ST. LOUIS — About 300 people gathered downtown Saturday to demand the resignation of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, who in recent days has received more public blame than nearly any other politician for the violence at the U.S. Capitol.
The demonstration in St. Louis began at Kiener Plaza but soon moved onto Broadway and occupied the block in front of the Old Courthouse. Speakers criticized the Republican senator for objecting to the presidential certification process in Pennsylvania and other states. Organizers with the group Resist STL wrote “Resign Hawley” in large letters on Broadway.
“As a member of the Senate, it’s unacceptable to foment sedition and be the first senator to do it,” said Jordan Loeffelman, 30, a city resident who lives in the Dutchtown neighborhood. Despite the broad condemnation Hawley has received, Loeffelman was doubtful he will leave office. Several people said a photograph of Hawley with a raised fist particularly angered them. The photo showed Hawley raising his fist in support of nearby protesters at the Capitol on Wednesday. Many in the crowd later turned violent, vandalizing and ransacking government property and terrorizing lawmakers and staff. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.
Many of the St. Louis demonstrators on Saturday carried signs criticizing the first-term senator, with one showing bloody handprints around a copy of the Hawley photo.
Jessica Deem, 28, was attending the rally with a few friends from their Benton Park West neighborhood. Deem printed artwork and fixed pieces of cardboard together to resemble a large book. “The Tyranny of Bigots” was the title of Deem’s work, with Hawley named as the author.
“It just seemed like a natural thing to do,” Deem said, “given the recent events, and the cancellation of his book.”
Deem was referring to the decision by Simon & Schuster to drop a planned deal with Hawley following Wednesday’s violence.
Hawley has been defiant in the days since the riot as he’s railed against Simon & Schuster and brushed off the mounting calls for his resignation.
“I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections. That’s my job and I will keep doing it,” Hawley said in a statement released by his office Saturday.
Alex Cohen, with Resist STL, was pleased with the turnout Saturday in light of the frigid temperatures and late planning for the rally. He described the riot at the Capitol as a coup.
“We thought (a coup attempt) would be sooner,” Cohen said. “We thought it would be closer to Election Day, or immediately following.”
In the wake of the mob rushing into the Capitol, which temporarily suspended the formal certification of the election showing Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump, some Republicans in the Senate and House who said they would object to some state results changed their minds.
Hawley did not.
Hawley continued to criticize Pennsylvania’s approval of its presidential results. He and other Republican leaders have argued claims of widespread voter fraud have undermined the faith of people in the election process, although no evidence has ever been presented showing broad irregularities.
Six other senators voted with Hawley. Critics widely excoriated him for obstructionism, with some saying Hawley had helped incite a riot and had blood on his hands.
Joplin businessman David Humphreys, whose family has contributed millions of dollars to Hawley’s election efforts since 2016, said the Senate should censure Hawley “for provoking yesterday’s riots in our nation’s capital,” the Missouri Independent reported Thursday.
St. Louis Treasurer and mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones in a statement Saturday called on Hawley to resign.
Hawley “led the misinformation campaign that inspired the white supremacists who stormed the U.S. Capitol,” she said.
Paul Beckerle, 64, attended the downtown rally with his son Gabriel Beckerle, 26.
The elder Beckerle said Hawley reminded him of a quote often attributed to the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon.
“It’s something about, ‘Nothing hurts the state more than a cunning man passed for wise,’” Beckerle said.
One political science professor said Hawley’s political opponents will forever link him to the insurrection on Wednesday.