Updated: Apr 18
I wanted to talk to someone who went to the January 6 Trump Rally in Washington, D.C. Here's what I found.
A Chat About January 6 with a Trump Supporter
by Shawn Inlow
with Beth Girardi
[I did a chat interview with a Clearfield, Pa. resident who traveled with friends to the January 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C. I wanted a local person’s perspective on the rally and the following violence at the Capitol.]
[I’ve decided to present the entire conversation, so as to not mis-represent anything Ms. Girardi said. I have edited some chit chat not related to the matters at hand.]
[I’ll be making some commentary about the discussion. My aim was not to argue with Ms. Girardi, but to allow her to reveal herself. The main part of the conversation is presented as is. I have decided to interject my reflections into the body of text in [parentheses].
[I have not changed spellings or phrasings from the chat. However, I have re-ordered the conversation in a couple places to reflect answers to questions that came out of order, as often in chats, several things get said out of order. So I’ve attempted to place the lines of conversation so as to be less confusing.]
[As a matter of personal privilege, I write as “X” in the following transcript.
[Again, commentary of my own, not included in the original transcript, is in [parentheses].
[Ms. Girardi seems to have a distrust in media as she will reveal, herself, further into the discussion. I find this true of many Trump supporters. So when she asked to see the article I decided to write pre-publication, I agreed to it. People do tend to want to know what you’re going to write about them but it is rare for a journalist to provide a pre-publication look at the copy. I agreed to do so, and did provide the transcript of this interview to her.]
[The editorial staff at The Progress and The Courier-Express passed on the article primarily because I wanted the entire 10,000 words to publish while my normal column length is 1,000 words. The paper just didn’t have the space. I did not want to make the article one tenth of what we talked about. I could see Ms. Girardi taking issue with my focusing in an opinion column on only a shred of the discussion, and I could see how that kind of selectivity would slant the conversation from what it IS and turn it into what I thought it WAS ABOUT.]
[But, dear reader, this is what reporters are supposed to do. Instead of presenting you a full transcript of the county commissioners’ meeting on a Tuesday (Which you would have no time to read. You could more easily go to that meeting yourself, which almost nobody does.), a news writer boils it down to a brief that you can get quickly and accurately.]
X (sent January 14 at 11:23 AM)
X: Hi Beth, sorry I'm late. Are you available to chat? And would you mind doing it on messenger so I don't have to take notes. I would never want to mis-quote you.
BETH (sent January 14 at 11:26 AM)
X: Being a reporter, I type rreally fast.
BETH: Can I see a copy before its published?
BETH: Thank you
X: Let's start with you. I'm Shawn Inlow. I am a retired State Trooper, but am also a professional writer and I do columns for local newspapers on a regular basis in DuBois and Clearfield.
Who are you?
BETH: I'm Beth Girardi a highway construction inspector supervisor a consultant through Penndot. And a mother of 3. W/ 2 grandsons
BETH: 53 if you need that also
BETH: I live on Clearfield
X: Ok. Let's get into it a bit. So you and two freinds traveled to DC on the 6th?
BETH: Yes. We left at 5 a.m. and got down there around 9 /9:30 am
X: Did you drive yourself, or take a hotel?
[I was interested here to find out if Ms. Girardi had gone on one of the many bus trips organized from this area. The Clearfield County Sheriff, Mike Churner, had helped organize one of the bus trips on that day. I had attempted on two occasions to interview Sheriff Churner about this, but that is another conversation.]
BETH: We took my car and did the trip all in one day got home around 10 pm Took snacks and sandwiches with us not knowing if there would be anything open.
X: Can you share what motivated you to want to go to a political rally?
BETH: I'm a republican. We wanted to go and show our support for not only President Trump but our constitution which seems to be more and more under attack.
It our way of life . Things that use to be right or good seems to be wrong and bad. I want my grandkids to have a better future. And grow up in a world that has define lines between good and bad.
X: I think everyone would agree with you.
BETH: I hope so. It's crazy how our world us right now.
