During his time in the Army, Jim Cardamon served in one of the U.S. military’s elite ceremonial units — the 3rd Infantry Regiment, which provides honor guards for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which provides escort services for the President of the United States.
Tomb guards perform a precise marching sequence, in all weather conditions, to honor all unidentified fallen soldiers. But they also train for a darker eventuality — something that, until Wednesday, hadn’t happened since 1814 — an attack on government buildings in Washington, D.C.
The 3rd Regiment was called in when terrorists attacked the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
During his military service, from 1956 to 1958, Cardamon underwent required training quell rioting. But he was never called up for riot duty.
“They have a lot more assets now than when I was in,’’ he said of the unit.
The Army was never called up Wednesday, but the Washington D.C. National Guard, and state troopers from Maryland and Virginia were, as a mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building, breaching the building’s doors and windows. The rioters occupied the building for several hours, and penetrated the Senate chambers.
Members of the U.S. House and Senate, participating in a joint session to ratify electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, were evacuated.
Cardamon, of Hermitage, is a staunch Republican and Trump supporter, criticized the rioters, even as he sympathized with their anger over President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
“I would rather have seen a much more peaceful protest without the breaking into the capital,’’ Cardamon said of Wednesday’s riot.
Lisa Boeving-Learned, of Slippery Rock, has a similar experience but different perspective.
A staunch Democrat and Mercer County native, Boeving-Learned served as an Army intelligence specialist, followed by a 25-year career with the Tampa Bay police department.
Slippery Rock resident Boeving-Learned unloaded on the rioters and the dismal preparation by law enforcement.
“This isn’t about politics,’’ said Boeving-Learned, who ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2018. “Every American should be furious today that this happened. People need to stand up and say this is not right.’’
While working on Tampa’s police force, Boeving-Learned was a supervisor for its civil unrest squad. The squad’s duty was to disperse rowdy and sometimes violent crowds, such as in 1992 when four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the arrest and beating of Rodney King. Riots broke out throughout the country, including Tampa Bay.
She said law enforcement’s preparation for Wednesday in the capital was pitiful.
“I saw a breakdown of law enforcement today in (Washington) D.C.,’’ Boeving-Learned said. “I saw a breakdown in law enforcement’s anticipation for today and ensuring things didn’t get out of control.’’
Further, she called for an investigation in how the police and military bumbled so poorly.
“To me this is malfeasance,’’ Boeving-Learned said. “I truly hope they get to the bottom of this. If the wall of our capital can be breached that easily we’re in trouble.’’
While Cardamon spoke against the attack Wednesday, he said protests in other cities over the spring and summer were under-reported or ignored by mainstream media.
These incidents were initially sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. Riots broke out in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area and quickly spread across the country.
“The media didn’t report all that was going on then when people were burning down the country,’’ he said.
But Farrell Mayor Kim Doss said police would have dealt more decisively with a racial justice protest like those that followed Floyd’s killing.
“If this was Black Lives Matter, or any other group, they would’ve been arrested,” Farrell Mayor Kim Doss said. “I don’t understand this. They have to stop this.”
The Democratic mayor blamed President Donald Trump.
“This is all happening because of Trump,” Doss said. “Trump, when he came on, he’s still saying the election is rigged. He’s not saying the election was done fairly ... he encouraged it.”
Sharon Councilman Bob Lucas, also a democrat, blames someone a little closer to home.
“I feel Mike Kelly bears some responsibility for this because he’s allowed this farce to continue,”said Lucas, the city’s last mayor before its home-rule charter eliminated the position. “He’s contested the election.”
Lucas said he received an e-mail from Kelly before election day that told him how he should vote, and after he voted by mail, he said Kelly tried to erase his vote.
“He tried to invalidate my vote by saying Trump won Pennsylvania,” Lucas said. “Is every election now supposed to be contested? We don’t have winners or losers? You choose a side and you don’t bother counting votes?”
He said voting is the glue that holds us together.
“We all followed the rules, the election was made and we all voted,” Lucas said. “To try to take our votes away from us – that’s not American.”
Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7, said Wednesday’s attack served as an indication that the nation must heal its political division.
“We all need to find a way to work together,” Longietti said. “There’s a lot of big issues this country is dealing with.”
He said he does not have a problem with peaceful protests, but what was happening is not good for anyone.
“There’s a lot of voices muted by the louder voices who have a desire to work together for the good of the country,” Longietti said. “I think the majority of people have that desire.”