John Block, a 23-year-old conservative from Santa Fe who attended Wednesday’s demonstration at the U.S. Capitol, said he made the trek to Washington, D.C., because he still believes Donald Trump is the winner of the presidential election.
Block, who founded a conservative news website called Piñon Post, attended the Trump rally in the hours before the breaching of the Capitol by rioters. Outfitted in his Make America Great Again hat, he said he didn’t get close to the building but stayed in the crowd near a platform that was being built for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Mostly we were just talking amongst ourselves about what is happening in the country,” he said of the mood at the demonstration. “Having conversations, listening to speeches, watching the crowd. There was always good conversation along the way. It was very jovial.”
Block said he didn’t see any violence around him initially, though “around 4 p.m. people starting getting more hectic, climbing over the steps and taking over that portion of the Capitol.”
When word reached the crowd in his area that some people had entered the building, Block said some weren’t happy and others cheered.
“But everyone I spoke to was very peaceful and just fired up to take our country back,” he said.
Reports that a woman had been shot created anger in the crowd, he added.
Police said a 35-year-old Maryland woman and Air Force veteran, Ashli Babbitt, was fatally shot by U.S. Capitol police. Three others died from apparent medical emergencies and 14 police officers were injured.
Block said internet servers in the area seemed bogged down by so many people trying to get online at once, making it difficult to get any detailed information about what was going on.
“Everything was word of mouth,” he recalled. “But people were mad that an American patriot who was unarmed was shot at the United States Capitol and that the Capitol was so terribly secured that people were allowed to get into the Capitol.”
Block said he left the protest around 5 p.m. after the mayor of Washington announced a 6 p.m. curfew.
Block’s political views have been controversial in New Mexico: In July, an Albuquerque group that identifies itself as anti-fascist created a virtual deck of “PokeFash” cards — modeled after the Pokémon card game — and posted the deck on its Twitter account.
Block was one of more than a dozen New Mexicans featured on the cards. The one with his image contained a picture of Block posing with Gavin McInnes, founder of the the Proud Boys right-wing extremist group, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Block said Thursday he posed with McGinnis after McGinnis spoke at a rally but doesn’t know much about the Proud Boys.
Block said he attended the rally alone but met several other New Mexicans in the crowd.
Block comes from a family of Democrats — including cousin Jerome Block Jr., a former public regulation commissioner whose political career was cut short when he pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a government credit card and embezzlement in 2011 — and said he received threats and negative feedback when he posted his pictures from the rally online.
“Some people are saying, ‘You are a crazy Nazi,’ ” he said. “One guy saying he reported me for treason and sedition. A lot of people coming from left field.”