[The irony here is that Ms. Girardi attended what turned into a riot. While she is not culpable in a crime, she attended and watched on as hundreds, perhaps thousands of individual crimes were committed. She decries a world gone mad, yet, the world watched live on television an event that was crazy; that riveted like no event since 9/11/2001.]
X: A follow up. When you say the constitution is under attack, what, specifically, do you mean?
BETH: There really us no freedom of speech anymore. I posted pictures on fb of our trip and they were immediately taken down as not factual. How can that be I took the pictures! Im pretty sure they were real. Im a gun owner you can't get ammo. Or if you do your paying A lot of money for them why? Because a lot of patriots are buying it up yes but there aren't producing it like they did. Everyone is scared the if or when the democrats get in thats one of the first laws they will make or try to.
[Ms. Girardi goes to the first and second ammendment issues here, but I would say equating Facebook decisions about posts on its platform with "really no freedom of speech" is an exaggeration. She demonstrated, after all, her freedom of speech by attending a public political rally. She spoke freely with me for publication using Facebook Messenger.]
Life liberty and the prosute of happiness has already been stripped away from us via covid. And it won't come back anytime soon if the democrats get in Biden has already stated that. Mask will become mandatory for all.
[Masks have never been mandatory for all under the Biden administration.]
I read and seen videos of a plane that was deboarded because the passengers started singing our national anthem. Sorry got on a roll. It just upsets me so much.
[This is a reference, I believe, to a story which you can look up where a flight attendant asked passengers to remain seated and silent as the body of a fallen soldier was first taken in ceremony from the plane upon landing. It morphed into a culture-war meme for a few days after.]
X: I understand. I didn't want to interrupt your flow with dumb questions.
BETH: No dumb questions
X: But there is a lot to unpack there. Can we go back and discuss a few of the points ;you made?
X: I'd like to go to the facebook thing. You say you posted pictures on your timeline, right? And they were removed not by you?
BETH: Yes I did and No they weren't. I posted it 1 because a lot of people wanted to go but were unable and 2 because what was reported was nothing like the majority of our time there was like.
X: So your photos disappeared from your timeline?
BETH: Yes gone. They took them down.
X: Did you get some notice via facebook as to why?
BETH: I got these after my post was removed
[Note: Here, Ms. Girardi shared three screen grabs showing her Facebook account had been flagged/restricted.]
X: Fascinating. You have restrictions on your account?
BETH: I did . Im not sure i do now because I have been able to post again. But once I remove my pictures from there I plan to repost the puctures.
I also want to add that one of my friends i went with is a retired Marine. He went along just in case something happened. But it didnt.
X: Do you have any idea what these restrictions are about? I've never heard of this? Is this a new thing?
BETH: No a lot of my friends have had post removed.
X: Many aquaintences of mine have many photos up on Fb of the rally. I wonder why. Is there something about The Sons and Daughters of Clearfield group? What's that group about?
BETH: They have a thing on the app where you can look at post you made on the same day years before and I go back and look at mine. They have removed things I ve posted in previous years because they don't meet community guidelines
X: Any idea why? Never mind. Perhaps it is this group you participate in? What is the gist of the Sons and Daughters?
BETH: Lol the Sdoi is a Italian club here in Clearfield. They arent political at all. The members are at times but the club as a whole is not. Nobody who is running for any office is allowed to come in and talk politics in there
X: Oh! is it kind of an offshoot of the SOI?
BETH: It is the soi. Just a name changed several years ago.
X: I had no idea.
Okay. Let's get to freedom of speech. Did you post anything like nasty or that could be construed as hateful? Like, idk, "Hang Mike Pence?"
BETH: Oh God no. Im a Christian. I'd never wish anyone dead. Pelosi can go away though. Lol
BETH: I dont belong to any political group other than the republican party. I just research and come up with my own thoughts and beliefs.
X: More people should.
Okay. Gimme a sec. I gotta backtrak a bit.
BETH: Not a fan of hers. Pence has me baffled at this point.
X: So, we are exercising free speech now, would you agree?
BETH: Yes. I would.
X: On facebook.
BETH: Lol we try but who knows what they are going to consider ok or not
X: I wonder if the company made some decision around that rally?
BETH: No its been going on
X: I am a proponent of the first AND the second amendment, having been both a journalist AND a police officer.
