ABINGDON, Va. — At 4 p.m. Wednesday, hours after pro-Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., some area residents gathered in downtown Abingdon to express their own opposition to the presidential election results.
The roughly two dozen people waving pro-Trump flags and signs like “HONK 4 TRUMP” and “DRAIN THE SWAMP” were peaceful and often enthusiastic, cheering whenever a passing vehicle honked, which was often.
But there was frustration beneath the cheering.
“It’s fraudulent. It’s stolen,” Barbara Waters, a woman in her 70s bundled in a white parka and “Trump 2020” winter hat, said of the election results, her voice rising as she echoed President Trump’s claims.
Election administrators across the country have reported that they haven’t found widespread fraud or errors in the vote counts, even after recounts and investigations. And a slew of federal agency heads, judges and elected officials, many of them Republicans, have publicly announced that the 2020 elections were fair and secure.
That didn’t make any difference to Waters, who said she’s an ardent member of the far-right conspiracy group QAnon. She said she didn’t trust the election results because she doesn’t “trust 98% of any of the politicians.”
“They will make a coup on President Trump [sic], and he will take over … because we will be behind him,” Waters said.
Would Waters herself support a coup, even a violent one?
“You bet your daggone business I will,” she said. “Every cotton-picking one of us will be there for him. … I will support anything — anything — our president wants to do.”
Two other protesters standing with Waters said they’d also support such a coup.
But 41-year-old Bristol, Virginia resident James Bardinelli, waving a sign on a corner across the street from them, said he would protest the election results in a strictly peaceful fashion. He didn’t want any part in the violence, he said.
“I’m upset to see it,” Bardinelli said.
Standing next to him, a “HONK 4 TRUMP” sign in one hand and a large, red Trump flag in the other, Mark Matney, the Washington County Commissioner of Revenue, agreed.
“I’m a God-fearing man, and I believe we need to pray for our enemies. … No violence,” said Matney, a 54-year-old Abingdon resident who said he was attending the rally on his own time.
He added that he believes the election was “stolen.”
“I feel like we’ve lost our country,” Matney said.
Update: We verified Mark Matney's position as the Washington County Commissioner of Revenue after publishing the initial story. We've since updated the text to include that detail.
email@example.com | 276-645-2511 | Twitter: @swadely