As right-wing extremists poured into the U.S. Capitol last week, supporters of President Trump and Q-Anon maintained a pretty tame rally here in Denver. But now that tens of thousands of National Guard troops are locking down Washington, D.C., the FBI has warned that people enraged by President-elect Joe Biden’s win could show up to state capitols across the nation with guns.
Capitol Hill residents, who live close to the gold dome, are bracing for a mix of possible outcomes. Posts to NextDoor suggest some are thinking about skipping town until things calm down. One person said she was going to take an extended weekend in the mountains for some fresher air. Others said they’ll be staying inside.
We went for a walk around the neighborhood to see how people are feeling.
A lot of people told us they’re not very concerned; they see a lot living in this part of town, so their shock reflexes have been hardened. But Patricia Roth, who we bumped into on 14th Avenue at Logan Street, said she’s not taking any chances.
“I will not be leaving my house on Wednesday,” she told us. “People seem to want to riot, and that never ends well.”
Roth, who’s 66 and describes herself as “the token Republican in Capitol Hill,” said she has neither a tolerance for the president nor the kind of destruction he enabled in D.C. last week. She was also displeased with protests in her neighborhood after George Floyd was killed by police last spring.
She said she’s not holding her breath for things to calm down. The pandemic and recession will outlast the inauguration, and she suspects those problems will keep people on edge.
“I think it will take a while,” she said. “This stuff is just crazy.”
Benji Scott, who’s lived on Logan for a year, said he’s over the unrest. Police hit him with pepper spray last summer while he was sitting on his patio.
“I had to use the Neti Pot,” he said of his interaction with officers. “I would not like that. I would prefer to live in a place where I can be on the porch and not be maced.”
He understands why some people may be afraid of what’s to come, but he said he’s not interested in letting right-wing extremists drive him away.
“F*** those guys. I’m not going to move. I love my place. I love my roommate. So I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’d rather be here for it to go down than be on the outskirts. I’d rather be in the mix and at least say I was a part of it.”
Aaron Whittler’s apartment building at Grant Street and 13th Avenue is large and requires a few fob swipes to enter, so he said he doesn’t need to worry much about violence spilling through his front door. But he’s also resolved not to be intimidated.
“If something like that is going to make me stay in the house or make me be worried or concerned, it’s probably what they want,” he said. “This is America. You should be able to do what you want.”
He expects there will probably be “a couple of knuckleheads” who show up to cause trouble next week, but he’s unsure if anything very large and disruptive will materialize.
Still, he said he’s disheartened by what he saw in D.C. last week. He wonders if violence around elections will become the new norm.
“Is that how it’s going to be from now on? If a president gets elected that you don’t like, you want to go out and kill somebody? It’s kind of sucky,” he said.
Butch Buckley said he’s unsure that anything will go down in Denver. He just opened Bar Nun on Logan, in the space that Capitol Hill Tavern recently vacated. While he’s willing to spend the night in the restaurant if things go south — he’s “got plenty of food and booze” — he reckons the recent crackdown on insurrectionists will give pause to anyone with intentions to show up in Denver.
“I don’t see that happening. I really don’t. I’m pretty confident that we’ll stand pretty tall and not have that kind of behavior happen,” he said. “With people being prosecuted and what’s going on in the nation’s capital right now, they’re showing that they’re actually taking action against the people that have made these transgressions and crimes against the state.”
Ally Cook and Sybil Kappert, who live together near the Capitol, said they’re keeping an eye on the situation. Cook’s parents live just outside the city, so they have a place to retreat if necessary.
“My plan was to see how this weekend goes, because I think this weekend will give an idea of how Inauguration Day will go. So we’ll see,” Cook said.
They have been thinking about the possibility of violence. They were on a walk last week when Trump supporters rallied at the Capitol, and they inadvertently wandered right through a lineup of Proud Boys standing along Broadway.
“It was weird. They split apart and stared at us the entire time we walked by and it was very uncomfortable,” Cook said. “Intimidating, yeah. Very not safe.”
Other residents said they weren’t worried at all.
Jessica Abell, who’s lived in Capitol Hill for seven years, said she and her neighbors have seen too much to be afraid.
“There are a lot of us who are long-term residents of Cap Hill, and none of us are leaving. We’ve been present witnesses to all of this. We’ve had all of it,” she said. “I’m more scared of half a million Broncos fans.”
Brittney Finn, a Cap Hill resident of ten years, said she hasn’t given much thought to any potential violence next week, though she acknowledged the political situation has ratcheted up this year.
“I don’t want to be afraid of Denver. It’s my city,” she said. “I don’t want to be afraid of it.”
Frank Martinez, who’s lived by the Capitol for a decade, said wild times are just a part of the neighborhood.
“With Colfax being there, you kind of expect trouble,” he said, laughing.