Rachel Powell’s life has been living Hell since she broke a window to “save lives” near the tunnel where Roseanne Boyland died on Jan. 6. With her upcoming sentencing hearing in October, Powell fears she may be sentenced to years in prison because of the decisions she made that day.
For most of her confinement from Feb. 4, 2021, until now, Powell has been on strict court-ordered confinement with an ankle monitor inside a small cabin in rural Pennsylvania. At times, she, her family, and her old employer have been relentlessly harassed. The silver lining, says Powell, is that her immediate family, her children and six grandchildren, and some close friends have been “enormously loving” and supportive throughout her ordeal. Powell told UncoverDC:
“I ruined my family’s wonderful life in one day without meaning to. I wish I was never involved. I feel dumb, set up, duped, and terrible for what I have put my family through. But they still love me, and that is what gets me through and covers my guilt and shame. I could not do this without them.”
Powell was arrested on Feb. 4, 2021, and indicted on Mar. 4, 2021, with eight counts. The most serious violations are her breaking a window on federal property and allegedly interfering with police activity because of her efforts to save lives that day. Powell now awaits her October 17th sentencing hearing with Judge Lamberth presiding.
I’m filling out court paperwork. This section- I want to write please take anything I have left. Even if it leaves me to live in a cardboard box. Just let my family start living again. Take it all. Just let me pretend I’m free again. pic.twitter.com/zOK78dFZxK
— Rachel Powell 🎗️ (@Iamrachelpowell) August 31, 2023
Powell fears she will face years of incarceration in a prison too far from family to see them frequently. Judge Lamberth has allegedly meted out some of the harshest sentences for J6 offenders with Powell’s profile. Like many others, Powell traveled to D.C. with friends to protest peacefully. She never imagined the protest would become violent. She certainly never imagined herself in the violent circumstances that would prompt her to break a window on federal property.
Mother of Eight Confined to a Small Space for 2 1/2 Years
Because of her strict confinement, her 15-year-old boy has had to help her cook during periods of warmer weather because she could not reach the gas stove near her porch. She has relied on others for groceries. Others, including her ex, have taken her children to medical checkups or appointments. It is hard to imagine life with a large family in a world that confines you to a tiny space. Powell has missed her daughter’s wedding, the births of two of her grandchildren, and countless other precious family events.
Powell’s cabin is heated with a wood-burning stove in rural Pennsylvania. The stove is the only heat source during the winter, and Powell also uses it for cooking during the winter months. During the summer months, she now has access to a gas stove near her porch.
The cabin, which is more like a studio efficiency space, sits on a property with a larger home owned by her current boss. For about six months of her confinement, Powell could not reach the gas stove and freezer near the cabin’s screened-in porch because her ankle monitor equipment did not allow her to range that far. She had to fight for the changes, allowing her to walk to her porch inside her cabin. In the video below, Powell explains why the ankle monitor prevented her from accessing parts of her small space.
Powell was supposed to rent an apartment in the larger home, but pre-trial instruction prevented her from doing that. As a result, the children who live with her sleep in the larger home steps from her cabin but come into the cabin space during the day.
Powell had to sell her 3 bedroom/2 bath home, which was almost paid off. She currently lives full-time with the two youngest children, ages 12 and 7. Her 15-year-old lives part-time with his dad because it is closer to his job, and it is easier for him to get rides or walk the mile to play sports. Her oldest three are married with children. Two others are out of the house. She had to sell her home and leave her job at a local bookstore in May 2021 because she and the store owners were being relentlessly harassed.
Why Did Powell Grab a Bullhorn and Break a Window on Jan. 6?
Before the pandemic, Powell led a quiet life in rural Pennsylvania. She enjoyed raising her children, gardening, swimming, and working at a local bookstore. However, when she saw her community mandated to wear masks and social distancing, she became vocal about her displeasure with the restrictions.
Powell sees herself as an independent thinker. While Powell was not an ardent fan of Trump prior to the 2020 election, she believed the election was stolen. For that reason, she traveled to the Capitol to protest, never thinking she would encounter what she went through.
