The January 6, 2021 Fallout Continues—Maryland Election Board Official Carlos Ayala Arrested January 21, 2024
The effects of the January 6, 2021 Trump-incited attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol keep reverberating. This effort to thwart our peaceful transition of presidential power will always remain a terrible stain on our history. The fatal January 6, 2021 riot demonstrates that democracy is fragile and must always be defended by Americans in every generation. Democracy can NEVER be taken for granted. Three years later, people are still being arrested for their illegal and violent actions on that day. These include Ian MacBride of Douglassville, Pennsylvania and Montana fire rescuer Frank Dahlquist (daily kos, Merlin, 1/12/24). And on January 9, 2024, the FBI arrested Carlos Ayala. According to the federal U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., Ayala has been charged with a felony civil disorder and multiple related misdemeanors. He made his first court appearance on January 9, 2024, the day of his arrest (nytimes.com, Diaz, J., 1/11/24, Witte, B., apnews.com, 1/11/24, justice.gov, 1/09/24). Ayala, 52, of Salisbury, MD is no unemployed drifter who on a whim decided to join the Jan. 6 MAGA Trump- incited mob. That mob, remember, attempted to stop the congressional counting of the electoral votes that would give Democrat Joe Biden the 11/ 03/2020 presidential election victory over Republican incumbent Donald Trump. Ayala is a person who had strong connections to American politics and elections and also had a respectable business career. At the time of his arrest, Ayala was a GOP member of the Maryland State Board of Elections. After his arrest, Ayala resigned from this key political post. Let’s look at who Ayala is and what he was charged with.
After a recommendation from the Maryland Republican Party and his confirmation by the Democratic State Senate, Democratic Governor Wes Moore appointed Ayala to the MD State Elections Board in 2023 (wrde.com/news, Twinkle, T., 1/11/24). Ayala was appointed along with four other people to that board to serve a four-year term (nytimes.com, Diaz, J., 1//11/24). Three members on this board come from MD’s Democratic majority, two from its GOP minority. This board makes sure that MD complies with state and federal election laws (Witte, apnews.com, 1/11/24). Ayala had strong ties to the business world. He was connected to the prominent Perdue Farms family. Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, MD, is a major chicken, turkey, and pork processing company in the U.S. In 2021, Perdue Farms had annual sales of $8 billion (wiki). In a promotional video published on Perdue Farms Facebook 2019 page, Ayala mentioned that his mother Mitzi had married Frank Perdue, the former president and CEO of Perdue Farms, in the late 80’s. That video has since been removed from social media (wrde.com). At Perdue Farms, Ayala has had various roles. He was director of international operations, general manager of Perdue China, and vice-president international for all of Perdue. He was introduced to the MD Senate in March, 2023 as a “well respected business and community leader (wrde.com/news, Twinkle, 1/11/24).” Ayala sounded like a perfect blue-chip GOPer for the MD election board.
However, there was a dark side to Ayala, one that the MD State Senate and Gov. Moore were unaware of at the time of his election appointment. Had they known more about Ayala’s past, which additional vetting would have disclosed, he NEVER would have been chosen for this or any other state post. Ayala was a major participant in the January 6, 2021 attempted Trump-inspired coup. According to a 13-page criminal complaint, witnesses identified Ayala among a group of rioters who had illegally gathered on 1/06/21 on restricted Capitol grounds near the scaffolding erected for Biden’s upcoming inauguration. The complaint and the prosecutor’s statement noted that Ayala had sported a sweatshirt hood that was decorated with an American flag that was “cinched tightly around his head.” Ayala wore a mask. He carried a distinctive black-and-white flag affixed to a PVC pipe flagpole that bore the words, “We the People” and “DEFEND.” According to the federal complaint, at about 2:15 PM, video footage showed Ayala “climbing police barriers,” that had been moved aside by the rioters so they could get to the Upper West Terrace outside the Capitol building. That same document featured an image of Ayala running toward the Capitol through the crowd after the police line had been broken. Another image in the court documents showed Ayala and other rioters climbing the police barricade to access the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace (nytimes.com, Diaz, J., 1/11/24).
And there is more. Prosecutors stated that closed-circuit television footage from inside the Capitol, near the Senate Wing Door, captured Ayala waving his black flag inside one of the windows next to the Senate Wing Door. The complaint added that a U.S. Capitol Police officer then motioned for Ayala to get away from the window. Footage showed a rioter jabbing a flag and a flagpole toward a police officer. That officer then grabbed these objects to prevent the rioter from knocking down the officer’s shield or injuring other officers. Court documents state that the flag in the video matched the description of Ayala’s flag, which he held moments before. Prosecutors stated that body camera footage, from about 2:51PM showed that Ayala paced in front of police officers who had assembled on the Upper West Terrace to clear rioters from that area. As Ayala walked the length of the police line, he gestured at the officers and declared, “Join us (nytimes.com, Diaz, J., 1/11/24)!”
The general reaction to Ayala’s arrest because of his alleged involvement in the 1/06/2021 Trump-incited riot was one of shock. MD Democratic Senate President Bill Ferguson described Ayala’s arrest as “incredibly surprising and distressing.” Ferguson said that during his confirmation process, Ayala “certainly didn’t seem like someone that would have participated in such activities (apnews.com, Witte, 1/11/24).” However, most of the 1/06/2021 Trump-incited rioters didn’t seem like riff- raff or unemployed drifters. According to a study done by Robert Pape discussing the demographic breakdown of these rioters, 87% of them were not Oath Keepers or Proud Boys extremists. They were not fringe people, but rather part of the “mainstream.” Disturbingly, many of the 1/06/21 rioters were business owners, doctors, and lawyers. Only 15% of them had served in the military. Only 30% of them had criminal history, often only for drug misdemeanors. They were not young extremists. Most of them were in their 40’s and 50’s. Most of them did not come from deep “Red” parts of the U.S. More than half of them came from counties that had lost their white, non-Hispanic population and were “attuned” to Trump’s grievance theory of being “displaced” by liberals and illegal immigrants. MD Senate President Ferguson aptly added, “When democracy is under threat, we can’t make any assumptions. Nothing is predetermined (apnews.com, Witte, 1/11/24).”
Yes, those of us who want to protect our democracy must now vet very carefully the people we nominate for all federal and state offices, especially election posts. They must not be election deniers or participants in any “Stop the Steal” riots, whether in D.C. or anywhere else. Since January 6, 2021, more than 1,265 people have been charged in nearly all 50 states for crimes relating to the Trump-attempted incited D.C. coup. Among them are 440 people who have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, a federal felony (nytimes.com, Diaz). Ayala must receive a stiff sentence for his Jan. 6 actions if he is convicted. Authorities must continue and be encouraged to keep looking for more of these law breakers. And remember, should Trump be elected again, he has often promised to pardon the January 6th insurrectionists. We must vote in droves this 11/2024 to make sure that this dictator wannabe never gets anywhere near the Oval Office again. Democracy is precious, but it always remains fragile.