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‘I would 100% do it again’: Local business owner recalls experience during riot at Capitol Hill

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 11:29 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As the nation reels from the attack on the Capitol earlier this week, law enforcement agencies around the country are working to identify individuals who contributed to any violent or criminal behavior.

“First, I was sad. Then, it turned to shock. Then, I just ended up with anger,” said S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson. “I was very angry about what I was seeing, and it was just shocking to see that happening, and it’s something I absolutely condemn.”

United States Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy tweeted Thursday that anyone who traveled from South Carolina with the intent to commit acts of destruction would be prosecuted.

Wilson says the wheels are already turning to find those responsible for violence. However, he says if you went and stayed peaceful, you shouldn’t have anything to be worried about.

“There were a lot of people out there in Washington, D.C. who were there for a peaceful protest. Whether you agree or disagree with their point of view, they were there peacefully,” Wilson said. “They are not the ones that we need to be looking at. We need to be looking at the people who were actually breaking into the Capitol building and causing violence and harm to federal property and trespassing.”

Officials from the FBI say they’re working in tandem with agencies across the country to help find anyone who participated in criminal activity at the Capitol on Wednesday, adding that many of the perpetrators actually self-identified by posting their activities during the incident on social media.

“We were able to have that information,” said Don Wood, a Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI. “Other individuals, other citizens provided those screenshots to us and it made our jobs easier to figure out who that particular person was committing the crime.”

While the nationwide search for rioters has begun, Wilson says right now, our country needs to focus on rebuilding and coming together.

“We need to move forward,” he said. “When we have disagreements with the Biden administration, we will raise those disagreements in petitions, and letters, and court filings, if needed. But otherwise, I hope that they have a very peaceful transition of power and that the next two weeks goes off without a hitch. I would encourage everybody to pray for our country.”

WIS spoke with one woman who was protesting in D.C. on Wednesday. Sarah Grace Allen, a business owner in Lexington, says she was unaware of the violent mob that broke into the Capitol building.

Allen said that, in the area where she was standing, protesters were frustrated about the election but not violent. She says they were there to sing songs, raise their flags, and show support for the president.

“I would 100% do it again,” she said. “There was nothing there that I witnessed, or that I was a part of that I’m ashamed of at all. I certainly don’t condone any of the vandalism that we heard about after the fact. At all. And anybody that I know who went there, they also don’t condone any of that. Anybody that I know that went there too didn’t witness any of it either, which is why... when we got back and we heard the news, we were all so shocked about it.”

Allen estimates that her group was at the protest from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In a Facebook post that Allen says was removed from Facebook, she wrote, in part:

“I’m privileged to have been part of such an historic time in our nation. I was right there, on the steps, climbing over walls to stand with my fellow patriots as we rallied for freedom. We were singing and waving flags while sitting and standing on the steps and bleachers. We were tear gassed and some I heard were shot with rubber bullets for this ‘violent act of terrorism.’”

Allen told WIS there were “these bleacher type things that they were allowed to go on, as well as the steps, to raise their flags and sing and everything. The cops and the security were allowing all that. But for whatever reason, every so often, they would drop a few tear gas bombs, just in the crowd, in general...so people would get randomly tear gassed.”

Allen says she was on the back side of the Capitol building, and “the crowd I was amongst, the security and the police were allowing us to be where we were. Nobody was trying to illegally enter any area, nobody was trying to scale the walls or break anything down.”

Sarah Grace Allen
Sarah Grace Allen(WIS)

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