Conservative Republican Annie Black is a newly elected member of the Nevada Assembly representing District 19. She’s from Mesquite, a town of nearly 20,000 and the largest urban center in the district that also includes the notorious enclave of Bunkerville, home to the standoff between Cliven Bundy and the federal government in 2014. Black is a stalwart Donald Trump supporter. She attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017 and last week travelled to Washington DC where she literally had a front row seat to the storming of the US Capitol.
Since then, she has been inundated with calls and emails from angry constituents and others. There have been several calls for her to resign from the Legislature.
For more, I spoke with Annie Black by phone. See music credits at the end of this transcript.
The Ellipse is a 52 acre park near the White House in Washington, DC where Trump held his March to Save America rally. Black said she couldn’t get close enough to hear Trump speak, but word was, he would also be going to the Capitol to deliver a speech from the Capitol steps, so she went there to get a good spot, ahead of the crowd. Black was at the barricade when Trump zealots stormed the Capitol complex.
“We ended up over at the Capitol on the east side at around 11:30. And someone had on their phone the President was speaking and they had their megaphone, so they put their cell phone by the megaphone, and we listened to the speech there. And everything was fine. It was a group with their kids that seemed like some parents and some older teenagers. Really great group of people, families, and we all just kind of hung out there from I would say, we were there from 11:30 probably ‘til two o’clock is when, around two o’clock is when that barrier went down and things started to go crazy. So we were very close. I would say we were no more than 20 to 40 feet away from the barrier.”
“All of a sudden the dynamic just changed. All of a sudden there was music, kind of loud music started playing, and people started getting fired up. And then someone from the front up by the barrier started chanting, ‘Storm the barrier! Storm, the barrier!’ on a megaphone. And the next thing you know, someone to the right, is on a megaphone saying, ‘This is the people’s house. They can’t keep us out of our house,’ or something to that effect.
“And the next thing you know, it’s just people are going through that barrier. And I honestly didn’t think it was going to last that long. So when people started to go through, I went the other direction, because I figured they’re going to get tear gassed or rubber bullets or whatever. And I was actually very surprised that they were allowed to stay in the Capitol and do what they were doing for several hours. So I was just trying to get as far away from that business as I could.”
Back in Nevada, Black says several have labelled her a seditionist. In a press release, she denounced the attack and said the perpetrators, no matter their affiliation, should “be identified, arrested, charged, prosecuted and severely punished.”
“I abide by the law. I like law and order. So I never went past the barrier. I guess I could see, hey, you go past the barrier, you wait at the end of the stairs or whatever people were on the stairs of the Capitol waving their flag. And even that I don’t feel is the worst thing. I mean, it’s not great. But it seems to me like there’s a line that you just don’t cross, and that line is you don’t break into the US Capitol building and start wandering the halls … even though I’m grateful that no one, not to my knowledge, no priceless art or statues or anything were damaged, thank goodness, but it’s just, it’s not something you do. That’s like the flag doesn’t touch the ground. You don’t storm the US Capitol building. There’s just things you don’t do. So I definitely didn’t agree with that.”
It is well-documented that Donald Trump encouraged thuggish behavior at his rallies. In his video message to the nation following the assault on the Capitol, Trump asked the seditionists to go home but added: “We love you,” he said. “You’re very special.”
More than 30 diverse courts across the US have dismissed the Trump campaign’s, or its proxies’ complaints of voter fraud. Yet, the President of the United States shouted lie after lie about voting fraud and how the election has been literally stolen. And they cheered.
Congress was in the process of certifying election results as Trump spoke at the Ellipse.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave congressmen and senators, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,” Trump said. “Because we’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong.”
I asked Black if Donald Trump is responsible for inciting the unrest.
“Based on his speech, I don’t think that there was anything in his speech that, in my opinion, from what I heard, incited people to do what they did. I think that even if there had been something that called people to do what they did, at the end of the day, we all had a choice. When the barrier went down, you could have gone forward or you could have stayed where you were. And the reality is, a lot of people didn’t go in and and do things that they weren’t supposed to do. But unfortunately, we’re all getting lumped into this terrorist, seditionist group, and it’s just not accurate.”
In a press release, Black cites the New York Post and Fox News for innuendo that the real perpetrators were Antifa provocateurs. In our interview she did not identify those who assaulted the Capitol and violated Congress.
The marauders who sent lawmakers into bomb shelters and vandalized the halls of Congress with Trump banners have been identified as being affiliated with the Proud Boys and Three Percent Militia, traditional Trump-backers known for a regular presence at the Nevada State Capitol and violence in general.
“I think that at the Ellipse part of the day where it was mostly just Trump people out there to listen to the president and the speakers before the president, it seemed like it was a typical Trump rally group. And then when we went to the state Capitol, there was a different element there.
“What I mean by that is, I can remember several times, for example, seeing people with the American flag touching the ground, like a just walking around with them dragging on the ground. I don’t know, maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot. But to me, that’s huge. That’s a big deal. That’s not, you don’t see that at a Trump rally. People that go to Trump rallies, respect the flag, they respect this country, many of them fought for this country, were in law enforcement or the military. And it’s just, it just isn’t something that you see, in my opinion, in my experience.
