Rioters who stormed U.S. Capitol now face backlash at work

A printing company in Maryland saw the photo on Twitter Wednesday night: an employee roaming the halls of the U.S. Capitol with a company badge around his neck. He was fired the next day.

Others are facing similar repercussions at work for their participation in Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. Some business owners are being trashed on social media and their establishments boycotted, while rank-and-file employees at other businesses have been fired.

The printing company, Navistar Direct Marketing, declined to name the worker but said it can’t offer employment to people “demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others.”

More than 90 people have been arrested since Wednesday when loyalists to outgoing President Donald Trump disrupted lawmakers as they met to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. People on social media have been trying to identify rioters photographed or filmed at the Capitol on Wednesday, pressuring companies that employ them to fire them.

At a data analytics firm in suburban Chicago, the employee in question was the top boss. Cogensia fired CEO Bradley Rukstales Friday night for his participation in the riot.

“This decision was made because Rukstales’ actions were inconsistent with the core values of Cogensia,” said newly-named acting CEO Joel Schiltz in a statement. “Cogensia condemns what occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, and we intend to continue to embrace the values of integrity, diversity and transparency in our business operations, and expect all employees to embrace those values as well.”

Rukstales, who was arrested for unlawful entry, told a local CBS news channel that he had entered the Capitol and apologized for his role in the events. Calls and emails to Rukstales weren’t returned.

A Cleveland school occupational therapist resigned from the district after her alleged involvement in the riot. A spokeswoman for a fire department near Orlando, Florida said one of its firefighters was being investigated for his participation. Sanford Fire Department firefighter Andy Williams has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome, said spokeswoman Bianca Gillett.

Most private employers can fire workers for attending protests, since First Amendment rights only prohibit people from being punished by the government for their speech, not by a private employer, said Susan Kline, an Indianapolis-based labor and employment attorney at law firm Faegre Drinker.

There are some exceptions: Those who work for the government may be more legally protected, and so too are many unionized workers, who typically have a contract listing the reasons for which they could be fired. And some states may have laws that protect workers’ free speech.

But “what people did at the Capitol Wednesday was rioting, not protesting,” said Aaron Holt, a labor and employment attorney with law firm Cozen O’Connor. “When someone violates the law, that’s almost never going to be protected, and a private employer is going to be within their rights to discipline or take some kind of action in response to that that might go against their fundamental core values.”

Small businesses are also facing backlash on online review sites such as Yelp, which flagged at least 20 businesses for unusual review activity related to Wednesday’s rioting.

One business, Becky’s Flowers in Midland, Texas, is owned by Jenny Cudd, a former mayoral candidate who posted a video on Facebook bragging about breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. By Friday, Cudd’s flower shop was flooded with dozens of one-star reviews in which she was called a traitor and domestic terrorist, along with photos of her inside the Capitol.

Cudd later said in a video message to The Associated Press that she didn’t personally go into Pelosi’s office or see people break down the door, and that when she said “we,” she meant all of the people who were at the Capitol. She said she didn’t do anything violent or destroy any property.

“I walked through an open door into the Capitol along with several hundred other people,” Cudd said.

She added that she had “received several death threats along with thousands of one-star reviews from across the country of people who have never frequented my business.”

Yelp has flagged businesses for unusual review activity following less egregious but still controversial events. Reviewers raged on the Yelp page of Virginia restaurant The Red Hen after it booted former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders from its establishment a few years ago. And commenters from the left and right bombarded Big Apple Pizza’s Yelp page with political beliefs after former President Barack Obama was enthusiastically hugged by a customer there.

Social media has outed people for their involvement in activities outside of the workplace, landing them in trouble with their employers. In 2017 after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, many posted photos on social media of those who participated, leading in some cases to their firing.

In Louisiana, customers said they would boycott supermarket chain Rouses Market after retired owner Donald Rouse was shown in a photo at Wednesday’s riot. Rouse said in an email statement that he attended the rally as a supporter of the president but left before the violence began.

“I’m horrified by the violence and destruction we saw yesterday and the pain it has caused so many,” Rouse said. “Our country desperately needs to come together to heal, and I will do everything I can to be a part of that process.”

The Krewe of Red Beans, a group which organizes parades, posted on Instagram that it would return $20,000 in donations it received from the market.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

10 thoughts on “Rioters who stormed U.S. Capitol now face backlash at work

  1. People need to stop blaming Trump. Trump has always been this way. We need to start blaming the enablers who put him in power and refused to hold him accountable for four years. That includes especially Sen. Braun.

  2. “I walked through an open door into the Capitol along with several hundred other people,” Cudd said.

    She added that she had “received several death threats along with thousands of one-star reviews from across the country of people who have never frequented my business.”

    Lmfao what a snowflake.

  3. Such employment shaming doesn’t apply to the rioting left-wingers in big cities last spring and summer because most of them probably weren’t employed anyway….or if they were, it was indirectly by George Soros and his cabal of America-hating insurrectionists.

    In years to come, might there be books published comparing the book-burning fascists of Nazi Germany in the 1930s with the social-media Nazi fascists blocking anything other than the left-wing rhetoric of our day? The parallels are haunting and will be good fodder for meaningful research. (Remember, lefties, if they can do it FOR you, they can also do it TO you.)

  4. More to the point, Joe B: With what part of this dissertation do you disagree?

    Open your eyes, man; it’s happening here whether or not you want to admit it. Or, as writer Ayn Rand famously opined, “You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

    Hang onto your opinion for ten years, Joe, and then come back and tell me how it worked out. I’ll be 75 years old next month, so I may have been permanently relieved of your ignorance (I hope it is ignorance and not stupidity, because ignorance can be cured) so you may post an enlightened understanding at that time if you like.

    The only reason history repeats itself is because subsequent generations think they are smarter than the previous ones and, so, the lessons of history don’t apply to them….so repeat it does, generation after generation.

    1. Bob – read up on projection. Generally, whatever Trump supporters accuse the “others” of, they are most guilty of themselves.

      It’s really rich calling left-wingers Nazis when you have actual right-wingers wearing such things as “Camp Auschwitz” shirts as they trash the US Capitol, and oh yeah, kill a police officer.

      Are left-wingers guilty of things? Sure. But they didn’t break into the Capitol to interrupt the transaction of constitutionally mandated business. There’s no “what about” or “both sides” to this one, the right is pretty far ahead right now.

      Besides, I’m old enough to recall when Republicans were the party of personal responsibility and Democrats were the bleeding hearts who blamed everything on someone else.

      Yep, history repeats itself. From the the end of the Civil War to the Republican-led end of Reconstruction that led to Jim Crow laws, to the Civil Rights movement that led to the election of an black man as President and the resulting backlash that led to Trump’s election, there is always a reaction when America tries to reckon with its history on race. The Republican Party needs to clean its own house.

  5. Boy, you don’t know much about which party sponsored and supported -and which party consistently worked against- civil rights legislation, do you, Joe?

    Further thoughts to hopefully activate your limited memory:

    Remember in 2011 when tens of thousands of Democrats surged on the Wisconsin Capitol building in Madison and physically occupied it for more than two weeks? We were told, “This is what democracy looks like.”

    Remember in 2016 when Obama was President and hundreds of BLM blocked interstate highways and violently accosted police (even killing several)? We were told, “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible.”

    Remember in 2018 during the Kavanaugh hearings when a mob of Democrats stormed the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, and pounded their fists in rage on the door. We were told, “It’s understandable.”

    Remember this summer’s riots in major cities across the country when groups of Democrats marched in the streets, set buildings on fire, looted businesses, assaulted and even killed bystanders and police? We were told, “These are mostly peaceful protests.”

    Remember when Democrats seized several blocks of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in downtown Seattle, declaring it an autonomous zone? Remember the guns and deaths and utter destruction? We were told, “It’s a block party atmosphere.”

    Remember when a crazed mob gathered after the Republican National Convention and attacked Rand Paul, a sitting U.S. Senator? We were told, “No justice, no peace.”

    Remember how police were told to stand down, governors refused to call in the national guard, and Democrats paid bail for violent protesters who were arrested? We were told, “This is the only way oppressed people can be heard.”

    I have condemned violent protests and lawlessness every single time they’ve been reported. I condemn the actions of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6….but refuse to condemn close to a million peaceful protesters because a handful (52 arrested) chose to be lawless and defy everything the vast majority of the crowd stood for. Conservatives are defenders of the Constitution, the police, and the rule of law. Because a relative few people decided to do something stupid doesn’t nullify the concerns of the many.

    The real culprit here? The mainstream media has been telling us for years that violence is the only way people who feel oppressed can be heard, it’s the only way to get justice, and this is what democracy looks like. Apparently, a few who were in the crowd on Wednesday, January 6 listened to them.

    The inflammatory rhetoric of the Left caused this, and it’s about time Democrats and the mainstream media took responsibility for dividing Americans and attempting to humiliate those who support the President or any conservative ideals. They have pushed people to the brink, even while claiming, “It’s time for unity.”

    God help us all..

    1. You’re not oppressed, Bob. You’re in thrall of a con man who tells you you’re oppressed so you’ll do anything he says and justify his treasonous behavior. There’s a difference.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.