true, it is by any measure a massive arsenal to be held in private, civilian hands.

When combined with his previous statements calling for revolution and the use of force against teachers, he is now talking about an unregulated militia that could threaten the security of the state.

Of course, that’s only if Oakes’ words are taken on their face as true.

In the past, numbers and accuracy have not been Oakes’ strong suit. For example, in a Jan. 10 Facebook posting, he put the size of the crowd at the Jan. 6 insurrection at “well over one million people” and then “1 1/2 million” and the number of leading rioters as “six or eight paid actors.”

Presumably he would be more accurate when it comes to accounting related to his business.

It sounds like he can command an imposing force. But even if, as he states, that he can put guns in the hands of all 3,200 employees it cannot be presumed that all employees, already facing the daily risk of working in an unmasked, anti-protective, COVID-denying workplace, would want to take on the additional danger of using lethal force against the United States in a rebellion led by Alfie Oakes.

Also, his comments don’t make clear whether he could mount a sustained operation. Nor does it make clear the quality or caliber of his weapons. Nor is it clear that he has the command, control, communications, logistics or support to make such a force effective in achieving its mission—whatever that mission might be.

Still, in an era when a single active shooter with a single magazine can tie down a town, a shopping mall or a public intersection, any armed rebellion can prove, to put it mildly, extremely problematic, as witness the siege of Waco, Texas in 1993.

At the very least, the situation bears monitoring.

A case of the maybes

At this point, nothing is foreordained for Sept. 18.

In Washington, DC, Braynard is calling for an orderly, disciplined and focused demonstration. In Naples, Oakes is throwing a party at his house.

So maybe all the fears are just alarmist. Maybe on Sept. 18, protesters in the nation’s capital will peaceably assemble to petition government for a redress of grievances. Maybe there will be no violence or insurrection.

And in Naples, maybe Patriot Fest will consist of good times, good food and speechifying. Maybe there will be no calls for armed revolt or acts of insurrection.

Maybe Sept. 18 will be just another Saturday in September.

Then again, maybe not.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Secession, sedition and real estate: Rush Limbaugh’s Florida legacy

Rush Limbaugh ponders secession, Dec. 9, 2020. (Image: YouTube)

Feb. 19, 2021 by David Silverberg

In his departure from this world, Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk radio commentator who died Wednesday, Feb. 17 at age 70, bequeathed Florida two things: his $50 million mansion in Palm Beach (which presumably goes to his wife Kathryn) and the idea of Florida seceding from the union.

No doubt Kathryn will enjoy the 34,000-square foot, seven-bedroom, 12-bath palace with pool, putting green and private beach on two oceanfront acres.

Limbaugh’s Palm Beach home. (Photo: Zillow)

But for the state that he called home since 1996 his most recent legacy was his floating the idea of secession from a United States presided over by Joe Biden. It was an idea that found receptivity among numerous Florida Republicans. (See: “No need to secede: Welcome to Florumpia!”)

Limbaugh did not specifically call for Florida to secede: he raised the idea of secession in general on Dec. 9, 2020 when a caller to his radio show asked if conservatives could ever win over Democratic cities in northern states. Limbaugh interpreted this as asking whether they could ever be won over culturally, rather than electorally.

Limbaugh said he thought the big challenge was winning over the culture rather than the votes.

“I thought you were asking me something else when you said, ‘Can we win?’” said Limbaugh to the caller. “I thought you meant: ‘Can we win the culture, can we dominate the culture?’

“I actually think that we’re trending toward secession,” he said.

“I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York? What is there that makes us believe that there is enough of us there to even have a chance at winning New York? Especially if you’re talking about votes.”

He continued: “I see a lot of bloggers—I can’t think of names right now—a lot of bloggers have written extensively about how distant and separated and how much more separated our culture is becoming politically and that it can’t go on this way. There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. 

“We can’t be in this dire a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way. And I know that there’s a sizable and growing sentiment for people who believe that that is where we’re headed, whether we want to or not—whether we want to go there or not,” he said. “I myself haven’t made up my mind. I still haven’t given up the idea that we are the majority and that all we have to do is find a way to unite and win.”

Limbaugh said all this when a lawsuit by the state of Texas and 17 other states—including Florida—was before the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the election results in four key states. It was five days before the Electoral College was going to cast its votes confirming Joe Biden’s victory. Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud were threadbare, rejected by every court where they’d been heard and seemed unlikely to sway the Supreme Court but were nonetheless being loudly propagated by the president and his followers.

Limbaugh made many outrageous and extreme pronouncements during his 54-year radio career. While his constant and deliberately provocative statements had somewhat depleted the pool of available outrage, reference to secession brought more than the usual opposition and blowback.

“I think talk of secession is treason, Martha, I want to be very clear,” fellow conservative pundit Geraldo Rivera told Fox News host Martha MacCallum the next day. “That talk is reckless. It’s irresponsible.”

