State Rep. Les Eaves isn’t concerned about the possibility of armed protests being held at the state Capitol next week while the Legislature is in session, saying, “I think the Capitol police and other law enforcement have us covered pretty well.”
The FBI has issued warnings about plans for armed protests in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., from Saturday through Jan. 20, when Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.
“I feel safe going into the Capitol,” said Eaves, a Republican from Searcy. “Things in Arkansas aren’t quite as partisan, I don’t think, as they are in D.C., but I do fear we are heading in that direction. That makes me a little nervous.”
The protests would follow a violent siege of the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6 that forced lawmakers attempting to confirm the Electoral College vote into hiding under desks and donning gas masks. President Donald Trump had urged supporters that morning at a rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol. Protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for a second time for “incitement of insurrection” after the siege that left five people dead. However, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the earliest an impeachment trial would begin is Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House.
Eaves said the U.S. Capitol insurrection “was just an embarrassment.”
“It was uncalled for, disappointing. I don’t hardly have words to describe it,” he said. “I was watching [the] Senate’s testimony live stream when you started noticing something was going on, the senators kind of looking around, and I could see our own Sen. Tom Cotton in the back and he’s looking around and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Something is going on.’ Then, you kind of realize something is happening.
“It was just uncalled for. That is not the way to affect change in my mind. It was just out of control.”
The Daily Citizen was unable to reach other state senators and representatives from the county for comment.
Republican Party of White County Chairman Billy Kurck believes “there’s a lot of opinions on” the events that unfolded at the nation’s Capitol.
“I’ve read a lot of different opinions of what happened up there; of course, I wasn’t there,” Kurck said. “You can read what the Democrats are saying, what the Republicans are saying and, of course, it’s totally different.
“I know people are frustrated; I’m frustrated. I believe there was some hankypanky going on, whether it was to the level that would have changed the outcome of the election, I don’t know. I’m hoping in time that will all get itself worked out as far what will come to light on what really happened and what didn’t happen and the truth will all come out before the next election.”
Kurck said he knows some people who belong to “some of those patriot clubs” and doesn’t believe that there is any violence planned in Arkansas leading up to the inauguration.
“I know they are frustrated, but for my part there are working, law-abiding citizens who are just frustrated, but I don’t see any kind of violence arising at all on my part,” he said, adding that there may be some rallies that he is not aware of, but the feedback he has been getting is that nothing is planned like that.
“I’m not all knowing about that but from what I can see ... I don’t think we will see anything near what they had up there at the Capitol.”
White County Judge Mike Lincoln said he didn’t expect any out-of-control protests in the county over the election or inauguration. He mentioned the peaceful protests held in Searcy when George Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
“They were very peaceful for the most part,” Lincoln said. “They didn’t try to impede traffic, didn’t have any issues at all, even that was mainly in the city area of the downtown area. People have a right to gather. You surely want to take precaution and encourage peaceful demonstrations as best as you can.”
At the nation’s Capital last week, he said he expected a crowd to gather, but “I didn’t expect it to be a crowd that gained entrance into the Capitol.”
“I think probably every day in Washington there is a protest concerning something, every day in the D.C. area,” Lincoln said. “I would have to say my heart grieved that a group would do what they did.
“Of course, there is all kinds of speculation of who those groups were. Had they been infiltrated? Were they the ones that actually gathered for a peaceful demonstration? I think a lot is going to come out.”
He said it reminded him of a protest at the Confederate monument at the White County Courthouse in 2017, where “50 to 100 people gathered, most in favor of the monument staying there.”
“There were a few people who gathered there who were outside agitators,” Lincoln said. “I approached one man from Stone County because he looked familiar to the guy who was at Charlottesville [Va. during a deadly riot] and I just asked him why he was here and made it real clear to him we weren’t going to have any disturbance. And I made it real clear to him that I had at least four law enforcement people who had their eyes on him and if he made any move toward creating trouble, he would be arrested.”
Lincoln said he thinks officials need to be proactive when “we hear things that might take place.” He said he thinks “we can overreact if we’re not careful, too.”
Eaves said, “It’s important to say that it is OK to disagree.”
“I have close friends and family members that I absolutely disagree policywise but we are still friends or still family; we can still get along,” Eaves said. “So the whole country needs to learn, it’s OK to disagree with someone and it’s also OK to be polite to that person if you disagree. And I’m not talking about one side or the other [Republican or Democrat], both sides need to learn that.”