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Bandera woman peacefully protests in D.C.

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  • Bandera woman peacefully protests in D.C.
    People carrying flags and sign march toward the United States Capitol building as part of January 6’s Save America March. “I had no sign or flag. I had my voice,” said Susan Real, who traveled from Bandera to D.C. to attend the event. Photos courtes
  • Bandera woman peacefully protests in D.C.
    LEFT: Susan Real snaps a photo in front of the Washington Monument around 5 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, January 6, while waiting in line for the Save America March. “It was inspiring to see people who had also been standing for hours to have their
  • Bandera woman peacefully protests in D.C.
    Spectators, some waving flags, attend an event at Freedom Plaza on January 5 in advance of January 6’s Save America March. Bandera resident Susan Real said she attended because it was civic duty as a patriot. Photo courtesy Susan Real

“Emergency Alert: Mayor Bowser issues a city-wide curfew for DC for Wednesday, January 6, starting at 6 p.m. until Thursday, January 7 at 6 a.m. Essential workers, including healthcare personnel and media, are exempt.”

Susan Real received this emergency alert on her phone at approximately 2:49 p.m. Eastern Standard Time while standing in view of the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday, January 6.

Real, a Bandera resident who volunteers with the Bandera County Republican Party, flew out of San Antonio International Airport early Tuesday, January 5, to peacefully stand in solidarity with election fraud accusations from Donald Trump and other political figures.

After learning of January 5’s gathering at Freedom Plaza and January 6’s Save America March, Real said she instantly wanted to attend because it was her civic duty as a patriot.

“It’s not just about one election or one candidate, it’s about all of them,” Real said. “It’s about knowing our voice matters and that our election process is fair, open and honest.”

“My sense of duty to my country is based in my family’s long list of service,” she added. “My grandparents both served in World War 2 and are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. My father was an officer in the Air Force. My mother and stepfather have been public servants since I was a child.”

After seeing tear gas deployed and receiving texts from trusted people urging her to leave the Capitol, Real returned to her hotel, wanting no part of Wednesday’s non-peaceful demonstrations.

“No matter who you support, there is no reason for violence. I can’t get behind that, and I don’t,” she said. “This is the country our families have fought for. It was peaceful and beautiful until it wasn’t."

Real said she received text and Facebook messages from people criticizing her but took comfort in support from family and friends.

“I am immensely proud to see Susan live out her love of country and strength of her convictions by going to D.C.,” said Real’s sister, Eva Dice, who lives near Houston. “Many people talk a lot, but she did something brave, challenging and historic.”

Lynn Haueter, Bandera Republican Party Chair, echoed that support.

“I am very proud of and grateful to Susan Real for spending her own time and money to travel that long distance to stand with thousands of other peaceful citizens to support our President,” Haueter said.

“I am sickened that a few anarchists infiltrated and hijacked what was a peaceful protest filled with folks just like Susan: wives, moms and dads. I strongly condemn the actions of every single person that illegally breached the Capitol building,” Haueter continued. “Every single one of them should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”

Condemnations of violence continued across the aisle from Abhi Rahman, Director of Strategic Communications for the Texas Democratic Party.

“The Constitution gives you the right to protest, but not to violently start an insurrection or a coup,” Rahman said on a phone call Monday with the Bandera Bulletin.

“Instead of fighting for $2,000 checks for Texans in need, Ted Cruz, Ken Paxton, and Texas House Republicans are attempting to overthrow the will of the people to score points with their violent base,” Rahman said in a statement Jan. 6. “Now, Washington, D.C. is in chaos, and a violent minority are emboldened to act out as violently and dangerously as possible.”

Departing Tuesday on a Southwest Airlines flight that had been added last minute to accommodate demand, Real was grateful her plane was not packed so she could travel comfortably, but she was also excited to see that the majority of passengers were dressed in red, white and blue clothing.

After landing in Maryland to find all rental car businesses had closed, Real took a taxi to the Holiday Inn on C street in D.C, located about three or four blocks away from the Capitol.

Real was never alone during her journey, as she was accompanied by a group attending the events.

