… a group of Trump-supporting ‘posers’ approached us from the rear as they pushed and shoved in formation past us in a line of 20 plus young, clean cut guys and gals, dressed in mostly black, wearing black and dark colored backpacks, ear buds in thier left ears, mics under thier throat area and walking with thier left hands on the left shoulder of the person ahead of them. They were very quietly chanting or talking but we could not understand what they were saying. I told my sister, Felecia, ” this ain’t right. Those folks ain’t with us. Shit about to get real.”
—Arkansas State Trooper Karen Clark on Facebook about the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington.
The Arkansas State Police and Governor Hutchinson continue to refuse to discuss two state troopers in Washington on Jan. 6 for the rally that turned into a deadly riot.
The governor continues to stand by an inaccurate statement, quoting Col. Bill Bryant. It was that the two troopers, Cpl. Karen Clark and Alan Aiken, only attended the “rally” at which Donald Trump urged them to march on the Capitol, but did not go to the Capitol. Clark’s own words and video on Facebook said she marched to the Capitol, observed the incursion and likely was in a restricted area outside the Capitol with many others. Aiken remarked on Twitter about events inside the building, but those comments may have been based on his watching media coverage. No specific account of his activities has been found.
Clark’s comment on the “posers” is interesting because it seems likely she was an eyewitness to a group that the FBI is actively seeking, some already arrested.
The New York Times reports at length here on a line of paramilitary people who forged through the crowd and into the Capitol, just as Clark described. The reporting includes a video of footage assembled outside and inside the Capitol, including the group’s movement through the crowd outside the Capitol where Clark may have seen them.
These people, if the same as those Clark saw, were not exactly “posers.” Said the Times:
The group they are accused of being part of, the Oath Keepers, is a far-right militia-style organization founded by military and law enforcement veterans that professes to believe that a shadowy globalist cabal is plotting to take away Americans’ rights.
Charging documents against the trio noted that amid the generally chaotic scene as the mob started to push its way into the Capitol, a group dressed in paramilitary gear and Oath Keepers paraphernalia stood out for its coordination. In one video, about 10 Oath Keepers in helmets “move in an organized and practiced fashion and force their way to the front of the crowd gathered around a door to the U.S. Capitol.”
Arrests have been made of people who did not enter the building, which was closed to the public. A broad area around the Capitol was barricaded, but those barricades were breached by marchers coming from the Trump rally on the west (left in photo) side of the building. A photo from one of the many arrest affidavits outlines the restricted area.
The affidavit describes the restricted area:
On January 6, 2021, permanent and temporary security barriers were in place to separate areas where lawful first amendment activity could be conducted from areas restricted both to prevent any adverse impact on the legislative process and to safeguard and prevent and property damage directed at the U.S. Capitol and West Front Inaugural Platform. These security barriers included bike racks that were positioned to the north of the U.S. Capitol along Constitution Avenue; to the south of the U.S. Capitol along Independence Avenue; to the west of the U.S. Capitol along First Street on the eastern side of that street; and, on the east side of the U.S. Capitol, between the Capitol Plaza (East Front) and the grassy areas located between the Plaza and First Street. This bounded area is hereinafter referred to as the “Restricted Grounds.” Within the West Front of the Restricted Grounds there were additional temporary barriers due to preparations and ongoing construction for the Inauguration including green snow fencing and signage stating “Area Closed By order of the United States Capitol Police Board.” The exterior plaza of the U.S. Capitol was also closed to members of the public.
Some selections from Clark’s eyewitness account of attending the rally and Trump’s speech (unedited):
After the speech ended, we walked with a large crowd to the capitol. There at the capitol, we saw some Trump supporters breach the capitol area up the stairs to the balcony areas waving flags etc. We heard loud booms. We saw a couple of police officers run away and off the balconies.
… A red flair was shot into the air from the front left side of the capitol stairs. The red flare thing went straight up, floated to the right side of the capitol building and moved out of sight but did not fall back toward the ground. Very strange. Tear gas was released on the capitol balcony but the wind carried it away as quickly as it was released. A large pink fume of something exploded into the air on the right side of the capitol. People began to scale the wall of the capitol (it looked like some type of schafolding and not just a plain wall, I must add) instead of using the stairs for some reason.
In the video, Clark also talks of marching to the Capitol and refers to people pushing up the stairs. “I filmed some of that,” she said. She recounts seeing police trying to move people off the stairs and talks about the people with backpacks. She said she “got squeezed into an area that was off-limits… we had no idea … there wasn’t no fence or nothing by the time we got there.”
I remind you again of Hutchinson’s statement:
Col. Bill Bryant [the governor’s State Police director] conducted an internal review and, based upon the review findings, the two troopers in question took personal time off and only attended the Trump rally. They did not go to the Capitol or see any illegal behavior. If any state employee participated in the riot at the nation’s capital, then that would be considered a criminal act and dealt with accordingly.”
As former State Police Director Tom Mars has said repeatedly: The account of Clark, Bryant and Hutchinson can’t all be correct.
I have an FOI request pending for internal discussions by Bryant and others about the troopers. Initially, Bryant said he would not ask troopers about personal activities on leave time. Hutchinson’s inaccurate whitewash indicated he eventually asked. I have asked Bryant again if he’d like to correct his initial statement on which the governor relied. I have also asked for an account of what the troopers did in Washington. And finally, I’ve asked for confirmation of something John Brummett said in a Democrat-Gazette column today about the issue:
I’m less interested in both the critics and in Hutchinson’s mistakes and euphemisms than in something else I’m told reliably, which is that the State Police offered the officers for questioning by the FBI, which, as yet, sees no need to talk to them.
The FBI is busy. Hundreds have been arrested, some for entering the restricted area outside the Capitol building. They vow more arrests. I vow to keep asking about the Arkansans in Washington until the State Police and governor provide adequate answers.
To say what I’ve said before: I think Clark’s account is believable. She was an observer of riot events, not a participant. She may have been honestly swept along unknowingly into a restricted area. But she was there and she says she has video. You’d think a police agency and a governor who once was a U.S. attorney might be interested. Aiken’s activities are less clear, but his record as a trooper and remarks on social media don’t illustrate someone with impeccable judgment.