Former Scranton-area GOP state legislative candidate charged with storming U.S. Capitol

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    A former two-time Republican candidate for the state Legislature surrendered to federal authorities on Thursday for his alleged role in storming the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.

    Frank Scavo, a former school board member from outside Scranton, has been charged with four misdemeanors for allegedly entering the federal building on Jan. 6, according to local media.

    Thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump forced their way in that day, as Congress moved to certify Trump’s defeat, fighting with police officers. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died.

    Federal authorities have charged more than 300 people with criminal charges from the event. Most have been charged with trespassing.

    Scavo himself organized bus trips for more than 200 residents of northeastern Pennsylvania to join the Jan. 6 riot, according to the Citizens’ Voice.

    Scavo had previously run unsuccessfully for the Pennsylvania state Senate in 2018, and for state House in a 2019 special election.

    During the latter campaign, the Capital-Star reported on Scavo sharing conspiratorial memes on his personal Facebook page accusing the family of former President Bill Cliton of murder and child abuse, as well as posts stoking anti-Muslim sentiment.

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    Later reports by the Scranton Times-Tribune found further posts calling Muslims terrorists, pedophiles, and rapists. Scavo apologized for them, though some close to him later regretted his apology.

    Scavo’s transition from sharing right-wing misinformation to storming the Capitol building fit with the evolution of American conservative politics, University of Pittsburgh rhetoric professor Paul Johnson told the Capital-Star.

    Johnson, who is writing a book on the American right, pointed to the research of historian Rick Perlstein to argue that conspiracy theories have a long history in Republican politics.

    Trump’s time in office, and the associated rise of conspiracy theories such as QAnon — the baseless belief that Democrats, celebrities, and other powerful people run a secret child sex trafficking ring that only Trump could beat — is just the culmination of these trends, Johnson said in an email.

    As some Americans see the world as dominated by such evil forces, and Trump as their only chance to fight back, extreme measures like storming the Capitol starts to look like the only workable option. 

    “Biden’s victory would mean either that: the world was about to descendent into a child sex trafficking hellscape since its last best hope — Trump — just lost an election OR that you were wrong about everything else going on,” Johnson said. “So one way to reconcile yourself with this reality —or not as it were —is to decide that the whole American endeavor has been compromised and that demands revolutionary action.”

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