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A newly elected councilmember from Norman, Oklahoma defended his attendance at the infamous Stop the Steal Trump Rally in D.C. and accused Antifa of orchestrating the deadly insurrection, after voters narrowly elected him to serve in the progressive city’s most rural ward.
Councilmember-elect Rarchar Tortorello, who will represent Norman’s Ward 5, described what he witnessed and believed surrounding the January 6 Trump rally-turned riot in an interview with The Black Wall Street Times.
“It was our First Amendment right,” Tortorello said, defending his trip to D.C. He distanced himself from the more violent events of the day and cited unnamed polls alleging a majority of Republicans and Independents believe there were irregularities in the 2020 Presidential election. It’s worth noting, that while a majority of Republicans believe there was widespread fraud, more than 90 percent of Democrats and more than 60 percent of Independents believe the election was fair.
Tortorello, who narrowly avoided a runoff with 51.74% of the vote, seemed excited for the opportunity to share his perspective on the “peaceful Trump protesters.” He claims they made up the majority of participants that day.
“So we went. We had tickets to Ellipse [park], which is right in front of the White House. And I thought it’d be a good time on his way out the door to get to meet the president,” Tortorello said.
Allegedly, he and a woman named Nicole Kish appeared in a Facebook photo with the caption: “Stop the Steal,” as they were pictured sitting happily in their seats surrounded by other Trump supporters on the way to D.C. on January 6. The photo was taken the same day a violent mob of white supremacists stormed the Capitol building, resulting in multiple civilian and officer deaths.
Recently, Kish, who operates Powers Vision Eye care, has filed a lawsuit against other Norman residents after they shared the photo, claiming the “harassment” had financially affected her business. The soon-to-be Norman councilmember and U.S. Air Force veteran who accompanied Kish to D.C. firmly defended his motivations for attending the rally. But he made no mention as to why that photo had been removed from his Facebook page.
Before even having a chance to be sworn in, at least one Facebook group has popped up threatening to file a recall petition against Tortorello. Eager to voice their disgust with the newly elected councilmember, a concerned resident who represents an anonymous coalition of progressive groups in the city reached out to The Black Wall Street Times.
“It’s terrible that we have a Proud Boy-supporting moron” on city council, the resident who asked to remain anonymous, said. “He was at the g*d d*mn Capitol on January 6.”
The Proud Boys are a nationally recognized hate group with an active chapter in Oklahoma. Multiple members of the group have been arrested and indicted in the days following the Capitol assault. Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola told a Judge that Trump deceived him into thinking it would be a good idea to participate in a violent coup attempt, according to court documents.
Yet, Tortorello preferred to place his trust in a widely debunked conspiracy theory that Antifa was behind the unprecedented insurrection. Antifa stands for anti-fascist and refers to a broad coalition of left-wing activists who protest against white supremacy, sometimes using violence. The term doesn’t refer to an organized group, but rather an ideology.
“We didn’t go to or participate in any of the riots. We went back to our hotel,” Tortorello said. “We heard the President still speaking as they were issuing alerts of the riots.”
Tortorello said that because he heard the President still speaking as emergency alerts were being issued, he assumed the culprits behind the violence had to be Antifa. Rather than entertaining the possibility that Trump was egging on the attack, which U.S. Virgin Islands Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett famously argued during the historic Second Impeachment Trial, Tortorello chose to base his assumption on the fact that he saw four or five suspicious-looking men wearing black helmets and gas masks.
When asked whether the FBI was lying when it reported no indication that Antifa was involved, he said “I haven’t read the government studies. But I’m looking at the past government studies that claimed [Trump] was a Russian agent for four years, and that was also untrue.”
Despite court documents showing that Proud Boys members had been proven to be intricately involved in the insurrection, Norman City Councilmember-elect Rarshar Tortorello told BWST “That’s not what I’ve heard.” In regards to the numerous reports available to the public, Tortorello responded “I will read the report if you send me the link to it.”
Meanwhile, concerned residents have released a google document calling out the relationship between the local Fraternal Order of Police, Unite Norman and Rarchar Tortorello. The FOP Fact Sheet and FAQ calls out racist behavior by the FOP, along with Unite Norman’s alleged ties to white supremacist groups. It also portrays Tortorello as a white supremacist sympathizer, accusing him of using the white power hand gesture.
“These Unite Norman people are hotheads,” the concerned resident told BWST.
Tortorello, on the other hand, proudly considered himself an active volunteer of the group. Unite Norman organized opposition last Summer against Norman’s mask mandate and the council’s decision to redirect more than $865,000 of a planned police budget increase toward other services amidst nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd.
Calling Norman’s decision to have a mask mandate and a smaller police budget “nonsense,” Tortorello said Unite Norman is a “fantastic group.”
Oddly, Tortorello failed to comment on the fact that a prominent member of the group threw a brick at teenagers in a car who were protesting their actions.
Still, the already embattled city official preferred to share his interests on local issues, such as the desire to implement an equitable Stormwater Utility, addressing homelessness, and fully funding the police department.
But Oklahoma residents in Norman concerned with his track record have no plans to ignore it. “I want people to know about it and I don’t want rich people, dark money trying to take over this town,” a concerned resident said. “We’re not a radical leftist community. Everybody else has just swung so far to the right.”
Ironically, while Unite Norman has been actively trying to recall politicians that the group considers too liberal, Tortorello may soon find himself facing a recall petition mere months into his term. Local lawmakers usually have to be in office for at least six months before a recall petition can be filed, and Tortorello isn’t expected to take over for Ward 5 until the Summer.
After repeated questions, the councilmember-elect vaguely admitted that Trump supporters were at least partly to blame for the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
“I do admit a couple boneheaded Trump supporters followed the crowd in, Tortorello said. “But again, a lot of people still think there were lots of irregularities [in the election].”