In the days leading up to last Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, posts were made on the Cheshire County Republican Committee’s Facebook page indicating that those planning to attend President Donald Trump’s rally scheduled that morning should be prepared for something more than just a typical day of protesting.
On the evening of Jan. 3, the committee’s Facebook page posted a message telling people planning to attend the protest, which gave rise to a violent insurrection that left at least five people dead, what supplies they should bring to fend off any responding police. The post urges “Patriots going to Washington DC on January 6” to bring four bottles of water, “2 for hydration rationing throughout the day, 1 to wet a towel down with, and one for triage” as well as a hand towel or spare T-shirt and safety goggles.
“I am convinced that the police will show up in riot gear and attempt to disperse the crowd,” said the post’s author, who is identified only as Patriot One Six and does not appear to be from New Hampshire. “When this does not happen, tbey [sic] will launch tear gas and smoke canisters. Having seen this happen in my town of Louisville this past summer, a wet hand or dish towel or a wet tshirt ove [sic] the nose and mouth will help, and the tight sealing goggles will protect your eyes.”
The post adds: “Going into this rally you need to determine what level of civil disobedience you are willing to undertake.” The post also advises participants to bring a rain poncho, “in case they use water hoses to disperse the crowd.”
Marilyn Huston, who served as chair of the Cheshire County GOP at the time this and other posts about the rally were made — Richard Merkt has since been elected to that role — said Tuesday afternoon that she hadn’t been on the committee’s Facebook page since some time before the breach at the Capitol and wasn’t aware of the posts, noting that her computer has been down. If she had seen them, she said, “they would have been down in an instant.”
Huston deferred a question about who operates the committee’s Facebook page to Merkt, who said the page is run by a volunteer but declined to identify that person. He said the committee supports only lawful activities and will review its protocols for posting to Facebook.
“CCRC will review its website posting procedures to assure that future postings are vetted,” Merkt said in an email Tuesday evening. “CCRC is certainly not looking to ‘trigger’ anyone, including [The Sentinel’s] readers; that’s not its mission. That said, CCRC does not subscribe to the notion of political censorship. It believes that vigorous political debate is essential to a functioning democracy.”
Huston said she never expected last week’s rally to turn violent and she believed the goal was simply to stand in support of President Trump. She said there is a lot of hate coming from both sides of the political aisle and urged Americans to “tone it down.”
“What I want to say to all Americans is that this has to stop,” Huston said. “We all want what is best for this country. We may have different ways of getting to what is best, but this vitriol is horrific, and I think this is what is frightening people and making them act in a way they probably never would have done. It’s just deplorable what happened.”
Huston added that there are many who must be held responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection, and said she’d like to know why there weren’t enough officers to de-escalate the crowd. She pointed to the widespread protests over police brutality and racial injustice during the summer that turned riotous in several major cities and said what she called the “radical left and the radical right” are not speaking for mainstream Americans.
Another post, an image of a flier, was shared on the Cheshire County GOP’s page Jan. 2. It was seeking to sign people up for a bus trip from Concord to Washington to participate in last week’s rally. The post urges people to make the trip to “Stop the Steal,” a battle cry popularized by Trump’s supporters as well as the moniker for last Wednesday’s rally. Since his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, Trump and his allies have made unfounded claims of massive voter fraud, none of which have stood up in court.
“Let’s put the fear of God into these Demo-Corruptionists and their RINO (Republican in name only) allies in Congress, and take back AMERICA,” the flier says.
The post directing people on what supplies to bring to the rally and how to defend against police has since been removed from the Cheshire County GOP’s page, though the flier for the bus trip was still visible there as of early Wednesday morning.
Throughout the past few weeks, the Cheshire County GOP’s Facebook page makes several references to unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from Trump.
A post made by Merkt and shared by the committee the day after the Capitol insurrection suggests that the states call for a convention to make changes to the U.S. Constitution, in accordance with the provisions laid out in Article V of that document, saying that many have lost faith in the federal government and view the institution as corrupt.
His post says an Article V convention “would allow the states to take matters out of Washington, DC’s hands and revise the Constitution based on our 240 years of practical experience as a democratic Republic. New safeguards of liberty could be added to counter the inherent tendencies of central government to expand its powers and disregard constitutional limits.”