CEDAR RAPIDS — Leo Kelly didn’t go to Washington to overthrow the government.
But he was there Jan. 6 when protesters violently invaded the U.S. Capitol and, caught up in the moment, Kelly said, he followed the crowd into the Senate chamber.
“It was just a crazy time,” he said Monday.
He’s still trying to process what happened, Kelly said, adding it would be fair to say he’s still somewhat overwhelmed by the experience that left at least five people including a police officer dead, more than 90 arrested so far and investigations into caches of guns, Molotov cocktails and even napalm.
Kelly, who described himself as an independent who has been politically active, traveled from Cedar Rapids to Washington on his own to show support for President Donald Trump, to call attention to false claims that the election was stolen from the president and to air frustration over what he believes are “crimes against the Constitution” that are not being addressed by the courts and other government institutions.
“There’s enough illegal behavior ... being committed by the elected officials that, you know, what are you supposed to do?” Kelly said in an interview with LifeSiteNews, which promotes itself as the “#1 pro-life news website,” shortly after the rally. “Nobody in the courts will listen, they won’t even take a look at the evidence. They just dismiss court cases, all the election fraud cases on grounds that there’s no standing or whatever. At some point you just say, ‘Well, none of my institutions are working.’”
Kelly said he listened to Trump’s remarks at the “Save America Rally” and doesn’t believe the president is responsible for the violence that followed because he told supporters “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” at the Capitol.
However, Trump also told supporters to never concede and that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” On Monday, House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment against Trump for “inciting violence against the government of the United States.”
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When Kelly arrived at the Capitol, people were walking up steps and climbing on scaffolding. He said he wanted to see what was happening, so he kept moving forward. It felt like a historical moment he wanted to witness, he said.
Kelly, who works for a fixed wireless company in Cedar Rapids, said he had no malicious intent. He didn’t feel like part of a coup attempt.
“That is not who I am,” he said. “I wasn’t armed. I didn’t intend to destroy anything and I didn’t destroy anything.”
He estimates he was in the Senate chamber for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. The scene was “just absolute chaos.” He said he joined others in prayer.
Kelly isn’t sure what he would have said had he encountered a member of Congress.
“I would have had to start by asking them, ‘What do you know about what’s going on ... what do you believe about all of what’s going on in politics and everything?’” he said.
“I would have to hear what they have to say before I could really say anything to them,” Kelly said. “I mean, there’s enough people yelling at people that I don’t want to add to that.”
Despite the yelling, Kelly doesn’t think elected officials are listening and doesn’t know if the message was received.
“I’m sure they heard something, but I guess you’d have to ask them,” he said. “It’s like there is a fog everywhere. I think we’re going to have to wait at least weeks and maybe months and years” to know the impact of the protest.
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Kelly, who said God will judge his actions, said he believes in the rule of law and understands that the law could come for him.
“If the FBI or whoever calls me — I mean, they know where to find me, I’m sure — I’ll talk to them,” Kelly said. “I understand there could be consequences for what happened and I will accept those and deal with them.”
He said he has no plans to return to Washington for demonstrations planned for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“I’m not going back in the Capitol building,” Kelly said. “I don’t have anything in my plans for any political activism or participating in any rallies on my calendar.”
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