Jaco: Neighbors, friends and co-workers turn on St. Louis seditionists

From an antiques store owner on Cherokee Street and a realtor from Holly Hills to a tech recruiter from Lake St. Louis, a photographer from Wentzville, and a St. Charles county business owner who used the NextDoor app to organize a bus to Washington Jan. 6, St. Louis-area supporters of the violent attempt to overthrow the election at the U.S. Capitol are facing reckonings. And they don’t like it.

They are just like the millions of other MAGA minions, marinated in lies, convinced the election and COVID are hoaxes, drowned in conspiracy theories, determined that the only legitimate elections are the ones they win, and prepared to use threats, intimidation and violence to get their way while whining that they are the real “victims.”

These upper-middle-class avatars of white grievance are the GOP base. They’re why most Republicans refuse to criticize Trump or the insurrection he incited. GOP politicos, like the rest of us, want to keep their jobs. And they’ll lose their jobs if they cross Trump and his doctrine of violent white nationalism because these voters who cast ballots in GOP primaries are all-in with extremism.

But mainstream St. Louis, like mainstream America, is fed up. Which is why people who cheered on Trump’s TreasonFest on Jan. 6, or then marched to the Capitol and took part in the assault on democracy, are being turned in by friends, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, and family members.

Paul Westover
Take Paul Westover, a Lake St. Louis businessman who peppered people for months with pro-Trump COVID-denying rants. Westover, who runs a St, Peters tech recruiting firm called Search Ingenuity LLC, was first highlighted in a column of mine three weeks ago.

After I posted his photos online (tipped off by his Blues stocking cap), numerous acquaintances and neighbors contacted me to identify him.

On Feb. 4, police and the FBI arrested him at his home. In the charging documents listing one felony and four misdemeanors for his part in the Capitol assault, the U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis noted Westover had live-streamed himself shoving past Capitol Police and getting inside the Capitol, before deleting all the videos and photos he shot that day.

Then, there’s Sandi Hea, a realtor from Holly Hills who proudly posted a photo of herself at the rally, then attacked another realtor who criticized her by posting a Facebook screed referencing George Floyd as “a loser” and “the Negro race.”

Sandi Hea

After complaints by fellow realtors and ordinary people to Re/Max Realty, Hea was “de-listed” by Re/Max, losing her position at the Re/Max office in Brentwood. She has since joined another firm, MORE Realtors, in Sunset Hills.

Cherokee Street antiques store owner Cherri Elder is also being criticized for cheering the lie about a “stolen election,” marching to the Capitol, and perpetuating the fraud that the rioters were “leftists” or members of “antifa.” 

Elder was close enough to the people swarming on Capitol scaffolding, erected for the Inauguration, but she claims she never entered the building.

Elder, whose shop at Cherokee and Missouri Avenue was vandalized in 2018, allegedly for flying a “blue lives matter” flag, was in the news then when now-disgraced then-Gov. Eric Greitens dropped by to show his support.

Another photographer claims she did nothing wrong while also falsely claiming the bloodshed and chaos caused by Trump supporters at the Capitol was the work of “antifa.” Sara Marcellino runs Sara Marcellino Photography in Wentzville.

Marcellino shot video of violent pro-Trump rioters while perpetuating the “antifa” lie. But from the angle down the side of a building, it seems Marcellino was actually inside the Capitol building with her camera, shooting down through a window on the Capitol’s second floor. If that’s the case, the video could be problematic for her, since federal prosecutors are filing charges against anyone who trespassed inside the building, not just those caught in violent acts.

In preparing for the Jan. 6 rally and mob marching to the Capitol, many organizers didn’t use Facebook, Parler, Gab or Telegram. Many used NextDoor, a neighborhood app targeted at suburbanites looking for garage sales and “suspicious” activity.

One of them is Gordon Midgley, a St. Charles County businessman whose chartered bus to the coup attempt seems to have been largely filled by people posting on NextDoor.

Midgley chartered the bus as part of his belief in the lie that the election had been “stolen” from Trump. In a post three days after the Capitol riot, Midgley joined the chorus of lies blaming violence on, you guessed it, “antifa.”

A survey of all 193 people charged so far in the Capitol assault shows that over 40 percent are business owners or white-collar employees and professionals. These upper-middle-class extremists and potential domestic terrorists use NextDoor. 

They live just down the cul-de-sac. 

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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