When I read the news reports that Derrick Evans, a newly elected member of the West Virginia legislature, livestreamed himself storming into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, I went, “hmm, I know that name.”
I know that name, as do West Virginia’s abortion advocates, because before Evans won his election in November, Evans was most-known as the ringleader of the weekly protests by anti-abortion radicals at the Women’s Health Center, the sole abortion clinic left in the entire state. Before a restraining order was filed against him by a volunteer clinic escort, Evans would regularly show up outside of the clinic, and, according to the clinic staff, would harass and threaten both patients and the clinic’s staff.
Last June, I went to Charleston to write about the clinic as well as Evans and his crew of dangerous activists:
The recent protests at the Women’s Health Center, first organized by Derrick Evans, an attention-hungry anti-abortion activist who began livestreaming the protests on his Facebook page, are part of a nationwide uptick of harassment at abortion clinics. While it’s unclear why they began organizing, clinic staff speculated that it’s partly due to the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in New York state. “They are misogynists, they’re racists, they’re homophobes. They’re just the ultimate bigots,” Lewis said bluntly of the protesters. She remembered one particularly unsettling moment during one of Evans’s early protests: “He’s livestreaming his conversation with this other friend of his who is saying, ‘I’m on my way. I’m bringing my 9mm [gun].’”
It should come as no surprise that there is some overlap between the rightwing Christian extremist anti-abortion movement and those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Both groups believe in the use of force and violence towards their aims, both believe their individual reality to be the only truth, and their particular goals the only righteous ones.
Evans, for his part, is now belatedly realizing the consequences of his actions. After posting the video of him and a crew of others entering the Capitol, he then deleted it from his Facebook page and uploaded a statement where he attempted to claim that he was simply there to film the coup attempt “as an independent member of the media.”
Unfortunately for him, others downloaded his video before he deleted it. In it, he can be seen shouting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and whooping before he pushes through the doors and, in a lucky break for investigators, screams, “Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” once inside.
Democrats in West Virginia are now calling for Evans to be prosecuted and to resign from office.
Update (1/8/21, 1:57 p.m.): According to news reports, Evans now faces federal charges for illegally entering the Capitol.
Update (1/11/21, 10:03 a.m.): Over the weekend, Evans was arrested and subsequently released on bond. In a video taken during his arrest, Evan’s grandmother praised both Evans and Donald Trump. “He’s a fine man,” she said of her grandson, before adding, “And thank you Mr. Trump, for inviting that riot at the White House.” (She perhaps meant the U.S. Capitol, but point taken.)
On Saturday, after initially refusing calls from even the Republican Governor Jim Justice to resign, Evans announced his resignation from the West Virginia House of Delegates, effective immediately. In a statement, Evans wrote, “The past few days have certainly been a difficult time for my family, colleagues and myself, so I feel it’s best at this point to resign my seat in the House and focus on my personal situation and those I love.”