An Ohio Board of Education member said she merely walked, prayed and waved her American flag on the trip she organized to U.S. Capitol the day it was breached by insurrectionists.
As previously reported by the OCJ, elected board member Kirsten Hill organized a bus trip for a “Stop the Steal” event as part of the TEA Party of Lorain County, which led to the insurrection that delayed Congress’ electoral college certification of the presidential election.
In an emailed statement, Hill confirmed that she traveled to Washington, D.C., on January 6, but said her participation in the event “consisted of listening to President Trump’s speech, walking to the Capitol, praying at a street corner along the National Mall and waving my American flag in support off our great country.”
Hill said she went as a private citizen “with a group of like-minded people to express our concerns that there was significant voter fraud in the November 3rd presidential election,” a claim that has been presented without evidence and has been denied by election officials in Ohio and nationally with judges striking down lawsuits brought by the Trump team.
Hill went on to condemn “any acts of violence or damage that may have been done by any individuals or groups regardless of their motives or deeply held convictions.”
“It is, of course, best to wait for official investigations to be completed before assigning absolute responsibility for any lawlessness,” Hill wrote.
She claimed there was “a small minority of individuals who appear to have broken the law by vandalizing the Capitol Building and personal property.”
In video, photo and news accounts of the insurrection, hundreds of people are shown entering the Capitol, and according to recent media reports, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia has said at least 170 people have been identified as persons of interest in crimes from trespassing and felony murder, to seditious conspiracy.
In the violence of Jan. 6, five people died, including Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick and four members of the pro-Trump groups who participated in the event. Many other members of law enforcement were injured during the violent mob at the nation’s seat of government.
As a result of her attendance at the events in D.C., the head of the Ohio Education Association asked Hill in a Tuesday press release to provide more information about her “reported involvement in the day’s event” and denounce the participants “in the strongest terms.”
On Wednesday, after reading Hill’s statement, OEA president Scott DiMauro said the teachers union “remains deeply concerned by Kirsten Hill’s apparent inability to comprehend the gravity of her actions.”
“Her participation in the January 6th rally in Washington, D.C., which was aimed at overturning legitimate election results and ended up killing five people, including a police officer, demonstrates her flagrant disregard for the democratic principles on which our country was founded,” DiMauro said in a statement. “Ohio’s students deserve better.”
Separate requests for comment from the state Board of Education’s president, Laura Kohler, and vice president, Charlotte McGuire, went unanswered as of Wednesday afternoon, but a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education said Kohler “will not provide comment regarding members of the State Board of Education and their activities that do not pertain to board work.”
“(The ODE and Kohler) will, however, condemn in the strongest possible terms, violence or insurrection against our democracy,” ODE spokesperson Mandy Minick wrote in a statement.
In response to questions about the process to remove a board member, Minick said “neither Ohio Revised Code nor the Ohio Constitution permit or set forth a process by which the State Board of Education can remove an elected member.”
Jake Zuckerman contributed to this report.