EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Lori Vinson said she made the journey to the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 to “support President Trump on the stolen, fraudulent votes.”
And while the rest of the nation watched a violent riot outside — and eventually inside — the Capitol, the Morganfield, Kentucky, woman said she didn’t expect any of that when she landed in D.C.
The former Evansville Ascension St. Vincent nurse said she believes she was one of the first hundred to enter the Capitol that day.
She was one of the thousands of Trump supporters who trekked to D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally, which turned into a riot. The event was the culmination of weeks of Trump telling his supporters the Nov. 3 election results were “rigged.”
While there is no credible proof the election results declaring Joe Biden’s victory were fraudulent, Trump’s supporters believed his claims, and many said they decided to do something about it Jan. 6, the day electoral votes were to be certified at the Capitol.
The country watched violence ensue that day as hundreds of people carrying everything from Trump signs and Confederate flags broke into the Capitol. Some said they would execute members of Congress. Capitol Police later found explosives, guns and heavy ammunition at the scene.
That wasn’t what Vinson was there for, though, she said.
“We were going there for the Stop the Steal rally, and the big overall plan was we were going to leave from there and walk to the Capitol building. But I had no idea what to expect when we got there,” Vinson said.
She ended up entering the Capitol that day along with her husband.
Five died that day: a law enforcement officer, a woman fatally shot by Capitol Police during the riot inside the building and three others who died from medical emergencies on Capitol grounds.
Since that day, she’s received backlash, including losing her job, for her decision to enter the Capitol.
But Vinson said it doesn’t feel as if she did anything wrong.
“We just walked up the steps and walked right in. There was no resistance. I would have felt it was wrong if they were telling me, ‘Don’t enter.’ There was never law enforcement there that said you can’t enter here. And if we had ever met any of that resistance, we would have never gone in,” Vinson said.
She walked into the Rotunda along with a group of people.
Vinson said it was loud inside as people were walking around and chanting. There were police there, but they didn’t tell anyone to leave, Vinson said.
“No one told us to leave, even the police. The police were, I don’t even want to say there was a police presence. They were interacting with people. People were still coming in the doors as we were there. Cops were standing at different doors, none of them saying, ‘You can’t come in here,'” Vinson said.
She and her husband were walking around inside when they saw a man repeatedly slamming a post into an office door.
Soon after, the couple decided to leave. They had been inside the Capitol for about 35 minutes before walking out through an exit, Vinson said. The Capitol was declared secured at 8 p.m., several hours later.
Another person at the rally told her it felt like a tour. Vinson disagrees, saying, “a tour would have been if I got to look around and see things in there. Instead, so many people were there chanting, you didn’t see a whole lot.”
After exiting the Capitol, Vinson and her husband took the Metro back to their hotel before going back to Morganfield on Jan. 7. The next day, she was fired from her job.
Vinson has been a nurse since 2005. She said the way St. Vincent fired her was hurtful.
“They said I admittedly participated in criminal behavior at a high-profile event,” Vinson said. “It’s hurtful that they didn’t listen to my side of it. Some of those people know me and know that in a million years, I would never be involved with rioting or anything like that.”
A representative from the hospital said they cannot comment about specific employment matters.
She believes if she had been charged with a crime, it would be a different story. But Vinson said there haven’t been any legal consequences for her actions on Jan. 6.
Vinson said someone sent photos and videos of her at the riot from her social media to her employer and the FBI as well.
“Someone from FBI called, it lasted about five, 10 minutes. I told him I had pictures and videos he could see. He said that wouldn’t be necessary, and I wouldn’t hear back from him again,” Vinson said.
The interactions she had with both the FBI and Capitol police reinforce her thought that she didn’t do anything wrong that day, Vinson said.
Vinson has been defending herself against backlash on social media. She wanted to post about being at the Capitol after hearing the things being said about the Jan. 6 riot.
“We were being called domestic terrorists, this and that. And I made a post, ‘For all you people talking s*** about what happened at the Capitol, you need to be silent if you weren’t there.'”
Vinson has made her social media accounts private.
She said she was there to protest what she believed in and that’s all anyone can do — stand up for what they believe is right, Vinson said.
Reflecting on the day, Vinson said she has no regrets. She said she’ll always remember Jan. 6 and is proud she was there.
While Vinson still believes the results of the election are fraudulent, she hopes Inauguration Day can be peaceful.
“Those threatening to execute people, that’s not acceptable at all,” Vinson said.
Thousands of people have reached out to her since Jan. 6, she said. While some are criticizing her, many are thanking her for being there that day.
She said she’s currently speaking to an attorney about appealing her termination.
Indiana is an at-will employment state, which means a private-sector employee can be fired for any reason.
*story by The Courier Journal