It was on the 11th that the Supreme Court issued its ruling dismissing the Texas lawsuit. References to secession spiked, especially in Texas where the state Republican chairman, Allen West, said “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the Constitution.” 

But that was also the day that Limbaugh backtracked. “I simply referenced what I have seen other people say about how we are incompatible, as currently divided, and that secession is something that people are speculating about,” Limbaugh said. “I am not advocating it, have not advocated, never have advocated it, and probably wouldn’t. That’s not something — 32 years — that’s not the way I’ve decided to go about handling disagreements with people on the left.”

Neither Texas nor Florida nor any other state seceded.

On Dec. 12, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) tweeted: “I want to be clear: the Supreme Court is not the deep state. The case had no merit and was dispatched 9-0. There was no win here. Complaining and bellyaching is not a manly trait, it’s actually sad. Real men accept a loss with grace.”

On Jan. 6 Trump decided to vent his rage before his followers and incite them to attack the Capitol Building to overturn the election—and in the process destroy the legislative branch of government, kill its leaders and the Vice President. The effort failed.

Although he had retreated from secession, Limbaugh defended Donald Trump and his sedition: “There’s a lot of people calling for the end of violence,” he said the day after the insurrection. “A lot of conservatives, social media saying any violence, any aggression at all, is unacceptable—regardless of the circumstances. I’m glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual Tea Party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord, didn’t feel that way.”

After Limbaugh

The Capitol attack and the subsequent impeachment of Donald Trump seem to have lanced the boil of hatred, prejudice and rage that was swelling with the encouragement of Trump and Limbaugh. The smashed glass and dead police and rioters appear to have brought home to Trumpers and dittoheads the dangers and reality of violence and insurrection—and that rhetoric has repercussions.

Then, Mother Nature and climate change drove home the point: after all the anti-government rhetoric about going it alone and secession, the deep freeze crushing Texas has made clear that the Lone Star State needs the rest of the nation to survive in a modern, technological world with running water and reliable electricity.

The secession talk was never as strong in Florida as it was in Texas. Now, with Limbaugh gone from the American airwaves and Donald Trump banned from Twitter, sanity seems to be returning. Insurrection has been defeated and secession is not a serious notion.

In Florida Limbaugh’s legacy seems as ephemeral as the airwaves on which he broadcast and his ideas as impermanent as a passing tropical shower. His more concrete legacy lies in his palatial mansion, which is only one of many in the Sunshine State’s pricey precincts.

There are many evaluations and analyses of Rush Limbaugh being written now. There’s no denying that he created the genre of talk radio. At a time when AM radio was moribund and seemed headed to obsolescence (it couldn’t broadcast music in stereo like FM radio), Limbaugh’s torrent of words revived it and gave it a new role. It caught on and made him rich, famous and influential, inspired numerous imitators and created a right-wing mediasphere. He presented and shaped a political point of view held by millions of Americans, no matter how delusional, hateful and prejudicial it may be.

Perhaps the best summation of Limbaugh appeared in a 1999 book written by humorist Al Franken, who went on to be elected Minnesota’s junior senator.

That book was called Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

Heiress puts Publix’s political cash in spotlight; Rep. Donalds largest Publix PAC recipient in SWFL

The connection to the Capitol insurrection is not the first time Publix has come under scrutiny for its political donations. In May 2018 Parkland students protested National Rifle Association donations in Publix supermarket aisles. Above, student David Hogg, leader of the action at a Publix protest. (Photo: David Hogg/Twitter)

Feb. 2, 2021 by David Silverberg

Support for the Jan. 6 anti-election rally on the Ellipse in Washington, DC by the heiress to the Publix Super Market fortune has cast a spotlight on the grocery’s long history of financial support for political candidates, including those in Southwest Florida.

Julie Jenkins Fancelli (Photo: Barry Friedman-LKldNow)

On Jan. 30, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, contributed $300,000 to support the rally that turned into the riotous attack on the US Capitol building.

The same day Publix management issued a tweet stating: “Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix Super Markets, and is neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way. We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions.

“The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. The deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work or opinions of Publix Super Markets.”

Aside from the Ellipse event, Publix has long been politically active in Florida and across the country through its political arm, Publix Super Markets, Inc. Associates Political Action Committee (PAC).

In the 2020 election cycle, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) received the largest political contribution from the PAC, $5,000, among Southwest Florida congressional delegation, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC).

His donation was larger than the PAC’s contributions to his fellow Southwest Florida Republicans. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), received $1,000 and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), received $500.

The Publix PAC disbursed a total of $531,700 to 250 recipients across the country during the 2020 election cycle. The bipartisan recipients ranged widely from Alabama to Wyoming and included both House and Senate candidates and state-level candidates in North Carolina. The PAC contributed to both primary and general races as well as both the Democratic and Republican House and Senate campaign committees. (A complete list can be seen at the FEC website.)

