Nick Searcy attended the Jan. 6, 2021 protests summoned by then-President Donald Trump, camera in hand.
The “Justified” star couldn’t have predicted what would happen later that day or the ensuing political earthquake.
His documentary, “Capitol Punishment,” offers a media corrective to the “insurrection” mania that gripped the press over the past year. He also lets many of the protesters speak, everyday Americans who didn’t even step foot in the Capitol building but are paying an astronomical price for suggesting the election was “stolen.”
So far, so necessary.
Director Chris Burgard’s film opens with a quote from Harry S. Truman about governments silencing the opposition. When leaders seize control of the narrative, it “creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
We’re flooded with incendiary news coverage of the riot, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying she feared she would be sexually assaulted by the Trump supporters. Note: She wasn’t in the Capitol during the melee.
Searcy, serving as narrator and comic foil, dubs himself a “domestic terrorist” during a mock interrogation by prominent Democrats. He, too, thinks the election was stolen, but “Capitol Punishment” lobs but a few generic arguments to that effect.
His man-on-the-street vantage point shapes the narrative he says the media ignored.
“It didn’t look like a riot. It looked like a tailgate party,” Searcy says, mixing folksy humor with videos rarely shown in mainstream sources. Yes, the vast majority of people peacefully protested in the truest sense of the word, singing in unison and praying for a brighter tomorrow.
A select few, in large enough numbers to matter, rampaged through the Capitol without a plan but bringing chaos with them. That “peaceful protest” taunt conservatives shouted over the press’s framing of violent BLM protests can’t camouflage that.
We also see video of protesters perusing inside the Capitol, taking snapshots and moving about as if touring the Louvre.
It’s worth noting the Capitol is a vast building. That many of these protestors entered through doors opened by police, or wandered past barricades lifted by police wholly unaware of the more dramatic activity in other parts of the building is a point Democrats and the media are eager to ignore. “Capitol Punishment” succeeds at giving its audience a sense of the sheer scope of the protest, perhaps putting the actions of some of the more well-meaning protestors in a context not seen before.
The film’s purpose is clear. The U.S. government is using the Jan. 6 riot as a pretense to chill dissent. On that ground Searcy scores some fundamental wins.
“Capitol Punishment” introduces us to several protesters whose homes were raided by dozens of heavily armed FBI agents.
We even watch home security footage of armored vehicles festooned with agents who appear more like soldiers entering combat than police making an arrest approaching the homes in question. One man describes seeing “red dots all over his chest,” as agents swarmed his front door.
We meet two families, one white, one Latino, sharing why they came to the protests. Neither entered the Capitol building, they allege, and both brought medical equipment in case they could help someone on site.
The film uses existing media – audio, video snippets and still photographs, to back up some of the participants’ stories.
“It sounded like war,” one 13-year-old said of the experience.
Twin sisters, 74, were told they were now on a list of domestic terrorists and threatened with a year in federal jail for trespassing.
“It was so over the top, there’s still no words to describe it,” says Dr. Simone Gold, a member of the America’s Frontline Doctors group which criticized COVID-19 protocols and promoted Hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic.
She addressed the pro-Trump crowd during a quiet moment inside the Capitol. According to Dr. Gold, the door was open no one was ever asked to leave. She has been paying the price for it ever since.
One protester describes spending nine straight days in solitary confinement. Others recall not being able to make a phone call to lawyers or loved ones while incarcerated.
The film demands more legal experts here, neutral sources who can weigh in on what’s being alleged, but the accusations are certainly startling.
The documentary’s running time is too easily expanded by detours involving the JFK assassination conspiracy, social media shadow banning and communist infiltration.
We’re also told Antifa-style agitators sparked the violent part of the protest. Some of the video footage hints at that argument, but it doesn’t explain away what happened nor excuse it.
A thornier theory, and one previously made by Tucker Carlson via his “Patriot Purge” docuseries, suggests FBI agents stoked the protest’s violent turn.
What seems like an inflated charge got new life on Tuesday when Sen. Ted Cruz asked Jill Sanborn, FBI Executive Assistant Director, National Security Branch, if FBI agents “actively participated” in the Jan. 6 riot. She refused to answer.
The lengthy segment on pro-Trump protester Ashli Babbitt, the only person to die on Jan. 6 at the hands of Capitol police, is heartbreaking. Searcy drops the humor and lets her widower share his side of the story without comment or editing.
She clearly took an aggressive stand during the melee, eager to push past a makeshift barricade. Still, an unarmed woman should not have been shot to death that day in that manner.
Her passing should enrage the same critics who demanded police reform over the past two years and likely would have had she been at a BLM protest.
Those riveting sequences lead to … Dee Snider, the free speech rocker who famously wrestled with Tipper Gore and the PMRC movement in the late 1980s.
The issue? His band Twisted Sister’s signature track, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and how Trump tried to use the song for his campaign. The segment feels disconnected from much of what we’ve just witnessed, above and beyond the song’s rebellious streak.
The film stumbles further by turning the track into a quasi sing-a-long. Coming off what we’ve just been told, from attacks on the Constitution to a veteran’s death at the hands of police, the transition lands with a thud.
Happy Warriors on the Right? Sure, but the events captured in the film, and via the story updates revealed before the end credits, are anything but celebratory.
“Capitol Punishment” pushes beyond biased media narratives and gives a voice to those facing significant jail time for insignificant crimes. It also overplays its hand, mirroring what we’re witnessing this month from Democrats genuflecting at the legacy of Jan. 6.
You can purchase and watch the film here.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.