“I didn’t want to travel alone,” said Real.

Real and her companions, whose identities were kept off the record, arrived for checkin around 3 p.m. local time before making their way to Freedom Plaza, located just over a mile from where they were staying.

Regretting her decision not to pack her snow boots, Real endured rain and sleet in knee-high wool socks and running shoes.

“It was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life,” said Real.

Real and the rest of the crowd, which she estimated to number at least one or thousand, heard speeches from a variety of President Trump’s supporters, including Stephen “MAGA Hulk” Davis, a popular social media figure and Democrat turned social media activist, Michael Flynn, Alex Jones and Rogan “D.C. Draino” Handley, whom Real said she found to be an excellent speaker.

“Roger Stone was there,” Real recalled. ‘1 told him we were happy he was free, and he smiled and said ‘thank you.”’

During her 90-minute interviewwith the Bandera Bulletin, Real stressed multiple times that what she witnessed was peaceful and patriotic.

“It was a real melting pot,” she recalled. “People from all walks of life and all over the country were there, educated people and regular blue-collar workers. There was a real camaraderie. There was patriotic music, singing and prayers.”

“It was the same on Wednesday” Real continued. “But then it scaled out into something else, which is not what I expected at all.”

The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said they arrested six people on January 5. Charges included carrying a pistol without a license, carlying a rifle without a license, possession of a high-capacity feeding device, unregistered ammunition, unregistered firearm, assault on a police officer, simple assault, possession of a prohibited weapon, a traffic-related offense and possession of illegal fireworks.

On Wednesday, Real and her group left their hotel at 4:15 a.m., walking to get in line for the Save America March at the Washington Monument and nearby Ellipse park, preparations and funding for which had begun in advance.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” President Trump tweeted on December 19. “Be there, will be wild”

Arriving at 5 a.m., Real’s group joined with another group of seven other people that included a Jewish dentist and her anesthesiologist husband, both from New York, and an aerospace engineer who had traveled on her own from Colorado.

“We had a lot of time to get to know each other,” said Real, who described Wednesday’s morning events as peaceful.

“There was no foul language, people being mean, no animosity,” she said. ‘The only thing we had to deal with was line-cutters, but our group solved that by locking arms and holding our place.”

Real said the atmosphere reminded her of a Trump rally she had attended in Dallas.

“We were all there because we loved our country and our state,” she said.

As an in-person observer of history, Real believed she had to hold herself to a higher standard.

“I had no sign or flag. I had my voice,” she stated.

When Real and the others in her group were finally allowed in, they secured their place in the very front, left of the stage.

“The Washington Memorial was right there,” Real recalled, who took a selfie to commemorate the occasion.

Proceedings at the monument and park included speeches from Trump lawyer and advisor Rudy Guliani, My Pillow CEO and founder Michael J Lindell, television news personality and Trump advisor Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr., Eric and Laura Trump and Vernon Jones, who officially announced at the rally that he had switched to the Republican Party after being a lifelong Democrat.

“It was so amazing and inspiring seeing all those people,” recalled Susan. “Many speakers and heroes for truth and honesty and freedom.”

President Trump concluded with a speech before inviting the crowd to march to the Capitol.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said. “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard today.”

‘We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a county anymore,” he said.

Led by Alex Jones, attendees marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where a separate crowd had gathered.

“There were a million people,” recalled Real. “It was inspiring to see people who had also been standing for hours to have their voices heard. We deserve fair and honest transparent elections that aren’t manipulated by other countries and evil forces.”

During their march to the Capitol, which Real estimated to have taken at least forty minutes, news broke that Mike Pence would not be challenging the electoral college results or block Congress’ confirmation of Joe Biden as the 47th President of the United States.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote in a letter to Congress.

Real said Pence’s statement came about ten minutes following Trump’s speech. She and her group had not made it out of the holding area near the monument yet

“We walked slowly. No rushing,” Real said. “It felt like a funeral procession. We were all sad.”

Arriving as close as she could to the Capitol, Reed categorized the mood as peaceful and historic.