Well-known Republican recipients include Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ($5,000, whose check appears to have never been deposited) and Florida’s senators Rick Scott ($2,500) and Marco Rubio ($1,000). Among Florida House Republican members the PAC contributed to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.) ($1,000) and Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.) ($1,000). Out of state, it supported Rep. Liz Cheney (R-At Large-Wy.) with $2,500. She voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection and has been attacked by fellow Republicans.

Well-known Democratic recipients included House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5-Md.), who received $5,000 and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) ($1,000 in the primary). In Florida it contributed to such candidates as Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-23-Fla.) ($2,000), Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) ($1,500) and Rep. Donna Shalala. (D-27-Fla.) ($2,000 in the general and $1,500 in the primary), who lost her race.

While covering a wide ideological spectrum, the Publix PAC’s contributions were almost always to incumbents rather than challengers. In Georgia, the PAC supported Republican senators Kelly Loeffler ($1,000) and David “Sonny” Purdue ($2,000), both of whom lost close races to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, neither of whom received any contributions from the PAC.

Political contributions reported to the FEC are legal and fall under existing campaign finance regulations. The Publix PAC contributions were fairly typical of large corporations that deal with different governments in multiple states.

According to the company’s “facts and figures,” Publix operates 1,265 stores in seven Southeastern states, with the largest number, 817, in Florida. It also operates nine distribution centers and 11 manufacturing facilities in Florida and Georgia. Jenkins founded the chain in 1930 in Winter Haven, Fla. He died at age 88 in 1996.

Political contributions buy goodwill and can pay off in a variety of ways, in addition to endorsing a candidate’s policy positions.

In 2016 Publix contributed a total of $8,100 to the campaign of conservative Republican Francis Rooney, who eventually won election in the Florida 19th Congressional District. During his time in office Rooney was a strong opponent of union activities, in particular denouncing the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker education and advocacy group. On March 2, 2018 his op-ed, “Worker centers: How unions circumvent federal rules” appeared in the conservative Washington Examiner. He also sponsored or cosponsored bills to reduce union activity and make it more difficult to organize unions and easier to de-certify them. The bills were never enacted into law.

The Fancelli controversy is not the first time Publix has come under fire for its political contributions. In May 2018 Publix announced it would suspend political contributions following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. Protesters led by student David Hogg lay down in supermarket aisles to oppose its donations to Adam Putnam, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and National Rifle Association supporter.

“We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community,” the company said in a statement at the time. “We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate,”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

‘Revolution’ or ‘setup’? The Capitol riot according to Oakes and McLaughlin

Alfie Oakes exhorts Trump demonstrators before they board buses to Washington, DC on Jan. 5. (Image: Fox4 News)

Jan. 17, 2021 by David Silverberg

Was the assault and riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 an elaborate plot by nefarious globalists using a tiny cadre of paid actors to create a scenario to cast President Donald Trump in a bad light? Or were the real inciters the legislators inside the building who were working to certify the presidential election?

Those are the views of two Southwest Floridians who were present at the Jan. 6 insurrection and have very vocally and publicly given their accounts of what occurred.

One is Francis Alfred Oakes III, better known locally as Alfie, a fervent Trumper and anti-mask activist, the owner of Seed to Table market, who transported demonstrators to Washington, DC.

The other is Christy McLaughlin, a 25-year-old conservative from Ave Maria who ran for Congress as a Republican candidate in the 19th Congressional District last year.

The riot at the Capitol was a defining and very public moment in American history. It was broadcast in real time. Millions of Americans either watched the attack as it happened or have seen some elements of it in some form of media.

So, do you think you know what happened? Compare and contrast your knowledge with what these two local activists say occurred. But first, let’s introduce our protagonists.

Alfie Oakes

Pro-Trump demonstrators outside Seed to Table protest Joe Biden’s election victory on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo: Author)

Alfie Oakes is well known in Southwest Florida as a farmer and grocer emphasizing organic produce—and lately as an outspoken political activist.

According to the Oakes Farms official history, it was Alfie’s father, Francis “Frankie” Alfred Oakes Jr., who opened a family produce stand and moved farming operations to Naples after 10 years of operating in east Fort Myers. His son Alfie opened a wholesale produce business in Immokalee until a frost killed his crops in 1989.

That disaster led Alfie to travel around the country and to Honduras to import tomatoes to Florida. Over the next eight years he brokered farm deals, expanded his wholesale business and began farming again.

Meanwhile, his father began experimenting with organic growing as a hobby. It went from a hobby to a business to an expanding enterprise to the point where in 2005 he opened Food & Thought as a “militantly” organic grocery in Naples that became a cultural center for shoppers seeking healthful products.

