Children’s choir director responds to police claim they didn’t stop national anthem

By Around the Web

(Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash)
(Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Tyler O’Neil
The Daily Signal

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Footage shows a Capitol Police officer directing someone to interrupt a children’s choir singing the national anthem in the U.S. Capitol, yet the police claimed that they did not stop the singing.

The man who conducted the choir that day tells The Daily Signal that the Capitol Police’s claim is an outright lie.

“I was shocked, I was dismayed, I was stunned,” David Rasbach, the founder and director of the Rushingbrook Children’s Choir, told The Daily Signal of the incident, which took place on Friday, May 26. “I couldn’t believe that was happening, that they would stop the national anthem of all songs.”

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Rasbach spoke with The Daily Signal on Friday, June 2, describing the events of one week back. He said that he had secured permission from three congressional offices for the choir to sing in the Capitol. He said South Carolina Republican Reps. William Timmons and Joe Wilson had provided documents giving permission, as had the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Micah Rea, founder and principal of The Rea Group and organizer of the trip, told The Daily Signal that a Wilson staffer called McCarthy’s office, confirming that the choir had permission to sing. Nonetheless, the Capitol Police interrupted the performance.

Shortly before the choir started singing the national anthem, Andrew Tremel, the visitor operations manager at the Architect of the Capitol, temporarily stopped them from singing. When Rea told Tremel that congressional offices had granted permission, Tremel talked in his earpiece and told the choir they could start singing.

The children’s choir, based in Greenville, South Carolina, had toured Williamsburg, Virginia, before coming to Washington, D.C., to tour key historical and governmental sites. The pinnacle of the trip would be a performance in National Statuary Hall. Rasbach told The Daily Signal that the choir planned to sing five songs: “The Star-Spangled Banner”; “America the Beautiful”; “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”; “I Bought Me a Cat” by Aaron Copland; and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

Video of the event shows the choir singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but it also shows Rasbach, the conductor, cut the singers off before they could finish the fourth verse of the song. Rasbach cut them off because a female Capitol Police officer had directed a congressional staffer to immediately stop the singing, Rasbach told The Daily Signal.

Rasbach said the female police officer insisted that the performance is considered a demonstration, and that demonstrations in the U.S. Capitol are banned. She later said some people were offended, though Rasbach doubted her claim. He said the officer could not have heard from people who claimed to be offended “because her time was consumed with us.”

The Capitol Police contested his claims.

“Recently somebody posted a video of a children’s choir singing the Star-Spangled Banner in the U.S. Capitol Building and wrongfully claimed we stopped the performance because it ‘might offend someone,’” the Capitol Police told The Daily Signal in an email statement. “Here is the truth. Demonstrations and musical performances are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol.”

“Of course, because the singers in this situation were children, our officers were reasonable and allowed the children to finish their beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner,” the police statement added. “The Congressional staff member who was accompanying the group knew the rules, yet lied to the officers multiple times about having permission from various offices. The staffer put both the choir and our officers, who were simply doing their jobs, in an awkward and embarrassing position.”

“That’s a bald-faced lie,” Rea, the man who organized the trip, told The Daily Signal. “You can see clearly in the video, they literally stopped him before they finished singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”

“That is absolutely, irrefutably wrong,” he added of the statement that the police allowed the choir to finish. “She did everything she could to stop us and not let us continue singing, period.”

“That whole thing is a lie,” Rea said of the Capitol Police statement. “Capitol Police treats us like we’re some Antifa demonstrators, like little 7-year-old kids.”

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He further insisted that the congressional staffer did not lie to the Capitol Police—that the offices had indeed granted permission.

Rasbach also condemned the Capitol Police statement.

“That is not true—he did not lie to anybody,” the director said of the congressional staffer. “I did not hear her say that they lied to us, and they did not lie to us.” He said the female officer put her hand down very suddenly, directing the staffer to “go shut them down.”

After the choir stopped singing, Rasbach spoke to the female officer. He said he asked her, “How do you think this is going to affect these children? Their first time visiting their Capitol and then they have this disappointment.”

He paraphrased her response: “She shrugged her shoulders, saying, ‘They sounded beautiful, but… They can go outside and sing.”

“Children singing the national anthem in their Capitol is not a threat to anybody,” Rasbach said.

Both Rea and Rasbach countered the claim that musical performances in the Capitol are banned.

Rasbach highlighted videos of Sean Feucht singing in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 1 and March 10.

Rea noted that a group of 80 pastors sang in the Capitol Rotunda on March 29.

The Capitol Police did not respond when asked for comment about these and other performances.

In a statement emailed to The Daily Signal on Friday night, McCarthy, Timmons, and Wilson, joined by Rep. Russell Fry, R-S.C., wrote:

We recently learned that schoolchildren from South Carolina were interrupted while singing our National Anthem at the Capitol. These children were welcomed by the Speaker’s Office to joyfully express their love of this nation while visiting the Capitol, and we are all very disappointed to learn their celebration was cut short. We are delighted that the People’s House has been reopened particularly for our children and we look forward to welcoming more Americans back to the halls of Congress.

The statement from McCarthy and the other three GOP lawmakers didn’t address Capitol Police’s role in the incident last week.

However, an aide to Timmons also told The Daily Signal that South Carolina’s congressional delegation has offered to cover all expenses for the Rushingbrook Children’s Choir to return to the Capitol to sing the national anthem “wherever they please.”

This report has been updated to include the statement from McCarthy and three South Carolina lawmakers.

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

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