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'It's Just A Shame': Trump Voters React To Insurrection At U.S. Capitol

Dylan Costello (right), 25, and 28-year-old Bobby Manson, construction workers from Quincy, Mass., are all in for Trump but say they don't support what the rioters did on Wednesday.
Dylan Costello (right), 25, and 28-year-old Bobby Manson, construction workers from Quincy, Mass., are all in for Trump but say they don't support what the rioters did on Wednesday.

For some, it was the final straw. The U.S. Capitol riots, and the president's behavior both before and after, has soured some of Trump's supporters.

For others, it has only ratcheted up their zealous devotion to the president, and their deep frustration with an election they falsely believe was rigged.

Carol Jones, 74, from Franklin, Tenn., is among those regretting her support for Trump since Wednesday's insurrection, when thousands of pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building.

The protests were timed to coincide with Congress' certification of the Electoral College votes and aimed at pressuring Republican lawmakers into supporting Trump's effort to overturn Biden's electoral victory. The violent confrontations ended in a lockdown, with four casualties and dozens of arrests.

"He started the whole thing. It's just plain as the nose on your face," Jones said. "I don't understand it other than a humongous ego that he had a need to satisfy. It's like he has a mental condition he needs to get a handle on. It's just sad."

Randy Dittmer, from Liberty, Mo., is fed up with Trump, too. The 62-year-old retired schoolteacher said he watched the rioting on TV in disbelief that it was happening in the United States.

"It was hard to watch," he said. "I lay the blame straight on the president."

Brenda Baer, a nurse in rural Northwest Pennsylvania, was more circumspect. The riots, she said, "were not okay," and "there has to be some accountability" for Trump.

"He's done a lot of good things," she said. "But I do think he needs to be a little more ... responsible and needs to think a little bit more before he speaks."

Dylan Costello, 25, and Bobby Manson, 28, both construction workers from Quincy, Mass., see it differently. They're still proud Trump supporters, with a Trump hat, Trump face mask and Trump stickers on their truck.

"We have some Trump flags here, too, but I can't pull it out because it has some swears on it," Manson said with a chuckle. "I have a lot of respect for Trump, and I always will."

But the Trump supporters who broke into and ransacked the Capitol building, they say, are a different story.

"They should have never done that," Manson said. "It's like making Trump look like a bad person, and he's really not. They made him look bad."

Manson credits Trump for eventually tweeting that people should leave the Capitol and go home, though Costello is quick to concede that Trump's tweets and video message after his speech to the crowd on Wednesday were also egging rioters on.

"He tried to play both sides," Costello said. "He played one side, and then the other when everything went down."

Both Manson and Costello say they sympathize with the frustration of pro-Trump extremists who breached the Capitol. They too, believe the president's baseless claims that the Nov. 3 election was rigged and that President-elect Joe Biden won because of widespread voter fraud.

"Trump was ahead, and then all of a sudden he went down," Costello said. "Most definitely, there was something going on, but we're never going to find out what actually happened."

"It was fraud," said Manson. "100% fraud."

Another Trump supporter, Jeffrey Stroehmann, also believes Trump's unfounded portrayal of an election rife with corruption, even though courts, state election officials and many leading Republicans have rejected those claims.

He travelled from rural central Pennsylvania to Washington and participated in the protests. His intention, he said, was to march peacefully.

But once there, when listening to Trump in the morning, and later, surrounded by the angry mob, Stroehmann said he was surprised to find that he, too, was feeling his own rage boiling over.

"There I was going to a different level of protest" he said.

"I don't feel like I was doing anything wrong," he added. As the crowd got increasingly agitated, he said, "People's pent up frustrations were starting to pour out."

Stroehmann concedes the violence likely harmed their cause. But, he warns, lawmakers who dismiss Trump's supporters do so at their own peril.

"I think the elected officials need to stop minimizing the concerns of the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump," he said. "Donald Trump is just the mouthpiece for what we are feeling. Don't look at it as him inciting us. Look at it as him being the person who is vocalizing our frustrations and concerns."

Gabriel King, a Trump supporter who installs floors in Colorado Springs, also hopes the siege of the Capitol building will serve as a wake-up call to Congress.

"It's hard to see it happening," King concedes. "But on the other hand, I'm tired of being bullied by the scum in D.C. ... They're just criminal trash that lie about everything. Thank God someone finally did something. I'm actually happy about it."

He's among the many Trump supporters who reject the widespread accusations that the president bears some of the responsibility for inciting the violence.

"At no time did he say smash windows and get violent," Stroehmann said.

He blames "outside agitators." The violent rioters at the capitol, he said, "were not your down-home Trump supporters."

Other Trump supporters are promoting a conspiracy theory that it was actually left-wing activists, masquerading as Trump supporters, just to make Trump look bad.

"It was Antifa and BLM stealing the Trump flags and playing like they were Trump people," said Bonnie Metter, a retired IRS worker from Fresno, Calif. "It was disgusting."

Her friend Jane Ochs, 78, agrees. "It's just a shame that they had to do this to Trump. He's been maligned for four years now. The man doesn't deserve it."

Sylvia Cervantes from Laredo, Texas, is equally supportive of Trump, but is content to leave the judgement of his sins to God, she said.

She urged fellow Trump supporters to stop being "crazy," and to accept that Trump lost. "It's time to move on," she said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.