BETH: Good. Thank you for your service So am I. My father is a retired Ltc. Is was raised military and have a great love for our country
X: Well we agree on a lot.
X: Facebook is a privately owned company and can set its standards to my understanding. Perhaps you've been caught up in a large corporate decision.
[In fact, much has been written about Facebook's place in our media culture, and it is an important discussion to have. I would equate this to an editor deciding a letter to the editor is inappropriate, or a story has falsehoods in it and deciding not to run the inappropriate or false information. If you write a letter to the editor and it isn’t published, that doesn’t mean your speech has been impinged. It may mean that the newspaper is conscious of libel laws that apply to the printed word that Facebook and Twitter have never had to deal with. This is WHY you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook.]
[What most people don’t realize, is that social media is not, but should be, in my view, subject to libel or slander tort. Journalists, in their training, are taught ethics around reporting. Accuracy is your guiding light. If, in Journalism 101, I simply misspelled your name, I would fail that assignment. Truth matters. There are not “alternative facts” but there are multiple viewpoints. Good journalists try to be fair.]
[I think Facebook could solve this mess pretty easily. I think they need to add a flag button. If enough people flag a post, it gets fact checked. If the post is found to be misleading, the frame around the story should go from black to yellow. If it is found to be false (or libelous or slanderous) the frame around the post should be red. That way, you can still say any damn thing you like, but you’ll also be given the straight dope on the information.]
[“Hillary should be in prison!” is an OPINION.]
[“Hillary is a pedophile!” is a SLANDER. ]
[Then Facebook can be fined for every libel and slander YOU publish and that money can go to supporting all the local papers that its been putting out of business since its inception. Then Facebook can pass that cost along to its users, so that you can pay for your Facebook feed based on the amount of bullshit you post. Sometimes I think I’m brilliant! Other times, I can’t find my butt. ]
BETH: I may have but there are those who post against what I stand for and they don't seem to get erased.
X: When you post, do you get angry or hostile?
BETH: Not usually unless provoked by one of my democratic friends. Then I state my case. My oldest and youngest sons are democrats. My oldest is as much into his side as I am into mine
X: Oh, my, you must have an interesting dinner table.
BETH: Yes we do. My Dad says where did we go wrong with that one. Lol I still love him and I raised my children to stand by the beliefs. I cant disown him for what I raised him to do.
X: Good for you.
BETH: But there has been a lot of "deplatforming" going on.
[Interestingly, as I write today, a decision has been passed down by Facebook’s “oversight board” to ban Trump from the platform permanently. Apparently, Trump has now put up his own website, which he should have done long ago. I’m sure The Donald can afford to get his speech out there. I don’t think the Facebook decision is a matter of the first amendment. It’s more about corporate liability and whether Facebook gets regulated or not like a utility company.]
X: Now about your ammo. You go to Tom and Scoot's shop downtown or someplace else?
BETH: Belding and Mull ? Spelling in Philipsburg. I know the manager
X: I go in there too.
Ja' ever ask why the prices or why the limited supply of ammo? I would think there is some interruption in the supply chain bc of covid or something. Have you thought that maybe due to all the craziness of 2020, maybe people are stocking up?
Driving prices up.
BETH: Yes people are stocking up i know I am. And yes covid has something to do with it but they are also not making primers and such like they use to. I've talked to Sam about this. He maybe someone you could talk to.
X: I would like to do that. I think I will.
[I did just that and phoned Sam Pitullo, the purchasing manager at Belding & Mull in Philipsburg. Here’s his take.]
[“Last year when COVID came out, when it was introduced, some people panicked. You know there was the whole toilet paper shortage, and ammo was soon to follow. People were afraid that ammo was going to dry up and it did. Then you had the riots. When those started happening and things started to get close, people who never owned a gun bought guns. Then they started to talk about defunding the police and people thought they’d have to protect themselves. Then factories started to shut down because of COVID and production cut way back. So you’ve got a great demand of a smaller supply.”]
[Don't think I didn't catch Sam seeming to imply that COVID was "introduced." That would be a rabbit hole I don't want to go down, but he also seems to think the dearth of ammunition seems to be more about supply and demand.]
