LIMA — Tom Ahl, the owner of several car dealerships in Lima, was in the nation’s capital on Wednesday to take part in the “Stop the Steal” rally staged by supporters of President Donald Trump. The goal of the rally was to dispute former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 presidential election and to disrupt the official certification by the U.S. Congress of those results.
The day wasn’t supposed to end in death and destruction. It did, however, when protesters turned violent and breached the U.S. Capitol Building. Ahl said the lawless actions of a handful of Trump supporters “probably did” cause the rally to ultimately backfire.
Five people, including a member of the Capitol Hill Police Force, died during what many have termed an attempted coup. Also killed was a 35-year-old woman who was shot inside the Capitol as she climbed through a window. Three others died due to medical emergencies.
“All we wanted was justice,” Ahl said during a telephone interview Friday.
The Lima businessman said he felt it was important that he be in attendance. “I knew my presence probably wouldn’t make a difference, but I felt it was necessary to stand beside others to protest the fact that our election was compromised,” he said.
Ahl, who has donated thousands of dollars in recent years to Republican candidates and conservative Super-PACs, cited several unproven or disproven allegations of voter fraud — a truckload of ballots allegedly brought into Pennsylvania by semi; more votes cast than there are eligible voters in the Keystone State and rigged Dominion voting machines — to back up his contention that the 2020 presidential election was “absolutely stolen” from Donald Trump.
“There are a lot of people in government who didn’t want Trump back in office and did everything they could to get him out,” Ahl said. “Donald Trump has done great things for the country, but the Good Old Boys of Washington have a lot of power.”
Ahl said he listened Wednesday as Trump spoke to his supporters who had gathered for the rally.
“I thought it was one of his better speeches. He absolutely did not inflame the crowd or incite people to violence,” Ahl said.
Trump, however, did urge the crowd to march to the Capitol Building to keep alive the hope the outcome of the election could be overturned. “We love you. You’re very special,” the president told his supporters.
Ahl and a friend were among those who made their way to the Capitol.
“We didn’t get onto the Capitol steps; we were in the yard. People were just singing patriotic songs. They were excited about standing up for our freedom,” he said. “Then a guy came over — I believe he was with law enforcement — and just shot us with pepper spray without justification. That’s some pretty nasty stuff.”
But the Lima Republican agreed that it was wrong for pro-Trump rioters to enter the Capitol building.
“There should not have been anyone inside the building,” Ahl conceded. He then described the protesters as “not particularly angry, just patriotic.”
Several hours after rioters stormed the Capitol Building, Biden’s win was formally certified by members of Congress in the wee hours of Thursday morning. While still unconvinced Biden was the rightful winner of the election, Ahl said he will accept the former vice president as the nation’s new leader come Jan. 20.
The lifelong Republican said one of his strongest motivations for attending Wednesday’s rally was his strong pro-life beliefs. A conservative Christian, Ahl’s beliefs run counter to Biden’s stance on legalized abortion.
“It’s so tragic for our country. I feel so strongly that Biden is wrong about that. We’ve got to end it. I will pray for him,” Ahl said.