Updated 10:32 am, Monday *
An Oak Bluffs man who was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday and watched the rally held by President Donald Trump outside the Ellipse says the narrative that Trump supporters from that rally stormed the U.S. Capitol as an angry mob is inaccurate.
Steve Gallas, 61, said he went to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to see what would happen for himself as Congress convened to certify the Electoral College votes. He said he’s not a Trump supporter or a Joe Biden supporter (in 2016, he wrote a Letter to the Editor about the need for a third party after supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary), he just wanted a front row seat to the historic day.
“I wasn’t there for Trump. I wasn’t there for Biden. I was there because I knew something was going to happen,” he said.
During an hour-long interview with The Times, Gallas railed repeatedly about the narrative and the focus of the “mainstream media.” (Media reports did focus initially on the violence and chaos, but also showed some of the peaceful protesters outside.) Asked about what happened inside, Gallas said he wanted to focus on what he witnessed, which he described as not very exciting.
“The vast majority of the people were not storming anything. The vast majority of people were good people just there,” Gallas said. “This was not a huge angry mob. The crowd did not storm. The crowd did not attack.”
Asked about the scores of people who did clash with Capitol Police and broke windows and ransacked the offices of lawmakers, Gallas said he doesn’t condone what they did. Five people have now died as a result of what U.S. Rep. William Keating and others have described as an “insurrection.” The FBI has issued four posters seeking information on dozens of suspects in connection with the violence, along with the more than 82 people arrested thus far.
Gallas said what happened inside is wrong. “That’s absolutely irresponsible,” he said of the violence. “I don’t condone it and what’s going to happen to those people is going to happen to them.”
Gallas said he was able to go inside the barriers that had been set up around the perimeter of the Capitol Building. “There were breaches in the barricades and police right there. I walked right through and so did everyone else with police within eyeshot,” he said. “People were really calm. They weren’t violent. It was nice, casual. It was lowkey.”
He described a scene outside the Capitol that was much more serene than what’s been seen from inside the building, though he did hear a canister go off as tear gas filled the air. He moved away up-wind from that area to avoid the irritant.
Footage shot by Gallas — before, during, and after the breach inside — bears out his story. People are milling about as a group of police officers on bicycles ride by in one of the clips. Most of his clips show people chanting and waving flags, but no violence.
“Granted there were a lot of people behind the barricades. There were already people on the rear of the Capitol. They were just standing on the steps taking selfies and trying to stay warm,” he said. There was no pushback from the Capitol Police officer nearby. “He pulled the barricade back and said go ahead, I don’t care. He let everyone in.”
At the earlier rally held by Trump, Gallas said most of the people appeared bored and were more focused on how to get warm on the raw, windy day. He does not believe the words of Trump to “never give up” and “fight” or Rudy Guiliani who told Trump’s supporters that Democrats deserved “trial by combat” incited the crowd.
“In my mind, there wasn’t any incitement to go and storm the Capitol,” Gallas said.
He said there were agitators wearing military-style clothing along the route from the rally to the Capitol trying to get the crowd fired up, but he repeated that the majority of people were just there to peacefully protest. “There were people trying to incite the crowd and I remember yelling at one. Maybe we should have grabbed their megaphones. I’m not there to get in a fight with anyone. There were people there to incite the crowd. No one was listening to them.”
Gallas was on a bicycle because he wanted to be mobile that day. He said even though there were thousands of people there, he was able to easily navigate his way to the Capitol building on the bike.
As for what he’s seen reported from that day, Gallas is disgusted. “I really don’t have any trust in the media at all, how it gets manipulated,” he said. “This is a really important time right now. It’s being spun. None of them are the truth.”
*The headline of this story has been changed. We have listened to the feedback we’ve gotten and understand the headline may have indicated something about our position that we did not intend.