Frankie died in 2013. Alfie kept successfully expanding the business and branched out into other endeavors. He won contracts to supply the Lee and Collier County school districts and in October 2017 a $40 million federal contract to supply the southern district of Florida. In August 2018, Oakes announced that he had won a $46.8 million contract from the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to supply food to the US military.

Within days of the announcement of the DLA win, on Aug. 19 Oakes posted the first political manifesto to gain widespread attention on the Oakes Farms Market Facebook page.

In a lengthy screed, Oakes attacked the Democratic Party, the public education system, the mainstream media and the administration of President Barack Obama. [Editor’s note: spelling, capitalization, grammar and usage, his.]

“I along with many of my fellow Americans are shocked by the current actions of many of our younger generation along with the Democratic party recently morphing into all out socialism,” he wrote. “Unfortunately most of our younger generation have purposely never been exposed to the truth about history and the greatness of our founding fathers wisdom, even current events are censored from the MSM [mainstream media] to support their one world order narrative.”

He continued: “The puppeteers that orchestrate the MSM, most of our universities, the DNC [Democratic National Committee] along with the Obama administration have been pushing for a one world order that would ultimately destroy the opportunity for the individual.”

He concluded: “We must with all our might reject socialism and adhere to the genius of the christian principles that our founding father so masterfully created (through the hand of GOD in my opinion) so that we may continue to be the beacon of the world for individual prosperity and freedom.”

Coming as it did in the midst of Trump’s controversial and disruptive administration, the post created a furor, both driving supportive customers to his stores and at the same time driving away offended potential customers.

There was more controversy to come. Oakes had been renovating a 75,000-square foot facility in North Naples. After five years of work and a $30 million investment, he opened Seed to Table, a mega-grocery and deluxe supermarket in December 2019.

Seed to Table might have been a non-controversial business welcoming to all, except that Alfie continued his outspoken political pronouncements.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020, sparking demonstrations across the country and giving new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

On June 6, 2020 Oakes posted on Facebook: “The COVID19 hoax did not work to bring down our great President and now this…the black lives matter race hoax…REALLY …how about  ALL lives matter!!” He called George Floyd “a disgraceful career criminal , thief , drug addict , drug dealer and ex-con” and stated that people had “allowed themselves to be controlled by deceit and fear” by “the corrupt world powers and their brainwashing arms of the media.”

The post outraged people across Southwest Florida and led to a demonstration in front of Seed to Table. It prompted the Lee and Collier school districts to cancel their contracts, which in turn prompted Oakes to sue them for breach of contract.

Nor did Oakes confine himself to Facebook posts; he vehemently and actively fought anti-COVID mask mandates in Collier County and Naples and when the county did impose a mask mandate, he refused to honor it and sued the county in opposition. (A judge dismissed 11 of his 14 counts in November.) He called county commissioners who voted for the mandates “socialists” and “tyrants” and refused to comply with the mandates.

Seed to Table was a stronghold of pro-Trump/Pence sentiment and activity during the 2020 election. When Biden was initially named the winner, Trumpers demonstrated against the outcome on the corner outside the store. As Trump fought the results and baselessly declared them fraudulent, Oakes supported his claims of a rigged election.

So when Trump called on his supporters to contest the election results when they were scheduled to be certified on Jan. 6, Oakes rented two buses to transport about 100 demonstrators to what was expected to be a peaceful demonstration in Washington.

Oakes was there when, incited by Trump, the rally turned into a riot and an attack on the Capitol building. It is not certain from available accounts whether he was in the crowd that breached the Capitol and trashed the interior, although a video appears to show him exhorting the crowd that “It’s time to fight! They’re taking our freedom! Come on! Come on!”

This, full and unedited, is the account he gave on Facebook:

“Unfortunately anyone that was not at the Trump rally on Jan 6th has to navigate through the lies and blatant and obvious deception perpetrated by the media, I was there …it was the most peaceful beautiful demonstration from well over one million people that I’ve ever witnessed.

“To be tarnished by .001% is really sad!

“As hard as it is for good and honest people to believe this was a total set up to make President Trump and his supporters look bad,I am assuring you it was just that! I have to hand it to them it was an incredibly clever tactic orchestrated by those that will stop at nothing to ensure the Globalist take over of our United States. I watched with my own eyes as Capitol police invited happy and enthusiastic Trump supporters into the Capitol. They were totally unsuspecting they would be part of the ruse.

“Leading the group was the obvious six or eight paid actors(used in other events such as BLM riots, hard to believe they would be that blatant and sloppy) … followed by a small group of aggressive Trump supporters caught up in the moment, these paid actors lead the charge. Out of nearly 1 1/2 million great loving peaceful Americans supporting Liberty, Freedom and our great President this small handful incited by the paid actors unfortunately chose to cross the line. Let’s not forget that one of these unfortunate souls a 15 yr military veteran and mother caught up in the moment, completely unarmed lost her life at point-blank range ALL for the sole purpose of legitimizing this planned event!