On Jan. 6, Powell attended Trump’s speech and then peacefully walked toward the Capitol like so many others did that day. When she reached the Capitol, she and the woman she was with were standing at a barrier, and Powell says, “She felt confused because the police just started shooting at people for what seems like no reason.” Her friend had left by then, but Powell stayed. She describes what happened:
“I was scared because when they started shooting us, the guy beside me, he got shot through his face; you could look through his cheek. When I was outside the tunnel, the police started throwing out these little flash bomb things at us. The tear gas stuff. It was crazy, and it escalated from there.
My mistake that day was when the barricades were removed, I went up onto the balcony and then to the tunnel or hallway on the West side of the capital with other people.”
Powell says she was inside the tunnel for about 20 minutes. While inside the tunnel or hallway, she realized the Capitol Police were pushing the crowd away from the glass doors at the end. As a result, she felt she and others were in danger. It wasn’t easy with the crowds, but she worked her way along the railing to get out.
After she came outside, she stood by the entrance with a bullhorn to the tunnel, trying to help wash people’s eyes or get to safety for “a very long time.” While standing outside, the police suddenly set off teargas or firebombs of some kind, very irritating to the eyes. She stood outside the tunnel, washing her eyes and helping others wash theirs with water bottles. While she stood there, people in the crowd broke the window to the left of the entry to the tunnel/hallway. Rumors were circulating of a woman being shot (Ashli Babbitt). People were panicked by the rumors and by the actions of the police, who were by then in what appeared to be full riot gear.
Powell climbed through the broken window to find safety, but people were taking the door off the room. She told them not to remove the door or the police would enter. No one listened. She explained her frame of mind and what was happening at the time:
“A guy with a long black beard wasn’t going to stop. The people were going in. I pictured the tunnel being like the hallway where a door was broken, and then there were police behind it, and then people died. I thought if they go down this hallway, it is going to happen again, but maybe with guns like we had heard happened with another woman in another part of the Capitol. These people were like lemmings walking off a cliff to their deaths.
Originally, I told them not to take the door off the room they were in and go into the Capitol. Like just stay in that safe room. But they didn’t listen and were going to do it anyhow.”
She climbed back outside when she could not convince others to stop dismantling doors. At that point, Powell witnessed what she calls the “man pile” or the Boyland incident. Powell explains:
“The violence from the police just got worse. And then I was there, the man pile where Roseanne Boyland died, and we’re trying to pull bodies off of her. And by the time we got to the bottom, she was clearly dead. I could have stayed there and done CPR, but I did not because I figured the police were just going to come out of this hallway and kill me, too. We had already heard they had shot some woman in the capital somewhere, although we didn’t know her name then.
In court, when the government prosecution showed their video of what I was doing at the time, the angles they used didn’t show the whole story. And my lawyers didn’t want me to testify, so I couldn’t tell my story for the record. I was bending over, but there was a crowd in front of me. My lawyers asked the FBI in court if they really knew what I was doing. They answered they didn’t know. What I actually was doing never came to light in court.
So, from the videos shown by the prosecution, you couldn’t see Roseanne down there; you couldn’t see what was happening. The pile of people was big, and you could hear Roseanne at the bottom crying out for help. She kept crying, “Help me, help me”. So there was me, and a couple of men were trying to pull people off that pile, and the pile was tight. And at one point, the crowd actually started chanting, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ like the George Floyd thing. Because the police were pushing people on this end, and everyone was yelling to stop pushing. People were yelling, ‘You’re going to kill somebody.’ And the police didn’t stop. They just kept pushing.
The pile was so tight, [that] one guy couldn’t even get his foot out of the pile. The rest of his body was free. Just his foot was in there. It took me and another grown man to pull that man’s foot free from the pile. There was another guy that when we pulled him out, we pulled him out of his pants. Another woman was taken out of the pile, and she was losing her mind. She was screaming, ‘Where’s my son? Where’s my son? Where’s my son?’ People took her away from that pile because she was just freaking out and getting in the way.
And then, at the bottom of the pile, there were actually two people there, and I thought they were both dead. One was Roseanne, and she was dead. The other one was a man, but I am not sure of his name. He actually ended up being alive, but they were both at the bottom of the pile, just motionless.”
