The Armed March That Wasn’t
I was standing outside the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where gun-toting defenders of President Donald Trump were supposedly going to start marching at noon. I could see cops, I could see National Guardsmen, and I could see dozens of reporters, but actual protesters were scarce. I did spot a fellow in a Gadsden Flag facemask and a woman whose shirt displayed a slogan about rebellion against tyranny, and as they passed behind me I heard him crack a joke: “I should walk up to the photographers here and say, ‘Excuse me, can you direct me to the armed insurrection?'”
In the wake of the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol, a widely circulated flier had called for armed marches at every state capitol on January 17. That sounded pretty dubious—all 50 states? even the most solidly blue ones?—but it seemed plausible that someone would show up somewhere, and of the capital cities that I can reach within 90 minutes I figured Harrisburg was the most likely to attract a crowd. The day before, working from a list of upcoming protests that a security firm had been circulating, I had gone to a demo in Westminster, Maryland; it had turned out to be a liberal protest, and not a particularly big or rowdy one. Now I was in Harrisburg, and the first actual protesters to show up were, again, some liberals: A local activist named Gene Stilp and one or two assistants had arrived with a cardboard statue of Donald Trump, which they made a show of toppling for a crowd of photographers.
I did, before that, run into a
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