“I have now found ONE thing that I completely agree on with the ever corrupt main stream media on…..This is truly one of the lowest days in our country’s history!”

Christy McLaughlin

Christy McLaughlin (center) with Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio to her left during their meeting at the Naples Mercato on Dec. 3. The other Proud Boys are making the “white power” hand sign with their thumbs and forefingers. (Photo: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

Christy McLaughlin is a Naples, Fla., native and a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and Ave Maria School of Law. According to her official biography, she interned at the Florida state attorney’s office in the 20th District for two summers and for a judge of the 20th Circuit Court. In the summer of 2019 she interned in the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.). On her campaign website she stated that she sat for the Florida Bar but did not state if she passed the examination.

In March 2020 she announced her candidacy for Congress in the 19th Congressional District to replace the retiring Francis Rooney. At the time she was 24 years old—ineligible to serve in Congress—but she turned 25 during the summer, meeting the constitutional qualification.

McLaughlin ran on a vehemently pro-Trump platform, stating that she supported “all of President Trump’s agenda. I have supported President Trump since he descended the escalator.” She called him “the greatest president ever” and took positions against abortion and gun regulation.

A Christy McLaughlin campaign photo. (Photo: Christy McLaughlin for Congress)

In the Republican primary McLaughlin received only 4.1 percent of the vote, or 4,245 votes.

Despite her overwhelming defeat in the primary, McLaughlin continued her conservative activism, particularly when it came to COVID mask mandates, opposing them in person and online.

McLaughlin kicked into high gear in November 2020 after former Vice President Joe Biden was called the winner based on preliminary results, pointing out that “the media cannot call an election.  Only states can certify elections.”

She was active in denouncing efforts to conclude the election. “Cowardly Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell are going to push Trump to concede. These RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are Deep State agents who only want to line their pockets and acquire more clout,” she complained—and she alleged that some of her Facebook posts were censored.

In the days after the election was called for Biden, she labeled herself a “constitutional warrior” and created a website around the term, hoping to attract adherents.

On Dec. 3, McLaughlin organized a fundraiser to support Republican Senate candidates in Georgia. The advertised speaker was John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal. But the real star of the show was Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, which The Washington Post has described as “a far-right group with a history of violence and a reputation for instigating roving street fights with counterdemonstrators.”

The event was held at The Counter restaurant in the Naples Mercato, where Tarrio spoke.


On Dec. 5, The Paradise Progressive submitted the following questions to The Counter’s management chain, Kahala Management, in Scottsdale, Ariz., since there was no e-mail address available for the local branch.

  1. Did the Naples Counter serve as official host of the meeting or was it just the meeting location?
  2. Was the Naples Counter aware of the meeting beforehand?
  3. Does The Counter as a chain/company endorse the Proud Boys and their philosophy?

To date no response has been received.


“There is something good that has come out of the ‘contested’—in air quotes, contested—election,” he said. “There was obvious voter fraud. They’ve practically stolen this election. But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to go quietly.”

He continued: “Proud Boys is just a regular group of guys. There’s nothing special about regular men. But there is something when those men have this passion and this love for this country” and “1776 will commence again.” He inducted the 20 or so people present into the Proud Boys by having them repeat: “I’m a western chauvinist. And I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world. We’re all Proud Boys.” (Tarrio was arrested in Washington, DC prior to Jan. 6 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a previous protest. He was not present during the Capitol riot or preceding rally.)

McLaughlin agreed with Trump and those echoing his claims of a fraudulent election—and the need to contest the results. “It is time we prepare for battle,” she stated on Dec. 14. “Only the true Patriots will be standing on the Frontlines metaphorically or not to protect this Country! SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] will not protect us, RINOs will not protect us. Only We The People can protect us.”

As is well known, Trump lost every legal challenge to the results of the election. The states certified their results and the Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. The only act remaining was scheduled for Jan. 6, when Congress would certify the Electoral College results to finalize the election. Trump called for a rally in Washington to oppose the certification.  “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.

“Trump is not going anywhere!!” stated McLaughlin. “If they steal the election (which we are fighting and marching against) he will lead us in a Revolution of a fair and free nation.”

McLaughlin headed up to Washington, DC, where on Jan. 5 she addressed a small crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Christy McLaughlin addresses a crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

“We are all warriors here,” she said. “Some say that we’re at the beginning of Communism. I disagree. We are living it right now. And unless we take a stand tomorrow, one final stand, we will forever lose this country.”

She cited her family’s escape from Cuba in 1961 and charged that the US Department of Education “has worked with the mainstream media to indoctrinate our students so they bow to tyranny.” She said she was suing the department for what she alleged was discrimination against conservatives.