X: Ok. While we're on issues. What are your feelings about masks?
BETH: Mask!!!! Ugh. Scientific proof all over the place shows they are more harmful than helpful to those who wear them. I dont like them. I cant breath in them and they are more dangerous than getting covid.
X: Do you think doctors should wear masks during surgery?
BETH: Most definitely. They are opening you up and when you are opened up there is more chance of bacteria getting into your body. Tgey also where a differ made than what most people are wearing now. God has made our bodies to combat sicknesses. Putting on a mask when your not sick restricts not only your breathing but your breathing in your own co2 which we arent made to do.
[Here’s what The Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s most highly regarded health care providers, says about mask wearing in a July, 2020 article: “There is no risk of hypoxia, which is lower oxygen levels, in healthy adults. Carbon Dioxide will freely diffuse through your mask as you breathe.”]
X: I find masks uncomfortable too.
Do you think a dental hygenist should wear a mask?
BETH: Again yes. Your working on someone's mouth. Usually pretty closely. My father has to take an antibiotic before having any dental work done because of his heart. Your mouth is an easy area for bacteria to come into.
X: One more and I promise I'll move on. How about a nurse?
BETH: Mask are important in any medical field. When you talking about covid which is normally airborne ut should be a personal choice to wear a mask or not. I personally don't agree with them and think they are more harm than good.
[Honestly, this mystifies me. How can one understand that masks are helpful in medical situations but not in a medical situation that is live in everyone’s midst? If masks are more harmful than getting COVID, I suspect we'd have a shortage of doctors, nurses, dental hygienists and, yes, baseball catchers. ]
X: So... Oh, this is a laugh, but maybe you'll pardon me... one more... I apologize in advance: How about a baseball catcher?
BETH: Lol a medical mask no. But I would hope he would wear a baseball one.
X: Yeah... cause baseballs are airborne and you don't want a fastball getting in!
X: Sorry. I could not resit.
[As a last word on masks and, for that matter, vaccinations, just ask your own family doctor their thoughts on them. Your doctor is wearing one for a reason. I have a good friend who was leaning against getting the vaccine until he spoke to his family doctor. The fact is that masking up CAN prevent someone who doesn’t know they have COVID from giving it to someone else. It is a bit like peeing your pants: If you didn't have pants on, someone else would get wet!]
[It IS a free country. You are free to do what you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. I know many people who have passed the disease along in their families. I know of some who have barely survived and of others who died. If you think it is your “right,” your “freedom,” in America to unwittingly share a potentially deadly disease, then I think you are neither thoughtful nor courteous toward others.]
X: Ok. How about your trip? Tell me about that. Describe the scene.
BETH: when we got down there. It was COLD! People were still showing up. Tgank God we got down there as early as we did because we got parking pretty close yo the Eclipse where they had 2 huge screens set up for us to watch the speakers. None of the speakers were actually at the Eclipse. It looked like they did everything from the white house.
[Point of order. Watching on television, the speakers were, in fact, at the Ellipse. Perhaps Ms. Girardi was far enough away to only see the large viewscreens.]
I can't remember who all spoke Eric Trump, Rudy G a couple ladies spoke and Trump was to start at 11 a.m. but he was late. Most of the people there were hoping Trump was going to say something earth shattering but he didn't really. He mostly spoke about all the numbers send figures from the votes per state.
Nobody was very impressed by that because most of us had heard all this before. A lot of people were speculating on the wait for his speech. Like he was waiting for something. He didn't start his speech till a hour later and it lasted another hour.
When he was almost done he said about everyone walking over to the capital to show our support for congress to do the right thing. I didnt notice anyone running over there.
We went to the car to grab something to eat and warm up then walked over to the capital.
X: How close were you? Did you get up on the steps? Go in? What was that like?
BETH: We were pretty close to the first screen. I'd say within a 100 ft of it. It was PACKED. Like Sardines! That was at the Eclipse.
X: Right. Let's stay there for a minute.
BETH: I want to make sure you get this part.
X: Tell me about the crowd. It must have been nice being with so many like minded people?
