Newly elected Richmond City Commissioner Krystin Arnold is receiving sharp criticism, and some praise, for her attendance at the demonstrations at the United States Capitol on Wednesday which culminated into a deadly riot and siege.
Arnold announced her presence at the Capitol on Wednesday after she posted a picture of herself — unmasked — and smiling among those demonstrating against the counting of electoral votes confirming Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Shortly after, a pro-Trump mob laid siege to the Capitol and Arnold’s selfie began to circulate on social media.
In an interview with The Register late Wednesday evening, Arnold said she was not part of the attack on the Capitol and learned of the siege later in the day.
Arnold deleted her social media accounts on Wednesday — which have yet to be restored.
However, screenshots of her selfie and comments calling demonstrators “patriots” along with her statements to The Register have continued to amass criticism in the Richmond community.
Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, told The Register news partner WKYT that he has received several messages from people concerned about the commissioner’s social media post, statements and presence in Washington D.C.
“Our attorney is looking at where we are in every way,” Blythe said. “And that’s the best I can say until the city manager, the city attorney then get back with me and we see where we are with respect to the concerns of the citizens.”
City Manager Rob Minerich told The Register on Friday, “We are listening to the citizens concerns and are looking into the legality of the matter.”
The mayor expects the community to address the situation during the next public meeting of the commission on Tuesday, Jan 12.
Following the horrific events at the Capitol on Wednesday, the Madison County Democratic Party issued a statement expressing "disappointment" that Arnold attended one of the many rallies.
"We are disappointed that Richmond City Commissioner Krystin Arnold chose to participate in the protest of a legal and fair Presidential election with the goal of overturning the will of voters. We are glad that she is safe, but such actions do not represent everyone in Richmond or Madison County, and they do not help our communities heal from the wounds caused by national partisan politics. We call upon the people of Madison County to reject the politics of hate and stand united in the love of our community and what makes it great," the MCDP said in a statement.
Martina Jackson, secretary for Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee and a former candidate for the 81st District, said she was disheartened to see a newly-elected leader in her community in attendance at the demonstrations on Wednesday.
Jackson said Arnold, who was elected to a non-partisan commission, is expected to work for all, and her actions at best, might undermine Arnold’s future position in the eyes of her constituents.
“You can protest, that is everyone’s right,” Jackson said.
However, by demonstrating with others whose intentions were to protest the counting of legal and fair election and then lay siege to the Capitol, Jackson said Arnold showed clear bias.
The removal of Arnold’s social media accounts, also did not sit well with Jackson, who said voters expect their leaders to listen and respond to criticism as well as be available to answer questions.
“As a leader, we expect much more from that person,” Jackson said. “Accountability is a part of leadership.”
While Jackson said everyone has a right to protest and have deeply held beliefs, Arnold’s actions and subsequent silence, calls into question how the new commissioner will represent others in her community — before she has even attended her first meeting.
“Does she have the best intentions of our community? Is she going to be focused on our community or does she have a different agenda? … (A leader) has a great responsibility in the public eye. People will hang on to every little bit of what you say and do,” Jackson said.
A story on Arnold by The Register has received more than 230 comments on Facebook, and many in the community agree with Jackson in regards to Arnold’s actions.
Tanya Cornelison wrote, “I question her capacity to make sound decisions for the people of Richmond.”
Jennifer Hobbs Collett wrote that she questioned Arnold’s nonchalant view of her time in Washington D.C.
“She's going to have to face the consequences of her actions. I see so many people acting like this is a game or some kind argument to be won. Its not. 4 people died yesterday. They lost their lives because of a political lie that has been pushed by a deranged man. She was there, she agrees with the deranged man, she marked herself "safe"....yet she didn't know about the violence that they had been telling us would happen?” Collett wrote.
Others were appalled that Arnold chose to travel outside the state and then attend a large gathering unmasked.
“I sure hope the health department is guaranteeing that she will be quarantined for 14 days; since she was at a super spreader without a mask,” Michelle Rappold-Taylor wrote.
For many, the photo was the tipping point.
“She won’t have my vote next time around,” Chad Adkins said.
Mike Van Winkle, who ran against Robert Goforth in the 2020 election, said he was appalled to see the photo of a local elected official smiling while surrounded by others with plans to reverse an election pop up on social media.
“Whether she meant it to be that way or not. She ended up being part of a treasonous mob that was planning a coup — basically, domestic terrorism. Now, those people have blood on their hands. People died,” Van Winkle said. “It’s just horrible.”
Others have praised Arnold’s actions.
“I'm proud of her and everyone else that stood up to the people that's destroying America... maybe they will realize that American people have had enough," Allen Dehart commented on Facebook.
Kevin Hurt defended Arnold’s presence at the rally and related the demonstrators in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to those who took part in Black Lives Matter protests.
“People who tried to act like she did something wrong for participating peacefully in a protest are uneducated as to what our Constitution says and means. She went to Washington DC to protest what she and many other feel to be an attack on democracy in this country, and not to riot. Just like this summer's Black Lives Matters protests, there were good people there who meant to do something good and there were bad people there. I am completely and totally convinced that this member of our council is a very good person. And, those of you who publicly slander her are shallow and ignorant when it comes to facts,” Hurt wrote.
Van Winkle disagrees.
The political activist said those protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement were fighting against injustice which had been proven by facts and law.
“They had death certificates. Proof that a woman, Breonna Taylor, was killed by police. Those officers have been fired because investigations have found proof of that,” Van Winkle said. “The demonstrations on Wednesday were based on lies. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud, in any court and from any election official, in the 2020 election.”
Van Winkle said he was disappointed that a leader from Kentucky appeared to endorse “insurrection” and “lies.”
He also said Arnold’s actions should push other local leaders and voters to become more educated about political matters.
“We need to have an established code of ethics and standards for our elected officials. Some mechanism where they can be removed. As it stands now, to my knowledge, nothing can be done. The voters have no recourse,” Van Winkle said.
He encouraged voters to vet their candidates carefully and expressed dismay at how party affiliation has become so entrenched in how people vote.
“People need to know the quality and character of the person who is running for office. We have to start having conversations about this and encouraging better behavior and leadership from our representatives and local leaders,” Van Winkle said.
Some, who have commented on The Register’s story on Facebook, agree.
“I will pay more attention to who runs for City Commissioner and their political behavior,” Rebecca Proudfoot wrote.
Multiple attempts by The Register to reach Arnold for comment on this article went unanswered and calls made to her phone led to a disconnected message.