“Now, we have a revolution tomorrow,” she told the crowd. “Our representatives have exactly one job: and that means to be the voice of the people. I’m from Florida. We delivered a landslide victory for President Trump. I want my representatives and all representatives to object.”

After leading the crowd in chants, she said: “we are the chosen ones to deliver a free and fair election to the United States.”

The next day the mob assaulted the Capitol. It is not clear at this time from available sources whether McLaughlin was among the assailants who breached the building.

However, she was moved to write an op-ed in The Washington Times, Washington’s conservative daily newspaper that appeared on Jan. 11.

In the op-ed McLaughlin said that while she didn’t diminish the loss of life in the Capitol riot, she preferred to remember the demonstration’s more peaceful aspects.

“…The actions of the very few have sullied the narrative from a beautiful sight of patriotism and unity to mindless chaos and purposeless violence,” she complained. “But, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

In McLaughlin’s view, members of Congress “had a duty to transparently debate the substantive allegations of wide-spread voter fraud on the merits in a public forum. Congress failed the American people by cloaking the proceedings in secrecy.” The counting of the Electoral College ballots was a “charade” without debate or investigation. “A government that acts in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency is no monument to democracy.”

Unlike the Trumpers, she charged, “The Democratic Party was united and held the line. Their coalition of Marxist, mainstream media, Big Tech, deep state operatives, anarchists, globalists, industrial war machine corporations and hostile foreign entities worked together like a symphony to wrest the will of the people from the people.”

Analysis: Facts and fiction

So, was the assault on the Capitol the work of a very few people, possibly paid actors, who led otherwise peaceful, patriotic Americans astray, as Oakes and McLaughlin allege?

On Jan. 14, Grace Segers, a political reporter with CBS who was in the Capitol during the attack, addressed a roundtable held by the Press Club of Southwest Florida and was asked that question.

The allegations of paid actors or a tiny minority leading the charge, she said, “are absolutely ridiculous. There’s absolutely no evidence of that.”

She continued: “A lot of these people were not militia members. They were normal people who came to the Capitol because they thought violence was a corrective. They were Trump supporters. Some said they were doing this at the president’s urging. They were wearing MAGA hats.”

The idea that the riot was the result of a conspiracy or outside forces “is really insidious. It allows people to cast off responsibility,” she said.

Oakes’ account of the Capitol siege is largely absurd on the face of it: it is clear both from the televised images and subsequent investigations that the assault on the Capitol was conducted not by a tiny minority or “six or eight” agitators but by thousands of agitated people attacking the building from all sides, smashing in doors and windows and breaching police lines. Further, if it was led by “paid actors” how would he even know they were paid actors? Did he ask them?

Oakes’ accounting of the crowd’s size is equally absurd: his varying estimates put the crowd at anywhere from a million to 2 million. The National Park Service, which has the responsibility for estimating crowds, expected the crowd at the Ellipse rally to be 30,000. While a definitive estimate of the numbers swarming the Capitol is not yet available, it was clearly in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.

(Author’s note: This author was in Washington during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration when the crowd size was officially estimated at 1.2 million, the largest inaugural crowd to ever gather. It is clear from the photos and television coverage that the Jan. 6 crowd was nowhere near that number.)

Did blame for the attack rest with the lawmakers inside the building, as McLaughlin maintains?

This too is absurd. The representatives of the House and the senators were following a legally prescribed procedure for certifying the Electoral College votes. They fully debated the objections to the count raised by members. Their count found Joe Biden the legal winner of the 2020 presidential election. The purpose of the attack was to stop that count and in a larger sense destroy the legislative branch of the American government.

Were the legislators acting “in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency,” as she claims?

In fact the complete opposite was true. The counting procedure—and that’s what it was, a counting and certification procedure—was being done in the full light of day, in the full sight of the public, without any cover or secrecy at all. The only reason that the final certification occurred in the early hours of the next morning was because the insurrection interrupted the count, as it was intended to do.

These myths of the attack on American government being the work of a tiny, violent minority, paid actors, the victims, a vast conspiracy, a lying media, and an intricate setup are all lesser myths deriving from the one big lie perpetrated by Donald Trump: that the election was fraudulent and was stolen from him. These myths are not unique to Oakes and McLaughlin, they’re a collective justification and rationalization by the perpetrators for an unjustified, irrational and ultimately criminal act incited by a criminal president.

Like a hangover the day after a binge, the rioters now have a headache, some are shameful, they’re being condemned and they all have to wonder if they’ll be prosecuted. In the sober light of day they have to explain their behavior to themselves, their families and possibly the police. These myths are the way they do it while avoiding blame or responsibility.

In his book Disloyal, Trump’s fixer and attorney Michael Cohen described Trump’s dynamics, first in business and then as president.

Cohen writes: “I was sharing the Trump delusion. But that was the alchemy, and I see it traveling throughout the White House and beyond all the time. In defending the indefensible, you can’t resort to reason or facts or good business practices; you can’t appeal to conscience or justice or fairness. All that is left is what I resorted to, and what Trump displays so often: rage.”

