A handful of Republican candidates for Congress plan to participate in a rally Saturday at the State House in support of rioters charged in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
And the group promoting the rally — Look Ahead America — says it will try and push a resolution through the state Legislature next year that aims to put pressure on Congress to help free some of the rioters involved.
Similar to the group’s rally held last weekend in Washington, the state Department of Administration said it issued a permit for about 50 people to hold a rally at the State House from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m always concerned with due process in any situation,” said state Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, who was slated to speak at the rally but withdrew because of a scheduling conflict. “Anything where people are being held without due process, I’d like to try to help those people.”
Only 15% of those charged so far in connection to the riot remain in custody after being denied bail, according to the New York Times. Those still in custody face more serious charges, including assault or obstruction of Congress.
So far, 10 South Carolinians have been charged in connection to the riot, including one person charged with assaulting an officer. Another South Carolinian has pleaded guilty for trying to disrupt the certification of the presidential election and faces six months in federal prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
“There were a lot of people there from South Carolina. Everybody that I can think of that I’ve spoken with, they were out on the front lawn or out somewhere on the grounds,” Jones said. “I don’t know anybody who went into the Capitol. Anybody who was using violence or breaking and entering, I definitely think that’s wrong. But people protesting, being out in a rally protesting, that type of thing, that’s protected under our First Amendment.”
Like Jones, state Rep. Lin Bennett, R-Charleston, also was scheduled to appear but since canceled due to a scheduling conflict.
However, Bennett said she would be open to sponsoring a resolution in support of anyone held on Jan. 6-related charges.
“I do believe these citizens’ constitutional and due process rights have been violated, and they deserve them as any person in this country,” said Bennett, who said the riot was “wrong.”
“I think they probably should be charged for trespassing, but you give them a bond, you let them go home and you have a hearing,” Bennett said.
Whether that resolution could get any support in the General Assembly remains to be seen.
“Mr. Jones and Ms. Bennett can put any resolution in at the time of us returning,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York. said, adding he didn’t know if there would be support for it as he has not read a copy of it.
At least three Republican congressional hopefuls are scheduled to speak Saturday.
Organizers said Lynz Piper-Loomis, who is seeking to primary challenge U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, and former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, who is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Tom Rice in the 7th Congressional District.
U.S. Senate candidate Tim Swain also is scheduled to speak.
In response to the rally, South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford questioned its purpose.
“Who are these political prisoners? Give me their names. If they’re really political prisoners, I’ll represent them in court for free,” said the Richland County Democrat and attorney. “I know we’re not talking about people arrested for rioting in the Capitol. That would mean that state representatives, who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, support insurrectionists who tried to overthrow the American government.”