Among the demonstrators on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as a mob invaded the Capitol yesterday were two public figures from Oregon politics.
Jo Rae Perkins, a prominent QAnon adherent who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and Angelita Sanchez, the spokeswoman for Timber Unity who was recently elected to the Sweet Home, Ore., City Council, attended the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 that left four dead and dozens injured.
Their attendance at the event was more evidence of the prominence of extremist groups in Oregon, once described as "fringe" but now edging into mainstream political life. In addition to Perkins' and Sanchez's attendance, at least three Oregonians were arrested at the Capitol yesterday, KATU-TV reported, including the Portland woman who organized the Trump boat parade that sunk a family's boat in the Willamette River in August.
In an emotional Facebook Live stream uploaded Wednesday night, Perkins claimed without evidence that anti-fascist activists attended the event in disguise and expressed frustration at the Capitol Police for apparently shooting and killing a California woman. (Perkins also falsely claimed the woman was 16; news reports confirm she was 35.)
"I came here to support our country. This is the American Revolution," Perkins said from what appeared to be a hotel room.
In the stream, Perkins also said that a prominent QAnon activist, Shady Grooove, was in attendance as well. She said in an email statement that she was filming the event for BardsFM Media, which is run by another QAnon adherent, Scott Kesterson. WW previously wrote about these activists in September, when they alluded to an impending civil war while at a campaign fundraising event hosted by Perkins in Keizer, Ore., which effectively doubled as a rally for QAnon.
Perkins gained national notoriety last year when she won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate during the May 2020 primary and posted to Twitter a now-deleted video in which she pledged support for the QAnon conspiracy group.
She lost in November to incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley—who was among the lawmakers evacuated from the Capitol on Wednesday when the mob invaded. Merkley posted a video showing that his office had been ransacked. He also said rioters stole a laptop from his office.
His office confirmed that report to WW this morning. "Yes, they stole the senator's laptop out of his hideaway," says spokeswoman Sara Hottman.
It does not appear Perkins was among those who stormed the Capitol building. It is unclear how close she was to the building itself.
"First I DO NOT SUPPORT the people who broke into the Capital Building. That is 100% wrong," Perkins said in a January 9 statement to WW. "We are much closer to a communist-style take over than most realize. Today Twitter banned President Trump, and shut down thousands and thousands of accounts. That is censorship."
Perkins said in her Jan. 6 livestream that she saw blood on the sidewalk and that she watched medical technicians attempt to revive a man who'd had a heart attack. (The Washington Post reported that a 55-year-old man from Georgia died of a heart attack at the Capitol.)
"I removed myself because, if there's gonna be mayhem, I'm not gonna be in the middle of it," Perkins said in her Facebook livestream.
Similarly, Sanchez said in a statement to WW that, while she attended the rally at the Capitol, she "was not a part of the siege."
Sanchez is a spokeswoman for Timber Unity, the group that spurred the Republican walkout from the Oregon Legislature during negotiations on a cap-and-trade bill in 2019. A report released in March 2020 argued the group mainstreamed extremism by permitting activists to join who entertained conspiracy theories and threatened violence against public officials, including Gov. Kate Brown.
In November 2020, Sanchez won a seat on the Sweet Home City Council. She told WW she is slated to be sworn in next week.
"As councilwoman-elect, I promise to stand up for the ones who feel they have no voice and for the integrity of my community. I will take an oath next week to swear by it," Sanchez said. "I saw the good, bad and the ugly yesterday.…What happened yesterday was a consequence of big government, on both sides, playing too many games with hard-working Americans."
Sanchez said she and her son attended the event yesterday as private citizens, because they happened to already be on a family vacation near the U.S. Capitol.
"So rather than watch it on TV, I wanted us to see it firsthand. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass by," Sanchez said. "I cannot in good conscience support the destruction of public property and violence between American people and Capitol Police….I do not believe that anybody could have anticipated what actually happened yesterday. And the things that went on broke my heart."
Local and world leaders alike condemned the coup attempt at the Capitol. The Portland City Council called the event a culmination of years of divisive rhetoric from the White House.
"Our democracy is sacred, and these actions are absolutely reprehensible," the City Council wrote in a Jan. 6 statement. "The city of Portland condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms….The city of Portland is closely monitoring the situation and thinking of the safety of Oregon's congressional delegation, staff, journalists, and all those in and around the Capitol during this attack."