On Jan. 6 Trump transmitted his rage to his followers, who then carried it to the Capitol of the United States where they vented it on a branch of government that checked Trump’s delusions and drive for total, unrestricted domination. The government of the United States was working as intended according to its Constitution. It was this that enraged Trump and that his followers channeled into a day of broken glass and violence and death.

Despite his and their efforts, the attack failed. The election was certified. Trump has been impeached. On Wednesday, Jan. 20 at noon, Joe Biden is scheduled to take the oath of office as president.

One can only hope that, like repairs to the Capitol building itself, conscience, justice and fairness will be restored to the nation.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Editorial: He’s got to go–NOW

Donald Trump returns from a failed rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June 2020. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock).

Jan. 8, 2021

President Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately.

He is a danger to the United States, he is completely unfit for office and he appears to have lost the capacity for rational thought. He publicly engaged in sedition, incited a riot and arguably committed treason by trying to overthrow the rightful government of the United States. He cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the country and he cannot be allowed to have any further authority over the vast, destructive powers of the United States military. He is actually a clear and present danger to all life on this planet.

It now appears that the Vice President and Cabinet will not remove him under Amendment 25 of the US Constitution. There is momentum in Congress to impeach him a second time and this time it could succeed in removing him. This might not seem necessary with only 12 days to go (as of this writing) but the threat is so great and his crimes so obvious that the effort should be made.

If he had any shred of decency, dignity or care for the country he would resign—but that is not likely from this sick and twisted man.

Southwest Florida’s role

The representatives and citizens of Southwest Florida did not cover themselves in glory during the current crisis.

Its congressional delegation—Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted to overturn the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris and negate the votes of 80 million Americans. Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, they attempted on a legal and procedural basis to accomplish what the rioters tried on a violent and physical basis: to stop the proper functioning of government, cancel the results of a legal election, overturn democracy and install autocratic rule at the behest of a would-be dictator.

Trump’s more extreme supporters from Southwest Florida traveled to Washington, DC to register their protest—and some illegally entered the Capitol and participated in the riot and rampage that occurred there.

Now, in the bizarre and delusional mythmaking that characterizes Trumpism, they are asserting that the rioters who invaded the Capitol and battled police were somehow not Trumpers, were disguised anarchists, were a small minority, were agents provocateurs.

This is straight out of the George Orwell book. In fact, to quote his novel, 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Or, as Donald Trump himself said in 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,”

Anyone who watched the horrendous invasion of the Capitol simply knows that this wasn’t true. This was a mass riot by tens of thousands of people attacking the legislative branch of the United States government in its own home at the incitement of a delusional president who had been defeated in an election.

No amount of mythmaking and self-delusion will change that fact, whether the mythmakers are in Southwest Florida or anywhere else.

The Dec. 2, 2008 dedication of the Capitol Visitors Center. (Image: C-SPAN)

It’s worth noting that there is also a Southwest Florida connection to the physical building: it is the Capitol Visitors Center, the secure underground entrance to the Capitol Building where visitors are normally screened and which includes an extensive museum, offices and educational facilities. As the acting Architect of the Capitol put when it opened on Dec. 2, 2008, it is “a respectful and dignified way to enter the people’s house.” It was built by Manhattan Construction Co., owned by retired congressman and Naples resident Francis Rooney. Being underground, the Visitors Center did not appear to be a target of the rioters and there are no reports at this time of damage to it.


On a personal note: For many years, this author covered Congress and spent a great deal of time in the Capitol Building. In fact it was love and respect for the institution, particularly the House of Representatives, that inspired him to write a comprehensive citizens’ guide to Congress.

To go to work in or around the US Capitol Building and its complex each day is to be awestruck anew by its dignity and majesty. Every corridor and room has its hallowed past and reminders of the people who served this republic with distinction. The whole building is a physical expression of the greatest democratic experiment in history and inspires respect and reverence.

There is no single word to express this author’s feelings as he watched insane, raging rioters rampage down hallways he intimately knew, defile the floors of the House and Senate, saw police overwhelmed in the Capitol Crypt or watched a pitched battle in the magnificent Rotunda, the sacred space between the House and Senate. Like their ignorant leader these people had no reverence, no piety and no patriotism for what that building represents.

Now one knows how it must have felt when the barbarians overwhelmed the defenses of Rome and went on a rampage through its precincts in the year 410. And in the Jewish tradition, one suddenly gets the sense of the impact of the defilement of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem by pagan invaders.

In the case of the Jewish Temple, in the year 164 before the Common Era, Greek invaders were expelled and the Temple reconsecrated. It was this reconsecration that is commemorated by Hanukah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew), the Jewish festival of lights. The story is that a small supply of the Temple’s hallowed oil miraculously burned for eight days.