“Singing. Chanting. Kindness. Everyone was so courteous. ‘Where are you from? Yes, m’am. Thank you, m’am.'”

Real said that she was about three hundred yards away from the Capitol when three people who had been tear gassed appeared.

“A man saw me crying and asked if I was okay. ‘No,’ I said. Look what our county has become.”

Real noted Wednesday was vely different from the heavy police presence on Tuesday, a sentiment echoed by Haueter.

“As a former capitol hill staffer, I am extremely suspicious of how the breach even happened,” said Haueter. `The Capitol is tightly secured at all times but especially during protest days. No one is allowed into the Capitol at any time, including staff, without proper authorization and an official badge. Even guests of Congress have to be searched, vetted, and given a badge before even entering the Capitol building.”

“I’ve seen armored vehicles and police with machine guns surround the building at the least sign of a threat This is vely strange and confusing,” she concluded.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee handling Capitol police’s response to last week’s events, said Monday that two officers have been suspended and another arrested for their alleged involvement in Jan. 6’s violent events.

“I know that there were two people that were suspended,” Ryan said. “One was the selfie officer, and another was an officer that put a MAGA hat on that started directing some people around,” the lawmaker said.

Ryan said he did not have information on the arrested individual.

“The interim chief is taking aggressive action with the department to find out if there was any facilitation or help,” he said.

Shortly after receiving an emergency alert on her phone, Real received a text from her husband, Robert, that a trusted friend from Bandera said she should return to her hotel.

“That’s all I needed,” Real said.

Two different groups of men, one a group of elderly veterans, escorted Real back to her hotel.

“1 knew she was safe, and I was relieved,” said Robert Real.

Real recalled groups of twenty police cars, National Guard trucks and SWAT vehicles speeding down the street and drifting in intersections.

“It was like a scene out of a movie. And here I am, just a country girl from Bandera. It was surreal. rd never seen anything like that before. I had to have seen 100 vehicles, but I didn’t record because I was thinking about my safety, about staying safe for my daughter. I wanted to get home.”

In her interview, Real recalled four cars driving down the street calling people racists, b”ches and m’Pers.

“This one woman was leaning out of her car and flipping people off. I just smiled and waved,” said Real. “She paused for a moment, like she was taken aback She said, ‘Hey, Sweetheart. You be safe.’ I don’t think it was sarcasm. She seemed like she could tell I was afraid.”

Real made it back to her hotel room, which had been boarded up and had security outside The rest of Real’s group made it back after her; they had been tear gassed but sustained no injuries.

Most businesses in the area had closed for business and boarded their windows, and those that were open weren’t offering delivery. Real headed to the hotel’s market and found employees restocking it

“I have gratitude for the people and workers in the hotel. They could have been like the [D.C.] mayor and said we didn’t matter, but they helped us. I never felt that the hotel was mad at us, which is not what I expected. They were happy that we were there.”

Real took a taxi to the airport at 7:30 a.m. for a nonstop flight back to San Antonio full of other Trump supporters.

“The mood was very sober,” she said. “It had become something else hijacked by violence. We traveled to have our voices heard, and all that work felt for nothing. Those violent people are like .007 percent of this movement”

Capitol Police released a statement saying Officer Brian D. Sicnick died Thursday night in a local hospital “due to injuries sustained while on-duty.”

As of the Bulletin’s press deadline, four others have been reported dead and dozens have been arrested on charges including violent entry, theft, entering restricted federal property and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Real arrived home Thursday night to 50-degree weather.

“1 was like, ‘it's hot here,’ but 50 felt so good,” Real laughed. “I was home and breathed a sigh of relief.”

Real said she isn’t sure if she will watch Joe Biden’s inauguration if it still happens on January 20 and hasn’t given thought to her next steps in “the ongoing fight for freedom”

“I will question everything,” said Real. “I will make better choices about who represents me.”

“That being said, I don’t see you shrinking,” said Susan’s mother Carolyn Rutherford.

Real concluded her interview with the Bulletin by clarifying where she felt her true calling lies.

“My sole purpose is to raise a child to be godly and to be an example and show her what this country stands for,” said Real.