Capitol riot arrest of restaurant owner rattles hometown

Jul 27, 2021, 9:47 AM | Updated: Jul 28, 2021, 5:06 pm
Pauline Bauer leans against a wooden statue outside Bob’s Trading Post, her restaurant in Hamilto...

Pauline Bauer leans against a wooden statue outside Bob’s Trading Post, her restaurant in Hamilton, Pa., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Bauer is one of more than 540 people charged with federal crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Michael Kunzelman)

(AP Photo/Michael Kunzelman)

KANE, Pa. (AP) — A crank caller ordered an “insurrection pizza” from Pauline Bauer’s restaurant. A profane piece of hate mail addressed her as a domestic terrorist. She even became a punchline for Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show on CBS.

A swift backlash greeted Capitol riot suspects like Bauer when they returned to their homes across the U.S. after joining the mob that stormed past police barricades, smashed windows and disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory on Jan. 6. Relatives, friends or co-workers reported scores of them to the FBI. Some lost jobs. Others lost their freedom, jailed awaiting trials.

In Bauer’s hometown in rural Pennsylvania, her arrest and that of a longtime friend have rekindled partisan bickering, more often on social media than on street corners, some residents say. As Bauer and William Blauser Jr. fight the charges in court, many in the town of Kane have struggled to comprehend how two of their neighbors could be among the hundreds of Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election that day.

“I think it was totally outrageous, it was illegal and I think it was treasonous,” said Joe Lanich, who operates a letterpress print shop with his wife called The Laughing Owl Press Co. in Kane’s uptown business district. He said the town is populated by proud residents who work hard to improve Kane and “don’t want to see one person paint us in a bad light.”

Bauer tries to shrug off the scorn from strangers, but acknowledges her actions have angered some in her community.

“Some people didn’t like the fact that I became political,” she said during a break in dinner service at her restaurant, Bob’s Trading Post.

In the months since Jan. 6, former President Donald Trump and his supporters have sought to portray the rioters as peaceful patriots even as videos from that day show members of the mob beating police officers and hunting for lawmakers in an unthinkable attack on the seat of American democracy. On Tuesday, officers who defended the Capitol that day described to a congressional committee investigating the insurrection how they feared for their lives and continue to suffer physical and emotional pain.

Bauer was heard shouting at police to “bring Nancy Pelosi out” to be hanged during the riot, the FBI says. Five people died in the attack or its aftermath, and dozens of law enforcement officers were injured. More than 500 people have been charged with federal crimes.

Even so, some in Kane have stood by Bauer, who insists her actions haven’t cost her any friendships or harmed her business. On a recent Wednesday evening, tables at her restaurant were filled by her regular customers.

“She’s a human being who stood up for her rights. She should have a right to stand up for what she believes in,” said Glenn Robinson, 68.

Such political division over how Jan. 6 unfolded has occurred in communities across the country. Forty-seven percent of Republicans say it can be described as a “legitimate protest,” while only 13% of Democrats say the same, according to a June poll from Monmouth University.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 81% of Democrats say it’s “extremely” or “very” important that investigations continue into what happened during the Capitol breach, but just 38% of Republicans say the same.

Bauer was arrested in May along with Blauser, a Vietnam War veteran and retired mail carrier. Surveillance video shows the two of them entering the Capitol through an east Rotunda door where at least three police officers were trying to block entry. Video from a police officer’s body camera captured Bauer saying to bring out Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House.

“Bring them out now. They’re criminals. They need to hang,” she said.

Trump received nearly three-quarters of the votes in the 2020 election in the county that incudes Kane, a borough in northwest Pennsylvania with roughly 3,500 residents, over 97% of whom are white. Many homes and businesses in town are still decorated with Trump signs and flags. A warehouse adorned with pro-Trump posters also has one that reads “Burn Loot Murder,” a derisive reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Road signs bill Kane as “A Star in the Forest” and as the hometown of the late NBA basketball coach Chuck Daly. The town also is known as the “Icebox of Pennsylvania” for its frigid, snowy winters.

Before the riot, most Kane residents knew Bauer for the deep-dish pizza and ice cream she has been serving since she bought the restaurant 15 years ago. That began to change as the coronavirus pandemic temporarily closed her business along with many others in the small town on the edge of the 517,000-acre Allegheny National Forest.

She became an outspoken critic of COVID-19 lockdown measures that cost her business and drove a wedge between neighbors who clashed on social media. She complained about a mask mandate during a school board meeting two weeks before her arrest, The Kane Republican newspaper reported.

Last year, as her business suffered, Bauer also began to embrace an ideology that appears to comport with the “sovereign citizens” extremist movement’s belief that the U.S. government is illegitimate. Bauer says she is a “sovereign people,” not a sovereign citizen, and refers to herself as “Pauline from the House of Bauer.”

Bauer has been combative with the judge presiding over her case and claimed the court has no authority over her. She was jailed for one night in June after she refused to answer a magistrate judge’s routine questions. During a recent hearing, she told U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden that she doesn’t want an attorney to represent her “or any lawyering from the bench.”

“I do not recognize your bar card, sir,” she told McFadden, who appointed a lawyer to act as her standby counsel.

She also told the judge that she wouldn’t allow a pretrial services officer to inspect her home, in person or virtually. The judge warned her that she could be jailed again if she refused to comply. He also denied her request to dismiss her charges, which include obstruction of an official proceeding and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

“On what terms?” she asked.

“You know what? You don’t get to demand terms from me,” the judge replied.

After the hearing, Blauser and Bauer hugged each other outside the Washington courthouse. Two days later, Blauser and his wife stopped by Bauer’s restaurant for dinner. He sometimes eats three meals in a day at Bob’s Trading Post and hasn’t broken his routine since their arrest. One of Blauser’s lawyers advised him to stay away from Bauer.

“I can’t do that because she’s my best friend, and I’m trying to help her. And if you can’t help your best friend, God help you,” he said.

On a recent episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the host mocked Bauer for claiming to be a “divinely empowered entity immune from laws.”

“Divinely empowered? So she’s going to get away scot-free, just like Jesus,” Colbert joked. “But it does raise the question: If you’re chosen by God to be above the laws of government, why do you care who’s in charge of it?”

Bauer posted on Facebook that she was inside the Capitol. Several witnesses who saw her posts contacted the FBI. One of them was a customer who said Bauer “became more and more political over the past year, and began losing business because people were uncomfortable about her constant political rhetoric,” according to an FBI agent.

Investigators believe Bauer used her restaurant’s Facebook page to promote a bus trip to Washington on Jan. 6 for the “mega million rally.”

“Need 51 people to fill a bus,” she wrote, according to the FBI.

Bauer denies that she organized a bus trip. Blauser said he, Bauer and seven others traveled to Washington in a passenger van, not a bus. She and Blauser left the Capitol about 38 minutes after they entered.

“A lot of people say that they’re proud of me for standing up for my rights,” Bauer said.

Blauser claims they “got caught up in the moment.”

“Everyone else was going up and going in, so we just followed along with them,” he added.

Bauser and Blauser both were freed on $10,000 bond after their arrests. They don’t have a trial date yet. More than 20 other Capitol riot defendants have pleaded guilty as of Monday. Only three have been sentenced, with one getting eight months in prison for breaching the U.S Senate chamber.

Kane Mayor Brandy Schimp, a first-term Republican, takes a long pause when asked about how she reacted to the Jan. 6 riot.

“I felt like it was time to shut the TV off and to get back to work because there’s too much division and there’s too much anger and there’s too much sadness and too much frustration,” she said.

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Capitol riot arrest of restaurant owner rattles hometown