“And so it seemed like there was a different element there that kind of didn’t fit in with the movement, in my experience, or at least from what I’ve seen of it in the past. And so I won’t say that those, you know, that there weren’t Trump supporters that had been at the general rallies that went inside because I don’t know that, but it definitely got different when people got to the Capitol. It was a different, a whole different scene, then over at the Ellipse, and I’m not sure what that was, but it was, it was different. And many people remarked about that, you know, a lot of MAGA people or Trump supporters, even remarked that these these people are not with us or that’s not how we act. And there was a visible kind of difference.”
Donald Trump has long been the broker of hokum. In his most recent mass delusion, Trump has yet to formally concede the election. He tells his followers that the very nation is at stake.
The Ally has quoted several Donald Trump supporters protesting in front of the Nevada Legislature who spouted exotic conspiracy theories of Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks drinking elixirs made of murdered baby blood and manufactured in Wuhan China. Their well-armed political activism is rooted in the bizarre untruths associated with QAnon and far-right media outlets like News Max, One America News Network, and the Epoch Times, to name a few.
Before he was president, Donald Trump was a leading proponent of the Birther Movement, which alleged that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was thereby an illegitimate president, a totally unfounded claim, gibberish that for many remains fact.
The office of US President comes with gravitas, and when the President of the United States lies, his followers believe him. They overran the nation’s Capitol and briefly prevented duly elected lawmakers from doing the people’s business. I asked Black what conspiracy theories and untruths from Trump and his proxies have meant for the Republican party.
“Yeah … I think the hardest thing for me is that watching, arriving at the conclusion that, hey, I don’t want to give up on our president, but at some point, I realized and talking to intelligent people that I know in politics and just seeing what was going on that we were, we were not going to win this one.
“And I feel like unfortunately, some of the, some of the Q type stuff was giving people this false sense of hope, or at least whatever their predictions were being made that ever came true, so whether that just didn’t happen, or if it was false, I don’t know. But the hard thing to watch was that it was, I feel like it was giving people this false sense of hope. And then right at the last minute, it’s almost like it’s smacking them in the face that this isn’t going to work out.
“And then I don’t know, it’s a hard transition to go from having hope to complete hopelessness, I guess, is kind of how I viewed it. Where we think you have a hell of a chance and then all of a sudden, you realize, ‘Oh no, we don’t.’
“I don’t think that’s right to give people false hope because it’s just not, it’s a lie, right. I mean, it’s not true. And it’s just not fair to do that to people … that was the hardest and I think the biggest thing I have to object to about with things like Q and things like that. And I think that was part of the reason why we ended up with the incident we had and the Capitol.”
Since the election, Trump’s behavior has been childish in tone and logic. During his March to Save America speech, the president mocked Mitt Romney and Hilary Clinton for conceding their elections and for congratulating the winners.
Has the way Donald Trump responded to losing the election and the siege of the Capitol changed the way Black thinks about Trump and his presidency?
“No, but like I said earlier, it’s not a one-party issue with a rhetoric. We have Hillary Clinton on video telling Joe Biden that he should never concede if it comes out that he lost. He should never concede. Both sides are saying it, or were saying it at some point. And to me, whatever was going to happen after the election, some sort of meltdown or some sort of something was going to happen, because it’s so hyper-polarized and the rhetoric is so crazy that people, it seems like no matter what side won, I think we all kind of resigned to the fact that something was going to happen. There was going to be people who were upset and they were going to take action. At least that was what most people I was talking to felt like was going to happen. It didn’t matter if it was Trump or Biden. There was going to be trouble.
“And I think, fortunately, our Republican people, yes, they did wrong things. But we have seen that, you know, during Black Lives Matter protests and things like that you have whole city blocks being taken over, you have cities burning. So I am by no means making excuses for the people that went to the Capitol and the things that happened, but I certainly think it could have been a lot worse, if it were the other side. I hate to say that.”
How is being a Conservative and Trump supporter today?
“Well, today is maybe not as good as last week, but it’s, it’s an honor to be a Conservative I feel. And I feel blessed that I was born into a family where those ideologies and beliefs were instilled in me and a family of business owners. And so I just have that conservative entrepreneurial ideology about life. But I will say it’s really hard to have fought for the president and for this movement for the last five years, and to watch it be basically overshadowed from an incident that lasted for a couple of hours.
“And it almost feels like Republicans handed Democrats this kind of disaster on a silver platter. I mean, it’s just really sad. It’s to me, it’s just sad. I almost cried several times while we were out there, because there’s just, it’s just a building. You wouldn’t think that it would make you emotional, but just seeing what was going, what was happening was, I don’t know it was actually very emotional.
“And this little girl, I remember seeing her when I got there. She was probably like, seven years old, and she’s holding a Trump, like a piece of paper, ‘I love Trump’ and it had a heart on it drawn in crayon. And I remember thinking, this little girl really wants to be here. Her mom wasn’t dragging her around. She wanted to be there. And I thought, wow, that’s pretty incredible. And as people are storming the White House, and we backed up and we’re going towards the Supreme Court, I can see this little girl and her mom walking towards me. And the girl’s head is hanging down, and you could just see how like devastated she was with what she has witnessed. And that was tough. I mean, I think that a lot of us felt that way. It was just a very deflating moment.”
Brian Bahouth is the editor of the Sierra Nevada Ally and has reported on politics in Nevada since 2000. Support his work in the Ally.
Music Credits in order of appearance as reported to the Public Radio Exchange:
Song: Slip, Dip
Artist: Brian Eno
Album: The Drop
Label: All Saints
Label: Siyal Music