Whether you call it a coup attempt, an insurrection or a protest that went horribly wrong, the Jan. 6 invasion by supporters of President Trump into the U.S. Capitol involved Alabamians in several ways.
A Falkville Trump supporter has been arrested on charges involving weapons and Molotov cocktails filled with a homemade napalm-like explosive. An Athens man died of a heart attack outside the Capitol as police were trying to repel the mob.
Fingers are pointing at U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, because of his speech at a Trump rally before the riot in which he urged the crowd on toward dramatic action.
Freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s name has come up in reports about the day as Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to call Tuberville’s office to urge him to delay action while senators were debating the certification of the electoral college votes.
And the state’s attorney general is calling for the investigation of a group he leads after learning it actively promoted attendance at the rally.
Before the Violence
Before the assault on the Capitol, Trump-supporters attended a rally to protest the certification of the electoral college votes.
Brooks was a prominent voice during the Save America Rally just hours before the melee, saying “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. … Today is a time of choosing and tomorrow is a time of fighting.”
He railed against Democrats, whom he repeatedly referred to as “socialists,” and against Republicans who would not support Trump’s failing bid to remain in office.
After a crowd stormed into the Capitol, breaking windows, ransacking offices, taking selfies and livestreaming their invasion, Brooks condemned the violence.
“The violence at the U.S. Capitol today is despicable, un-American and tears at the fabric of our great republic,” Brooks said in a statement released to the press. “The scenes of United States Capitol Police being violently attacked and mobs occupying the American seat of government are highly disturbing. … I ALWAYS condemn lawlessness and violence of any kind. … I don’t care what political views motivate the violence, I hope law enforcement and our judicial system prosecute these thugs to the fullest extent of the law.”
But the same day and increasingly since then, Brooks has been among the Trump supporters who floated the theory that maybe the “thugs” were not Trump supporters, but in fact people who follow the anti-fascist, anti-authoritarian political movement antifa. He’s also retweeted an item that suggests Black Lives Matter protestors were involved in instigating the violence.
Brooks also said he sees no relation between his remarks and the violence at the Capitol. Brooks in a Friday interview with WAFF said that he and Trump wanted the crowd to go protest at the Capitol, but he said “it never occurred to me that anyone would engage in any kind of violence.”
The rally at which Brooks spoke also has pulled Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s name into the conversation about the day’s events.
Marshall recently became chairman of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which is part of the Republican Attorneys General Association. The RLDF sent out robocalls before the rally urging “patriots” to attend the event, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
The call did not recommend breaking into the Capitol building or advocate violence, the Advertiser reported. Nevertheless, Marshall took steps to distance himself from the robocall.
“I was unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s rally,” Marshall said in a statement to the press. “Despite currently transitioning into my role as the newly elected chairman of RLDF, it is unacceptable that I was neither consulted about nor informed of those decisions. I have directed an internal review of this matter.”
Marshall became head of the fund Nov. 10.
“As I’ve previously stated, I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the actions of those who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol, a place where passionate but peaceful protestors had gathered and lawmakers debated inside,” Marshall said in his statement.
Marshall now is calling for an investigation into who may have authorized the RLDF to promote the pro-trump rally, the Associated Press reported.
During the Fracas
Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani both tried to call the newly installed Tuberville while the mob was invading the capitol to persuade him to delay the counting of Electoral College votes, CNN reported. However, both called the wrong number, reaching Republican Sen. Mike Lee, instead.
CNN reported that Trump did have a short conversation with Tuberville after Lee, from Utah, put the president on hold to find the Alabama senator.
“Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, with the president trying to convince him to make additional objections to the Electoral College vote in a futile effort to block Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, according to a source familiar with the call. The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location,” CNN reported.
Although he joined Sen.Ted Cruz in objecting to the certification of the electoral college votes from Arizona, Tuberville has not commented publicly on the phone call from the president. But after the invasion, he, like most other politicians who have spoken on the event, condemned the violence.
“Yesterday was a sad day for our great country,” he said on Twitter. “I strongly condemn the violence and actions we saw from those who stormed the Capitol. It undermines the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and it has no place in our democracy.”
In the Aftermath
Federal authorities have identified five people who died during the melee or later as a result of it. Those are a capitol police officer defending the Capitol, a woman who was shot while invading the lobby of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and three Trump supporters who died of medical emergencies, one of them from Alabama.
Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, died of a heart attack while the mob was storming the Capitol. A New York Times story said he was with a group of Trump supporters on the west side of the Capitol and had been talking to his wife on his phone when he fell to the sidewalk. Emergency personnel responded by were unable to revive him.
Greeson has been identified as a die-hard Trump supporter and on his Parler social media account called for armed action to support his cause.
In November, for instance, he wrote on Parler, “All males over the age of 18 join a group.. be ready to defend our country!! Spend your money on guns and ammo… It’s time to stop this s—-!!!!!”
In December, he wrote on Parler, Lets take this f—-ing Country BACK!! Load your guns and take to the streets!”
However, his family said in a statement, “Kevin was an advocate of President Trump and attended the event on January 6, 2020 to show his support. He was not there to participate in violence or rioting, nor did he condone such actions,” NBC reported.
So far, the Department of Justice has charged more than 50 people in connection with the insurrection. One of those is Alabama’s Lonnie Coffman.
According to a DOJ news release, Coffman was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying a pistol without a license. He is accused of having 11 explosive devices – Mason jars filled with a mixture of melted Styrofoam and gasoline, which ATF agents in an affidavit filed to support his arrest, described as “an explosive mixture that has the effect of napalm insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation.”
Coffman is in custody and has a detention hearing set for Tuesday.
According to the affidavit, officers sweeping an area near the National Republican Club and the Democratic National Committee Headquarters saw the handle of what appeared to be a firearm on the front right passenger seat of a red truck that turned out to be registered to Coffman.
Officers searched the truck. In the cabin they found an M4 carbine assault rifle and ammunition. In the bed of the truck, which was covered by a fabric tarp, officers found the 11 explosive devices.
At about 6:30 p.m., Coffman arrived near the scene where officers already had searched his truck, the affidavit states. They then searched him and found two guns, 9mm and 22-caliber handguns, that were not registered to him.
When officers asked Coffman about the jars in his truck, he told them about the Styrofoam mixture, according to the affidavit.