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Capitol Demonstrators Voice Fears Of Federal Police Forces

One man stands on a staircase holding an American flag while another man speaks into a microphone and points off into the distance.
Tom Flanigan
Luis Miguel, an "America First Republican" who aims to defeat incumbent U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in the next election, addresses his supporters from the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

A recent rally of mostly Donald Trump supporters gathered at the Florida Capitol and focused their attentions on releasing those being held in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But there was another reason the group was determined to send a message to federal and state authorities.

Around 100 self-described "patriots" gathered noisily - but peacefully - at the Florida Capitol on July 10. Their prime purpose was to protest the jailing of hundreds of people arrested in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. St. Augustine's Doug Russo, who calls himself "The Preacher," had a different take on that event as he delivered the rally's invocation.

"The real insurrection on January 6 was the certification of the election. That was the insurrection. Anybody that tells you separation of church and state should be slapped upside the head. God and country go hand in hand. God bless America!"

There was another target for the ire of many in the crowd. That would be the U.S. Capitol Police who tried to control the thousands of people who showed up on January 6. Ben Pollock of Lakeland claimed those officers were the real aggressors in the situation.

"Mothers and sons were collapsed on the ground, and my son was trying to get them out while he was being beaten with a damn baton. From the ones that should have been protecting us. They didn't need more men up there. What they needed was to leave our patriots the hell alone!"

Pollock's grown son and daughter both face charges for their participation in the Capitol attack. Another speaker at the rally who has some serious conflict with federal law enforcement was Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys. He wasn't in Washington on January 6, although many of his followers were.

"I can't in good conscience keep chanting, 'Back the Blue.' Not because I don't back police officers; I back them individually. But what they did in DC, what they did in Portland, and what the feds have done across the nation, is unjust."

Tarrio claimed - without evidence - that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was actually a so-called "false flag" arranged by federal authorities to lure peaceful patriots into a prosecutorial trap and to send the MAGA movement a message.

"So after January 6, they had all the ammo they needed. You know why January 6 was set up? Because of the raw power you saw on the streets of DC on November 14 and December 12."

That anti-federal law enforcement message seems to be resonating with a number of Republican politicians. One is Christine Quinn from Tampa. She's twice mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Florida's Fourteenth Congressional District and is trying again next year.

"If they're going after the proud boys, they can go after our Republican Club. They can go after our bible study."

That's also a key talking point for Luis Miguel, who hopes to primary U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in 2022.

"Because the powers-that-be in Washington, DC, this leviathan police state that threatens the freedom of our nation, it won't be satisfied with those it currently has in federal detainment. It's coming for all of us."

Which was the other big motivator for the Tallahassee protest on July 10. Here's Jeremy Liggett, one of six Republicans now running for Florida's 7th Congressional District, just north of Orlando.

"Keep the Biden Administration from federalizing law enforcement officers. Stop these guys from coming down here and setting up offices. We've heard from 'The Swamp' in Washington and we know that's their plan and what they're looking at doing."

What's sparking all this fear? A July 6 memo from the U.S. Capitol Police, that came on the six-month anniversary of the insurrectionist attack. It announced a plan to set up two Capitol Police field offices - one in Tampa and one in San Francisco - to monitor the flood of threats against members of Congress originating in Florida and California. The announcement did not rule out the possibility of more such offices in the future. Also on record opposing the plan is the Republican Party of Hillsborough County. It's sent a letter to Governor DeSantis urging him to do "something" to stop a U.S. Capitol Police office in Florida. Not everyone's against the idea, though. Florida U.S. Senator Rick Scott released a statement indicating his support for the remote office.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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