Mason, Ohio, Councilman TJ Honerlaw, who was at a Washington rally Wednesday and left just before violence broke out at the U.S. Capitol Building, told WCPO he was shocked to learn what had unfolded after he left. Now, he hopes that those responsible are brought to justice.
Honerlaw said he attended the DC rally as a private citizen and not in any official capacity. The crowd had gathered to protest Congress' expected certification of President-elect Joe Biden's November victory. Since the election, President Donald Trump has continued to allege mass voter fraud without evidence.
Before violence broke out, Honerlaw described the afternoon rally as a generally wholesome event, not much different from Mason's Heritage Day Parade.
"It was young and old," he told WCPO. "I saw really old, elderly people there. I saw people pushing strollers. I saw grade school kids. I saw dogs, people bringing dogs and animals. I saw every color and every nationality."
He was on the ground at the Ellipse by Wednesday afternoon, then moved with the crowds to the Reflecting Pool. They ultimately got to the base of the Capitol steps, just past the reflecting pool.
"There was a concern even going there that, 'Man, will this be a safe event?' You're concerned. But when we get there, even within an hour, I'm not really big on crowds, but I was, like, this was a great event," he said.
When he and his friends left the rally, they knew people were up at the Capitol but didn't know exactly what was happening.
Shortly after, they got a curfew alert on their way back to the hotel. Once they turned on the TV in their room, they saw that a crowd of supporters had broken through a police barricade and forced their way into Congressional chambers.
Members of Congress evacuated the Capitol shortly before one woman was shot and killed, more than two dozen Capitol Police officers were wounded and windows of the building had been shattered.
"It's a tragic thing that happened," Honerlaw said. "I mean, watching the news, a woman lost her life and seeing some of that stuff, I was, like, 'Who are those people?'"
Honerlaw expressed shock at the behavior of Trump supporters, who he said love police and law and order, especially at an event he described as initially peaceful and friendly.
After the Capitol was secured, Congress reconvened Wednesday night to continue their certification of the November election.
Now, Honerlaw said, he hopes those responsible for Wednesday's attack at the Capitol are held accountable.
"What they did was wrong, and these people need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent," Honerlaw said. "I don't care if it was Trump supporters or Antifa -- anybody that does this type of stuff needs to be punished, because it's just not the way you get things done."