Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko joined a group of county residents on a trip to Washington, D.C. last week for what was supposed to be a rally in support of election integrity and President Donald Trump.

What started as a peaceful rally turned into a chaotic and violent scene when thousands of people stormed through police barricades and into the United States Capitol Building, forcing Congress to stop their certification of former Vice President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

In the end, five people ended up dead after the insurrection at the capitol. However, when McLinko spoke with media last week he condemned the violence, but also called the rally “upbeat” and “fun.”

“There were half a million people or more, it was unbelievable. Everything from church groups singing hymns to the families, all of it, it was wonderful and people were upbeat and happy,” McLinko said. “It was upbeat, it was fun. We were there to support our country and our Constitution. ... To say that everybody was angry and stuff is absolutely false.”

One of his fellow commissioners, John Sullivan, was not happy with McLinko’s response to the riot at the Capitol.

“When Doug McLinko used the words ‘upbeat and happy’ to describe the rally that eventually turned into one of the most tragic days in American history, I was shocked. After watching the horrific events unfold on television, there were no words to adequately describe my feelings of despair,” Sullivan wrote in an opinion piece sent to local media outlets on Monday.

McLinko also claimed that it was not Trump supporters, but members of groups like Antifa that stormed the Capitol.

“Number one, I condemn any violence, any violence. Number two, I condemn anybody that went into that Capitol Building, anybody. However, number three, if you didn’t see an infiltration of paramilitary people throughout the group down there and people that just didn’t fit in a Trump rally ... I have never seen people with riot helmets and go cam on their heads, I’ve never seen anybody in a Trump rally carrying riot shields, I’ve never seen anybody at a Trump rally wear full face motorcycle helmets, I’ve never seen anybody at Trump rallies wear paintball helmets that have full face covers in them, I’ve never seen that before. These people did not fit in,” McLinko said.

“I don’t know who it is, whether it’s Proud Boys, Antifa, it doesn’t matter, any racist organization, any violent organization, not only needs to be condemned but it’s time for this country to, because all summer long, federal buildings were attacked long before yesterday, our state buildings were attacked long before yesterday, so we need as a nation to look at these violent groups and find out who they are, where they came from and who funds them ... it’s time to do a study because these are domestic terrorists,” McLinko added.

Sullivan blasted McLinko’s claims in his opinion piece.

“Mr. McLinko claims the criminals that invaded our Capitol were undercover operatives for radical, left-leaning terrorist groups, even though his theory is not supported by any credible evidence. That’s like saying the Japanese were not responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor!” Sullivan wrote.

“Like all Americans, the First Amendment protects Mr. McLinko’s right to free speech. However, he should not use his position as a county leader to suggest that his views, opinions and beliefs reflect those of all Bradford Countians. While he is eager to seize the opportunity to vocalize his views on local television stations, and in the local newspapers, he is not representing the Bradford County Commissioners, and it is irresponsible of him to imply that he is in an official capacity,” Sullivan added.

In an interview with the Morning Times on Monday afternoon, McLinko said his stance had not changed when it came to the people who stormed the Capitol.

“Where I stood the day of, where I stand today — anybody that went past the first bicycle rack or whatever barrier there was should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” McLinko said. “That should have never happened. I saw paramilitary people in that crowd. It was a freaking disaster. Now, where I was was peaceful — everybody was happy, upbeat and all that. But I didn’t go to the Capitol either.”

McLinko also blasted the claim of some that he was part of a super spreader event in terms of COVID-19.

“Just so you know, I was tested when I got back and I tested negative again yesterday. So I’m probably one of the most tested men in Bradford County ... I do it out of respect for people that I think are compromised and to be safe. All this stuff flying around is a little bit of nonsense to be honest with you,” McLinko said.

McLinko said he knew Sullivan was writing his opinion piece, but noted that “as long as he reports factually what I said, that’s fine.”

“I was talking to somebody from up here in the Valley and he’s going ‘did I read your thing right? You said it was peaceful?’ And I said ‘yeah, where I was it was peaceful,’ but I also said I condemn anybody that went — and this is the day of, it’s not that I changed my position — anybody who went into that Capitol Building, if they don’t realize they have to walk through a metal detector what the hell are they going in there for?”

McLinko also noted that he didn’t travel to Washington with the hopes of overturning the election.

“By the way, that rally should have never happened. I went down there for the Constitution, to make sure the integrity of voting. I didn’t go down there to see Trump and (for) Pence to overturn the election, none of that,” McLinko said.

Editor’s Note: You can read Commissioner Sullivan’s complete editorial on page A4 or at www.morning-times.com.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com. Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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