About 1,000 Trump supporters protest at Arizona Capitol as rioters storm US Capitol
About 1,000 supporters of President Donald Trump protested Wednesday at the Arizona Capitol in downtown Phoenix against the certification of election results for President-elect Joe Biden.
The protest lasted about 10 hours until 7 p.m. as Congress continued certifying the election results. The crowd reached about 1,000 people at its peak in the late morning, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. As of 4:45 p.m., the department had not made any arrests or citations.
As rioters in Washington, D.C., breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said it had enhanced security procedures at the state Capitol, department spokesperson Bart Graves told The Arizona Republic.
Graves said the decision to enhance the department's security procedures was not made because of "any one specific event" but rather "to ensure the safety of the public."
Citing department policy, Graves declined to provide specifics about their enhanced security measures.
Meanwhile, a handful of protesters at the pro-Trump rally were seen banging on the locked doors of the state Capitol building, yelling for Gov. Doug Ducey and "Freedom!" No one attempted to get inside the building, but banging on the doors cracked a window.
Crowd cheers as people break into US Capitol; Kelli Ward heckled
The crowd at the protest watched livestream video from the U.S. House of Representatives session about certifying the election results in folding chairs arranged outside the Capitol building.
The Phoenix event was actually a mix of two events: one publicized by the Arizona Republican Party, the other by the Patriot Party of Arizona, a group that has decided to become an outside force that can work to reshape the Republican Party.
Addresses in support of certification were met with boos and chants. When Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva took the microphone in the U.S. House, booing intensified as some yelled obscenities.
When the House recessed as rioters breached the Capitol, event organizer Adel Belgaied, who organized several "save the children" rallies last summer, went on the stage and told the crowd, “Patriots have stormed the Capitol.” People erupted in cheers and applause and began to chant, “USA!”
At one point in the afternoon, some in the crowd heckled Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward as she was speaking on stage.
Some yelled that she was a traitor and for her to get off the stage. Another person in the crowd said she “certified the votes.” The Patriot Party of Arizona blames Ward and other state Republican leaders for Arizona turning blue, according to its website and posts in its Facebook group.
"We don’t want you here. You guys are the traitors. We have got to unite behind faith, family and freedom," Ward said, gesturing at the people heckling her.
She continued to make debunked claims about election integrity and suggested the same happened in Georgia on Tuesday.
"There are many people that pretend to be MAGA. I think we saw some of those at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., today. I think we might see some here today as well because people who are MAGA support each other," Ward said.
Guillotine brought to Arizona Capitol
One group of Trump supporters brought a guillotine, a device that executes people by decapitating them, to the protest. The people who brought the wooden guillotine, which had a Trump flag on it, would not share their names or be interviewed by The Republic. But they provided a written statement that detailed their reasons for a drastic measure.
“You may ask why we are here, why do we have a guillotine with us? The answer is simple,” the document read. “For six weeks Americans have written emails, gathered peacefully, made phone calls and begged their elected officials to listen to their concerns. We have been ignored, ridiculed, scorned, dismissed, lied to, laughed at and essentially told, No Ones Cares.”
The document goes on to make claims of election fraud, citing no evidence, and lists demands for election audits and investigations.
“Let it be known, if the Constitution, our way of life, and the Freedoms that we hold so dear are threatened by internal or external enemies, we will rise to the challenge and defend this great nation by all means necessary. While we pray for Peace, but we do not fear war,” the statement concluded.
When asked whether a guillotine is allowed on Capitol grounds, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said its troopers on scene at the protest were “aware it's there.”
Down the street, police vehicles blocked the road behind the Phoenix Police Department Headquarters although no one was there as of late afternoon. Department spokesperson Sgt. Maggie Cox said police "will continue to monitor activity related to the current events at the state Capitol" and "any additional response will be based on intelligence-driven information while we continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners."
'I’m so proud of you,' Gosar tells Arizona protesters
Crews on Wednesday evening began to put fencing along the west side of the state Capitol complex. The move followed reports that a woman died after she was shot inside the U.S. Capitol during the violent pro-Trump riot, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who earlier in the day objected to Arizona’s certified election results soon after the joint session of Congress commenced, on Wednesday evening tuned into the protest at the state Capitol via FaceTime video that was streamed onstage.
“I’m so proud of you for being out there, gotta love you for keeping the fight,” he told the crowd. “But regardless of what happens today, we have got to take care of this and make sure that our elections are free and transparent in Arizona.”
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb also spoke at the rally, and Arizona state Sen.-elect Wendy Rogers tweeted that she was also in attendance.
“This isn’t about Donald Trump, although we want him to be our president. I think that we clearly see that there’s some issues with the vote,” Lamb said. “But this is about the other issues that have happened. The Hillary Clintons who have gone unpunished.”
Protester Steven Osmundson said he wants to see “a peaceful transition, if it’s all legal. If it’s not legal, then a legal process to make sure that it’s verified ... then, I accept that this country has become a communist country.”
Osmundson said he believed Trump won.
Shawn Zunker and Michael Pfister, members of a group they said is called Buckeye for Freedom, went to the Capitol “to support our president.”
“We feel as if he was robbed, we feel as if Arizona as a state, we’re not a blue state. We’re here to come make our voices heard,” said Zunker.
Pfister, dressed in tactical gear and strapped with a gun, said that he came “in case anyone gives anybody a hard time,” like “ne’er-do-wells like Antifa or some trash like that.”
He said he wanted to see “the election overturned.” Zunker interjected, adding, “We want to see a fair election.”
Republic reporters Rachel Leingang, Perry Vandell, Emily Wilder and Chelsea Curtis contributed to this article.