A West Virginia Republican lawmaker who livestreamed as he joined the large, violent insurrection of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Wednesday said he was merely there as "an independent member of the media" and never confronted authorities.
Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of West Virginia's House of Delegates, was livestreaming on Facebook as he and other protesters muscled their way through the doors of one entrance carrying Trump flags and signs. The video shows the Republican lawmaker, clad in a helmet and military-style gear, cheering as those ahead of him rip back the door amid the attempted coup, in which one woman was shot and killed.
"We're in, we're in, we're in, let's go, keep it moving, baby!" he cheers as the wall of insurrectionists inch forward through the doors. Others can be heard yelling, "Push! Push!" as the group flooded past two Capitol Police officers.
Evans later deleted the video from his Facebook page, but it was reuploaded onto several other social media platforms.
In the video, Evans identifies himself by shouting, "Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!" and turning the camera on his face several times. Once inside, he whoops and shouts, “Patriots inside, baby!” as well as "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" His footage shows protesters taking over the main floor of the building, milling around, chanting, and taking pictures with statues. At one point, he walks down the hall and shouts over some commotion, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’re in here right now! Who thought this was going to happen today?”
At one point, the Republican tells members of the group not to damage anything, stating, “This is our house and we respect it.”
In a statement posted on Facebook after the violence, Evans did not deny that he was part of the breach, but he claimed he did not participate "in any destruction that may have occurred." He also shirked his identity as a state legislator, instead saying he was "simply there as an independent member of the media."
The 34-year-old, who was sworn into office last month, is part of a new wave of Trump loyalists who ran as Republicans but abhor the establishment and instead identify as members of a "patriot" movement. Across the US, they were elected to school boards, state legislators, and even Congress, where they have helped spread Trump's baseless conspiracies about election fraud and vowed to fight to keep him in office.
Throughout his campaign, Evans also shared on his Facebook page false claims that thousands of dead people had voted in the presidential election, conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine, condemnations of the Black Lives Matter movement, and posts advocating for Trump supporters to bear arms. On Jan. 1, he posted a photo of a pile of guns and ammo spelling out the words "Happy New Year."
Evans is also a well-known anti-abortion activist who garnered a following by harassing people at West Virginia clinics. In summer 2019, one woman filed a restraining order against him, which he reportedly violated several times.
According to his Facebook page, Evans helped organize two charter buses full of largely maskless "patriots from WV, KY, and Ohio" who headed to Washington, DC, on Tuesday evening as part of a #StopTheSteal coalition. Before the attempted coup, the lawmaker had been livestreaming from the Capitol grounds, capturing small clusters of Trump supporters hanging around the small metal barricades and listening to speakers.
"I would love to see Nancy Pelosi come by," he says toward the end of one video, to which a woman responds: "If she walked by, someone would risk their life...they would just be done. They'd be more than happy to go to jail."
"Oh, I would agree. Someone probably would," he laughs.
In another livestream, he tells viewers that it's "going to get wild today, guys" and repeats another baseless conspiracy that President-elect Joe Biden sexually abuses children.
During one segment, he encourages his followers to run for office, just like he did, crediting the president for his success and offering to help anyone who sent him a message.
"Trump has paved the way," he says.
Evans' participation in the Capitol storming drew strong rebukes from West Virginia leaders, including Roger Hanshaw, the Republican speaker of the House. While he said he had not yet spoken to Evans, Hanshaw said in a statement that the new lawmaker "will need to answer to his constituents and colleagues regarding his involvement in what has occurred today.
“While free speech and peaceful protests are a core value of American society, storming government buildings and participating in a violent intentional disruption of one of our nation’s most fundamental political institutions is a crime that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."