BETH: The crowd was great! We talked yo quite a few people the day. Nice respectful no arguments. We sometimes weren't happy about people moving around but no anti political talk was going on.
We were all there for the same reason and everyone got along. Nobody was yelling anything anti Trump or anything like that. There were people from China Isreal Germany all over the world
A lot of people don't get the fact that this election wasn't just a national thing it concerned the whole world.
X: This is where you were watching the speakers, still.
X: Did you notice anyone wearing or saying anti-semitic or racist stuff? Any chants like that?
BETH: No chants other than Trump Trump ect and God bless the USA. All pro America. It was exciting there were so many american flags flown that day
X: Was your marine friend armed? You mentioned he came along "in case anything happened." Was he trying to protect you?
BETH: No he wasn't. He wouldn't go that far and I didn't either. Its against the law to carry there. And no need to invite trouble.
X: Right on. I get that.
So, when you went the mile and a half to the Capitol, how close did you get?
BETH: Ok this is the part I want to be sure you get because I've not heard ANYONE mention this.
X: I'm all ears. Thank you for sharing.
BETH: When we were walking up to the capital id say we were 200 to 300 ft away from the crowd when my military friend noticed a red flare go up. It came from the right side of the capital building. Behind the trees. I havent heard anyone mention anything about that but thats when things started at the capital.
X: I saw video of that on all the news channels.
BETH: We watched people climb up the front of the building. We watched the guards not really fo anything. (We are walking up as all this us going on)
BETH: Oh I didn't. Did they say anything about it?
X: What did your friend make of the red flare?
BETH: He was confused by it because it was out of place.
X: Out of place? How so?
BETH: Because it was out of context. Usually ment to signal or get someone attention. I was going to ask him again but he's busy right now. I can let you know a little later.
X: A marine, like my training in the police, would see that as some sort of starting signal.
BETH: But we did notice that a lot more action was going on right at the building right after that.
X: What happened next?
BETH: So we walked up to where the water is. The reflection pool. And stopped there and watched for safety sake. We seen a huge crowd go up on the upper balcony and snipers on the roof of the capital and on other building around the area also.
We watched to police on the balcony not really trying to keep anyone from getting into that area.
Then after it was done we watched them push everyone of the people that were on the balcony out of that area.
Once that was done we walked around the reflection pool and went to the capital side. We got as close as the yard out front. Again Nobody was screaming with bats or clubs in hand saying anything un-American. People were still waving their flags.
We did talk to a couple guys that went into the building. One even gave us pictures of being inside.
He said they let them in let them go around for a bit but then sprayed them with pepper spray and literally shoved them out the door.
The other guy wasn't very happy at all.
X: Oh, yeah? How so?
BETH: The very first guy had the same experience as the other guys. He was an older guy. The 2nd guy we talked to was very angry. He was like thats our house. We stormed the capital. But he want threatening to us at all. He was the guy there's pictures of with his feet up on Pelosi desk. So there was 3 guys we talked to
X: Anyone injured? Did you hear shooting at all? Explosions?
BETH: Nobody injured in the crowd or anyone i seen from the building. We knew the lady was shot right after it happened. Didn't hear any shots but did see tear gas being released
X: How did the men leaving the building share photos with you?
BETH: He sent them to my friend via her phone she sent them to me
X: Neat. Tell me, did you get any closer?
BETH: Talking to my other friend who went. She reminded me that there was several people in the crowd we seen with coms in their ears. Prior to all of this.
X: Interesting. Did you note anyone armed?
BETH: No we didn't go any closer than the grass
BETH: No we didn't.
BETH: Greg didn't either
X: Question: There was this scene where they took down the American flag and put up a Trump flag. How do you feel about that?
BETH: Vietnamese people with their flags were there also.
BETH: We didn't see that. But NOTHING Flys higher than the American flag. In fact over at tge Eclipse there was a huge American flag spread out over a part of the crowd at one piint
X: React to this: A Capitol police officer was dragged down the steps and attacked by a crowd. One man, carrying an American flag on a flag pole, beat the officer with that flag and flag pole.
BETH: ARREST HIM! Thats not a true Trump supporter doi