Perhaps in our current context it is also an important reminder for everyone that reconsecration can occur and that wounds can heal and vandalism be repaired—with dedication.


What’s next

The next stage of the American political drama will be played out in Washington among a handful of people with the institutional responsibilities for the functioning of government: the President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority and minority leaders and the bodies of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

Citizens of the United States and Southwest Florida can make their lawful voices heard. They’ve already made their preferences known through their votes in the presidential election; it was this preference that Donald Trump attempted to steal.

Donald Trump has demonstrated that democracy and the machinery to implement it cannot be taken for granted; it has to be defended. Supporters of America’s democracy have acted and continue to act in a lawful and orderly fashion, in contrast to Trump and his followers, who have shown themselves riotous, seditious and disorderly.

Lawlessness and anarchy have to be suppressed and punished through legal, lawful means. The representatives of Southwest Florida have stated with their votes, actions and failure to criticize or condemn Donald Trump, which side they are on.

If America’s electoral machinery continues to function as intended, the next legal chance for citizens to make a difference will occur in two years when there is another election. In Florida, that election will include the office of governor, a senator and all representatives.

If America is to continue as a democracy, over the next two years lovers of democracy will have to mobilize, stay alert, be vigilant and active. The last election is over but the struggle continues. And as events at the Capitol demonstrated, everything—absolutely everything—remains at stake.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

SWFL Reps vote to overturn election despite attack on Capitol; Biden certified winner in early-morning vote

A mob attacks the US Capitol yesterday.

Jan. 7, 2021 by David Silverberg

Despite a mob attack on the United States Capitol yesterday, Jan. 6, incited by President Donald Trump, when the roll was called all of Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted to aid and abet the president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

The roll call vote by the House of Representatives occurred at 3:00 am this morning. The motion was on objections raised to certifying the Electoral College results from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Had the objection been sustained the Electoral College vote would have been rejected and the election overturned.

While Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted to sustain the objection, it was defeated by a vote of 282 to 138.

At 3:26 am this morning, Vice President Mike Pence certified that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the 2020 presidential election by an Electoral College vote of 306 to 232.

Evolution of the day

Yesterday morning saw SWFL’s representatives confidently preparing to overturn the election through legal, procedural means.

“I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what,” tweeted Donalds at 11:17 am.

Rep. Byron Donalds signs the document to register his objection to the Electoral College vote. (Photo: Byron Donalds/Twitter)

“I’m objecting to the electoral votes of GA, PA, WI and MI,” tweeted Steube at 11:23 am. “If we fail to challenge the blatant improprieties that have marred the 2020 election, we let honest votes go uncounted. Anything less would fail our country now and into the future.”

The representatives were entering the Capitol at the same time a pro-Trump rally was taking place at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Trump addressed the rally and told rally-goers “we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” and “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” (Trump did not march to the Capitol.)

The Trumpers then marched from the area of the White House to the Capitol, which they attacked throughout the afternoon, breaching the perimeter and vandalizing the interior of the building before being evicted in the evening.

“On my fourth day as a United States Congressman, I followed Capitol staff into a safe room with a gas mask in hand rather than representing my constituents,” recounted Donalds in a statement on the events.

“I witnessed our law enforcement officers being injured, gassed from their own tear gas and afraid for their lives as they attempted to hold the line,” recalled Steube in his own statement. “I and three other Members were barricaded in a room surrounded by demonstrators until the hallway was clear for us to get out.” Steube expressed thanks to Kim Campbell with the House Sergeant at Arms office, Officer Reginald Cleveland of the Capitol Police and two other officers barricaded in the room.

During the worst moments of the protest Donalds condemned the violence: “Americans have the right to peacefully protest & demand their government works for them—that doesn’t mean we resort to violence. Rule of law must stand during our nation’s brightest & darkest hours & that includes right now. We are better than this. There is no place for anarchy,” he tweeted at 2:49 pm.

Once the violence was over, the rioters were ejected and the Capitol secured in the evening all three representatives condemned the violence.

Diaz-Balart issued a statement in both English and Spanish at 5:23 pm saying that the violence undermined the nation’s values and principles and lawbreakers should face the full consequences of their actions. At 5:39 pm Steube condemned the actions and called them “completely unacceptable.”

At 10:09 pm in a lengthy statement, Donalds called the rioters “lawless vigilantes” and condemned their actions as “thuggery.” Nonetheless, he tweeted, “they will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification.”

None of the members criticized or condemned Trump for his role in inciting the assault.

In contrast, retired congressman Francis Rooney issued his own statement on Facebook as the violence peaked at 3:49 pm: “All of America should be saddened and sickened by today’s events at the US Capitol,” he wrote. “President Trump is complicit in inciting violence to contest an election that is over and adjudicated. This must stop now.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg