What kind of fallout should there be for public officials who are Donald Trump supporters and who took part in the “Stop the Steal” rally-turned-insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6? Three stories in The Boston Globe explore that issue.
The most ambiguous, and therefore the most interesting, is the case of David Ellis Jr., the police chief in Troy, New Hampshire, a longtime Trump supporter who’d previously gotten into trouble for displaying MAGA paraphernalia in his office (see photo above). According to the Globe and to New Hampshire Public Radio, Ellis took part in the protest, but was not among the rioters who invaded the Capitol. He’s also spoken out against the violence.
“I witnessed the people harassing the riot police that were getting in their gear on Constitution Ave, as I’m walking back to get to the train station at Union Station,” Ellis told NHPR. “It was ridiculous, people were giving police such a hard time.”
Nevertheless, there have been calls for town officials to fire Ellis. There have been threats, leading to a lockdown at town hall. But, so far, they’re standing by Ellis. NHPR quoted Richard Thackston, chair of the town’s selectmen, as saying at a public meeting:
I personally find the events that happened yesterday appalling; they brought tears to my eyes, the thought that three people, four people lost their lives in an utterly unnecessary and pointless occurrence is tragic. But I believe that any individual, any public servant has the right to participate in political events without fear of loss of employment or having it have any effect.
I think that’s the right call for anyone who took part in the protests but did not engage in any violent behavior and made no attempt to enter the Capitol. It sounds like Ellis holds dangerously false views put forth by Trump about the integrity of the election. But unless evidence emerges that his activities were not limited to peaceful protest, that should be the end of the matter.
Not so with an unnamed Boston Police officer who, according to the Globe, may have attended the rally and gone inside the Capitol, and who issued threats against Vice President Mike Pence on social media. He should be gone for the threats alone, and if he was among the invading force, he should be prosecuted.
The same goes for Natick town meeting member Suzanne Ianni, who was photographed inside the Capitol, and who told Agence France-Presse (not Yahoo News, as the Globe erroneously reports), “We will fight tooth and nail. This isn’t over just if Biden gets inaugurated, if that happens. We’ll never stop fighting. And Trump will be our president for the next four years, no matter who they inaugurate.”
Town officials have said they can’t get rid of Ianni. But every single one of the rioters who entered the Capitol should be prosecuted. And there she is in the photo accompanying the Globe story, fist upraised.