Off-duty cops and other officials face settling of scores after pro-Trump demonstration in DC By Reuters

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By Linda So, Andrea Januta and Mike Berens (Reuters) – As rioters climbed the scaffolding in front of the US Capitol, Roxanne Mathai raised her cell phone to search the sea of ​​supporters of President Donald Trump storming the bastion of democracy in U.S. “We’re going in,” said the 46-year-old Texas jailer, “with tear gas and all.” Mathai, a jail lieutenant and an 8-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, approached the steps of the Capitol last Wednesday as protesters in front of its broken barricades. Wearing a red, white and blue face mask with a Trump flag hanging from his back, he posed for selfies. “I’m not going to lie,” said the mother of three on her (NASDAQ 🙂 Facebook page, “other than my kids, this was, in fact, the best day of my life.” The next morning, her boss reported her to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was seeking information on participants in the January 6 insurrection that left five dead, including a Capitol police officer. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Mathai was also placed on leave without pay pending the results of a separate investigation into her involvement. “He was oblivious to everything,” including violence, Mathai told Reuters on Tuesday. “I was watching everything as a spectator.” It said it was bound by a confidentiality order prohibiting further comment. From off-duty police officers to firefighters, state legislators, teachers, city workers and at least one active duty military officer, dozens of public servants from across the United States joined the protests in Washington that turned into a siege of the US Capitol. U.S. The violent mob effort aimed to block Congressional certification of Joe Biden‘s election as president. Since returning home, many have faced harsh criticism from angry voters or employers, often due to their own social media posts. At least 50 elected officials and other individuals in public sector positions face internal inquiries or investigations that, in some cases, have resulted in temporary suspensions pending investigations, according to a Reuters examination of public statements, news reports and videos. At least two Capitol police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen more are under investigation for alleged breach of duty or aiding or abetting the rioters. For some public employees caught on video of riots inside the Capitol, the consequences have been swift, including arrests and firings. Many others, whether inside or outside the building, face a mixture of rigorous scrutiny, investigations, work suspensions and public outcry. Their employers are grappling with whether they violated the policies, whether they should be censored or fired, and whether their rights to free speech were replaced by their duty to serve the public good. Some of those facing backlash did not attend the rally in Washington, DC, where Trump delivered an hour-long speech reiterating his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, but offered public support. Some said they were exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly under the United States Constitution. For government employees, the First Amendment offers extensive guarantees. But the amendment does not apply to criminal actions, said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, who is a lawyer and former journalist. “You can’t throw a trash can through a store window because that store window was on a demonstration road,” he added. If government workers are at a protest and are not acting in an official capacity or engaging in criminal activity, then the government is constrained by the First Amendment in its response in a way that private sector employers are not, Snyder said. But determining whether an employee has an official capacity can sometimes be difficult to answer. “On social media in particular, it can be confusing about what constitutes official capacity,” he said. For members of the military, First Amendment rights may be restricted more than for civilians. Public reaction can be harsh for anyone who has attended the rally. For example, two teachers from Pennsylvania, one from Allentown and the other from Susquehanna Township, posted images of the rally on social media. Reuters found no evidence that they entered the Capitol building or its surroundings, or that they were involved in other illegal activity. Both have been placed under investigation, according to local news reports and statements from the school districts where they work, and the Allentown teacher has been suspended. The Allentown teacher could not be reached for comment, and the Susquehanna Township teacher said he was unavailable Wednesday. Both school districts emphasized the First Amendment rights of their employees in the formal statements. “It is important to understand that, as a government employer, the school district must comply with all provisions of the United States Constitution,” the Susquehanna Township School District wrote on Facebook. The post gathered hundreds of comments, many from angry community members. An online petition to fire the teacher has gathered more than 5,600 signatures. In response, the Township Superintendent, Dr. Tamara Willis, issued a more comprehensive video statement for the petitioners. “Our initial statement appeared to ignore the deeply divisive nature of the personnel issue,” he said. “However, I assure you that it was in no way designed to ignore the severity of the events that occurred.” DECREASING PUBLIC CONFIDENCE Questions about the role of public servants in stoking or organizing riots extend to Congress and state legislatures. Virginia State Delegate Derrick Evans, a Republican, donned a helmet and posted a video of himself online to a crowd of people arriving at the Capitol. We’re on it! Keep moving baby! Evans said in front of a doorway amid rioters grinning over pepper spray. Federal prosecutors have charged Evans with violent entry and disorderly conduct, among other things. On Saturday, Evans resigned his seat. He did not respond to a request for comment. In a public statement Thursday, Evans’s attorney said he “did nothing wrong” and that he was exercising First Amendment rights. Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, said he is from expect public reaction to officials’ participation. “If they are involved in an activity like this, it will not surprise you that many [people] just don’t trust them anymore, ”he said. “It undermines the fact that you can count on them with complete confidence to serve the public.” Some elected officials this week have voiced suspicions about covert help from their colleagues. Others have accused lawmakers of sending call-to-action messages. US Representative Jody Hice, a Republican from North Carolina, tweeted hours before the vote was certified: “What is done today will be remembered! This is our moment in 1776, ”referring to the year the United States declared independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. Lauren Boebert, a Republican representative from Colorado, echoed that sentiment, tweeting before the Capitol siege: “Today is 1776.” Hice, who could not be reached for comment, told local media that he was not inciting violence, but rather advocating free elections. Boebert, who uses a pistol to his hip in campaign photos, criticized Democrats after facing calls to resign. “They act as a reference to the founding of our country and the courage to uphold our constitutional oath is criminal,” he said in a statement. ‘WE ARE NOT CLOSING UP’ The United States military and a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country from states such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington are screening personnel for possible involvement in close combat of last week. A Zelienople, Pennsylvania police officer pictured wearing a “MAGA 2020 F — your Feelings” hat is under investigation after attending the Jan. 6 rally where Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight “. Police Chief Jim Miller said there is no indication that Officer Thomas Goldie participated in the march or entered the Capitol, but he has still referred the matter to the borough’s legal department for investigation. “You can’t stop someone from expressing their rights,” Chief Miller told Reuters, but said he wanted to hear from lawyers. He said he will not consider disciplinary action against the officer until he does. Officer Goldie did not respond to requests for comment. Officials in Troy, New Hampshire, closed the doors of their city hall after receiving threats from people angry that the city’s police chief, David Ellis, attended the pro-Trump rally. Chief Ellis did not respond to requests for comment. Dick Thackston, chairman of the Troy Board of Selectors, defended the boss against the resignation requests and hopes Ellis will return to work soon. He stressed the importance of the First Amendment. “It would be a scary day in America if you had to tell your employer what political meetings and events you will be attending on your personal time,” he said. The US Army is investigating a psychological operations officer who led dozens of protesters from North Carolina to the Washington rally, according to media reports and a Facebook post. Fort Bragg commanders said they were reviewing Captain Emily Rainey’s participation in last week’s protests and whether she violated any laws or regulations. “The DoD (US Department of Defense) Encourages members of the Armed Forces to comply with the obligation of citizenship, as long as their actions are in accordance with DoD policy and do not affect good order and discipline service, “said the Major. Dan Lessard, spokesman for the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. Rainey, who did not respond to requests for comment, had already resigned last October and was due to leave the Army in April. He posted a video on his Facebook page two days after the deadly Capitol riots urging people to “start fighting.” “Get up off the bench,” Rainey said, looking directly at the camera. “We are not going anywhere. We are not going to shut up. ”