GOP House candidate: Free Jan. 6 defendants

A Republican running for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District seat denied that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was an act of insurrection and called for many facing charges stemming from that riot to be released.

Candidate Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva insists videos depicting the brutality at the Capitol were puffed up by the news media and show only “one side” of what transpired.

The other two GOP candidates in the race condemned the violence of that day and − to different degrees − the people who perpetrated it.

The trio’s remarks came during a virtual interview with the Daily Herald. Hathaway-Altman, Jerry Evans of Warrenville and Kent Mercado of Bartlett all participated in the roughly hourlong discussion over Zoom. It can be viewed at

The candidates were asked if they agreed with former Republican president and current presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s description of the people jailed over their actions during the Jan. 6 riot as “patriots” and “hostages.” Trump made those remarks last year; he’s also said he’d pardon rioters if reelected.

Trump, whose speech at a “Stop the Steal” rally preceded the assault on the Capitol, is facing federal charges over his attempts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.

Hathaway-Altman also used the term “patriots” to describe the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. She was resolute that the riot wasn’t as serious as it has been depicted in videos, photographs and witness accounts.

“I do not believe that on Jan. 6, 2021, that there was an insurrection, and I believe there are a lot of people charged and in prison and jail that should be let out,” said Hathaway-Altman, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for the 11th District seat in 2022.

The only people who should face charges from the events of that day are those suspected of property crimes, Hathaway-Altman said.

She dismissed videos of the events “because they were only showing one side.”

“The entire picture, all the parts and pieces, (has) not been put together,” she added.

The events at the Capitol were portrayed negatively, Hathaway-Altman said, “only because of the hype around the fact that people were patriots and, I think, the disdain of Donald Trump.”

Hathaway-Altman said what happened at the Capitol wasn’t as violent as other protests and riots in the U.S., such as those that occurred in Chicago, Seattle, Minnesota and elsewhere in 2020 after the death of George Floyd and recent demonstrations supporting Palestinians victimized by Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. One of the latter included a sit-in inside the Cannon House Office Building at the Capitol complex, which Hathaway-Altman noted.

“I can’t say that one is worse than another,” said Hathaway-Altman, a chief sales officer with a travel company.

Mercado, a doctor and attorney in his first campaign for elected office, called Trump’s descriptions of the Jan. 6 defendants “inflammatory rhetoric.” While saying he knows people who were at the Jan. 6 rally who didn’t participate in violence, Mercado acknowledged there were “many bad apples” at the Capitol who “need to be prosecuted.”

“They are not a hostage, because they committed a crime,” Mercado said.

In describing the day’s events, Mercado said “the vast majority” of people who entered the Capitol from the east or west sides of the building were invited to do so. However, videos, photographs and witness reports show significant violence occurred on those sides of the building, including coordinated attacks on the Capitol defenses and police that were led by the far-right Proud Boys group.

Evans, a music school owner who also ran for the 11th District seat in 2022, called Jan. 6 a “very, very sad” day and noted he condemned the rioters and their actions that night on social media.

“I believe there’s no place for violence in the democratic process,” Evans said.

Evans called for proper and speedy trials for the Jan. 6 defendants and for any other criminal defendant in the U.S. “We need to make sure that we have equal justice under the law,” he said.

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

The winner of the March 19 Republican primary will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster or challenger Qasim Rashid, both of Naperville, in November’s general election.

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