Local Republicans, Dems React to Siege of Capitol

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Gino DiFabio, one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal supporters in the Mahoning Valley, did not join his friends and fellow Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. today. He would have liked to have attended the protest but stayed home to keep a medical appointment.

Speaking with The Business Journal as he watched the siege of the Capitol unfold on television, DiFabio said people are “very upset. We don’t advocate violence and anytime there is violence, there’s such a double standard. I don’t see anything set on fire … I just see some protesters who got out of hand.

“There’s a big difference how the media treats other protesters. They say these people are domestic terrorists but watched Portland burn for over 100 days and called them ‘peaceful protesters.’ ”

DiFabio is a former union member and a former Democrat who is frequently interviewed by national news organizations covering the shifting political allegiances in the Mahoning Valley.

DiFabio conceded that protesters storming the Capitol “was probably wrong. It’s never right to do this but you always have to look at the level of frustration. I don’t want to see my friends get hurt or the cops,” he said.

“This is the consequence of the press being so irresponsible.”

Did President Trump stoke the protesters’ rage? DiFabio was asked.

“He may have but who knows the pressure of the job. He’s probably at wits end. He saw his family attacked, his friends jailed, he’s human,” he said.

Dave Johnson, chairman of the Columbiana County Republican Party, said he was appalled at the actions of the protesters on Wednesday.

“I don’t approve of any of this,” he said. “There’s one thing to having legitimate protests and expressions of one’s First Amendment rights, but I don’t approve of any kind of violence.”

Johnson said he’s aware of some Columbiana County residents who made the trip to Washington, but the local Republican Party did not support or sponsor any trip to the protest.

“I specifically did not think it was going to be a safe thing to do,” he said. “That’s why I was not participating in any trips down there. I can’t imagine how the police permitted this to happen.”

Johnson added there were people with good intentions who made the trip and didn’t participate in the storming of the Capitol. “There are people who are concerned over this past presidential election and the irregularities that occurred – I have concerns myself.”

Kevin Wyndham, chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party, said he was on vacation and had just caught “some of the details” about what was going on in D.C.

“I can say violence shouldn’t be condoned or tolerated, and those personally responsible should be held accountable,” he said. “And the same goes for all protests, demonstrations, or rallies, regardless of political ties.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Joyce Kale-Pesta said she couldn’t believe the images she was witnessing on television.

“I’m horrified,” she said. “Never have I ever seen anything like this and to think a President of the United States would cause this is totally beyond me.”

Kale-Pesta said that those Republicans who are now calling for order were some of the very ones stoking the fire over the last several weeks. “It’s too little, too late. It’s appalling,” she said. “I worry about my grandchildren. Our country doesn’t need more violence.”

The Ohio Democratic Party released a statement from Chairwoman Rhine McLin condemning the violence in Washington and Ohio’s Republicans’ tacit support of Trump’s rhetoric over the past several years.

“President-elect Joe Biden is absolutely right: the words of a president matter,” McLin said.

“For too long, this president’s words have fanned the flames of hatred, chaos and racism, and for four years, Ohio Republicans have cheered him on or shrugged their shoulders and pretended to be ‘late for lunch,’” she continued. “We join President-elect Biden in calling on the president to go on national TV immediately, condemn the violence and demand that his supporters end their seditious attack on the U.S. Capitol. We will continue to pray for our nation and for our nation’s leaders.”

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken also released a statement:

“The riots taking place in our nation’s capital do not reflect America as I know it. We are lucky to live in a country that allows its citizens freedom of thought, expression and speech, but today’s lawlessness cannot be tolerated. I condemn today’s violence in the strongest possible terms. We are a nation of laws and I pray not only for our nation’s law enforcement officials as they protect the Capitol building, but also for our nation to heal and find peace in such difficult times,” Timken said.

–Reported by George Nelson, Dan O’Brien and Andrea Wood

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.