When Congress met Wednesday to certify the presidential election results, supporters of President Trump, who got on buses in Jasper, were at rallies in Washington, thanks to a Facebook effort that pulled itself together in days.
About 110 people boarded two buses in Jasper late Tuesday afternoon, with plans to drive all night to Washington to participate in rallies at the White House and the Capitol. The people indicated they were concerned about allegations of fraud in the presidential election and felt they needed to take a stand.
Congress was expected to hear protests Wednesday but to eventually certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election. Trump, the Republican candidate, and others have charged irregularities. However, Trump has lost a number of court cases involving the election, and states have certified results that point to a Biden victory.
Eventually, the process Wednesday was interrupted by protests at the Capitol, where protestors stormed the building and even made their way into the chambers. Initial reports at press time were that people who were bused in from Jasper were thought to be safe outside the Capitol and watching the afternoon's events at a distance.
In a 6 p.m. text Wednesday afternoon to the Eagle, Rachel Williams of Jasper said, “Our group remained safe and all are accounted for. We did not experience anything but a peaceful protest which was our goal all along. We were not witness to anything being portrayed in the news, so we have no comment at this time.”
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) did not condemn the security breach, but did ask for prayers for the nation in a press release Wedesday.
"I was on the House Floor this afternoon objecting to the electoral votes with many of my colleagues. We had to evacuate due to a security breach. I ask for your prayers during this time in our nation's history," he said. "God has brought this nation through many dark days over the past 240 plus years. We have more times than not, been able to settle our disputes peaceably. I believe God will continue to guide and protect this nation. However, as a nation we need to seek his guidance in peace. He is in full control!"
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan condemned any unlawful and violent actions on Capitol Hill in a press release Wednesday afternoon.
"The Alabama Republican Party strongly condemns any violence and unlawful actions occurring on Capitol Hill today," she said. "We support law enforcement efforts to control and arrest any person who is violating laws and causing harm to property or people. These actions are not American and cannot be tolerated.
“We strongly support peaceful assembly and protest as guaranteed by the First Amendment," Lathan continued. "The Electoral College voting process, which is allowed by the Constitution, must be allowed to continue without disruption. It is important that citizens contact their representatives to have their voices heard in an orderly and respectful manner."
How the Jasper group organized
Williams said Tuesday she, Monica Moon, Iva Hendon and Susan Stephens decided to take a more intimate road trip from Jasper to Washington, D.C., in November to show support at a rally for President Trump as he lobbied concerning how the election was conducted.
"It was a little unnerving," Williams said, as they through only 100 people might be there for the event and people told them it might not be safe to go. But the group decided to pray about it, giving it over to God for keeping them safe.
"We had an amazing experience," Williams said, quoting the National Park Service saying 1.5 million people were at the November event. Yet they experienced no rudeness, with people looking out for each other. "At the end of the day, I didn't see any trash on the ground," she said.
Thanks to an idea from Moon, their prior experience got the women to think in recent days about the possibility of taking a bus to Washington on Wednesday.
"It was like one of those things that just come out of your mouth," one woman said.
The idea was put out on Facebook, thanks to a group Moon put together, Williams said. Others were invited to join through the group.
The response was immediate, with people wanting to meet in Jasper from across the state. Williams said one woman even came from California to come to Jasper. Soon the bus filled up, and one volunteer filled a second bus up in 24 hours.
"We just thought, we'll see if anyone wants to go. The next thing we knew, we needed a travel agent," Williams said.
All told, the whole trip was put together in less than a week. Each person is paying $125 to offset expenses, including the bus rental and a hotel room for bus drivers to sleep while the passengers go to their rallies.
No elected or party officials are on the buses, Williams said. "Just we the people," she said.
Williams said organizers expect to roll into Washington about 8 a.m., heading straight to the White House for a three-hour rally starting at 9 a.m. "Then we march to the Capitol plaza, between the Capitol and the Supreme Court. There is another rally at 1 p.m.," she said. Then they get back on the bus and get back into Jasper between 6 to 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
Williams said that effort shows how important this issue is to people.
"We are willing to sacrifice. It is not easy," she said. "This is not a leisure trip to sight see. This is not going to be comfortable for a lot of us. That is how important it is."
She said it allows Congress and the nation to know "we see the fraud that has been presented that is being ignored by the media and judges all across the country. We all see it. They can see it. So we are just letting them know we are not sitting back invisible. We are going to stand up and we expect y'all to deal with this. It has got to be dealt with. Either way, it's got to be dealt with. If Biden wins, it needs to be an honest win. If Trump wins, it needs to be an honest win."
Asked if this leads to other efforts for reforms, Williams and some other people said they hoped so.
"We have relied too much on the people we put in office, and we just sit back and get lazy and apathetic. I think this has shown Americans, hey, we need to hold them accountable, but we've got to be a part of the process, too. My hope is that this wakes America up, that we are all in this together," she said.
Even at 4:15 p.m., as people waited to board the buses at 5 p.m., a good crowd was already building as men and women alike bundled up for the cold and brought armfuls of items, ranging from clothing to Trump flags, as well as water and other needs. Williams said the people have been excited to be a part of the process.
Asked about precautions for the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said the group was also bringing masks and hand sanitizers.
"I feel like everyone is adults. If you are a high risk individual, you need to take care of yourself," she said. "It is their own choice to come, and, yes, we will be on a bus close together, but we've had several people to opt out. They had symptoms and we appreciate that."
As for security, problems with the earlier event was seen more at night, which is why the group was not staying overnight in Washington. Once the daytime events are done, the group planned to leave.
Williams said she hopes the event sets an example for the youth, saying that current generations have sometimes not had to sacrifice like earlier ones, such as those who went through World War II. Wars such as the Gulf War didn't affect back home, she said, adding she and her children have rarely had to take a stand, and have never seen blood shed for freedoms.
"I want my children to see if you believe in something, you've got to stand for it. You've got to stand up for your beliefs and fight for your freedoms. If you are not willing to do that, you're going to lose them. That is something they've never had to witness," she said.
Annette Lundy from Mobile was among those who came from out of town for the trip. She said the group should go to support Trump, but she also said the nation's freedoms were at stake.
"This is my country," she said. "This is our Constitution that is being infringed upon at this time. There are too many unanswered questions. We need answers." She said questions need to be asked about if the elections are being done fairly and votes are being counted correctly.