After witnessing Boyland’s death, Powell attempted to break the other window to the right of the tunnel, opening with a large cardboard tube. Someone then handed her what prosecutors called an “ice ax” to break the window so that people had somewhere to go besides the tunnel.
In her mind, at the time, more people would be killed if they didn’t have a place to go. She looks back now and realizes that much of this probably makes no sense to someone who wasn’t there. But the reality is that Powell genuinely felt and had reason to feel the Capitol Police might kill more people.
After Powell broke the window, Powell told UncoverDC, “The police started throwing out bombs. They weren’t bombs; I don’t know what they were, but it was BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, and then gas. And no one could breathe. I assume everyone dispersed. But I honestly don’t know what happened to everybody because I couldn’t see. It was after that something snapped in my head, and I ran away.”
Looking back, Powell wishes she had just sat down “like Martin Luther King. If they beat us or sprayed us, who cares? We should have sat down, but I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I reacted the way that I did. If they had beat us or sprayed us, who cares? Maybe if I had sacrificed myself in order to get others to sit down, maybe that was what I should have done?”
Powell is Harshly Punished, and Her Family and Friends Harassed
As with many J6rs, Powell was raided by the FBI before being put in jail. Helicopters circled her home, and agents crawled all over her house. Powell had been alerted to an FBI BOLO poster, so she put her kids with others until she could get legal aid. At the time of the raid, she was “at the other end of the state looking for a lawyer with help from patriots who had legally stayed open during COVID. When my lawyer contacted D.C., they then issued a warrant, the FBI raided my home, and told my lawyer to have me turn myself in, which I did immediately.”
Powell shares that the entire process has been cruel to her family since she was arrested. Defending herself has been “unaffordable.” She didn’t get her evidence until less than two weeks before her trial.
Early on, prior to her full confinement, she was able to go to work outside her home. She was allowed to stop after work to pick up food. However, somebody from the community saw her out and about from the community and reported her. Powell explains:
“There was a man whom I do not even know. His name is Tom Thomas. For whatever reason, he wanted me confined to my house for work, so he contacted my prosecutor and complained. Another time, I left for work 15 minutes early. That started a downward spiral for me and my family.
The property I live on is where I work now. I had literally walked through the woods to get to my office. Even though I convinced my pretrial officer on the phone that it was an honest lapse and really didn’t violate my conditions, she called me a few minutes later to grill me again.
After that, they took me in front of Judge Lamberth, who said I was violating pretrial conditions, which I was not, and I could have proved it. But when I asked to make my case, Lamberth said he’d have to call a fact-finding hearing, and the prosecution would ask that I be put back in jail. So I didn’t pursue it and was put in full confinement in my home, where I have been to this day.”
Sadly, Powell and those in her circle have been brutally harassed. Before she got home from jail in February, her children found a sign on her fence that said, “Traitor, Lock Her Up.” They removed it to protect their mom.
She and her children have received countless threats on multiple social media platforms, and so did the bookstore where she worked at the time. Antifa members allegedly posted threats on Twitter saying there were “active ops” against her and Kyle Rittenhouse. Countless people posted terrible, threatening reviews on the Bookstore’s Facebook page, asking the owners to fire her. The bookstore’s business suffered greatly because of the reviews.
People also sent voicemails and emails to her and the owners of the bookstore demanding she “kill herself,” be “fired,” be “arrested,” be “put in jail,” and many other horrible sentiments. They called her all kinds of horrible names, including “domestic terrorist” and “traitor. Others asked her kids to “turn their backs on her.” Powell says it was such a “continual onslaught” that it became untenable for her to keep her job. She now works from home for a man with a composting and slate roofing business. Warning: The video posted here by Powell describes how she was treated and contains foul and threatening language.
Powell believes the consequences for what she did on J6 are harsher than she deserves. She knows she should be responsible for her behavior. Powell acknowledges she broke a window and, to others, appeared to be interfering with police activity in her effort to get people to go into other areas for safety.
“I should be in trouble for breaking a window,” says Powell, “I should have to pay for the window or whatever fines come along with that. But I shouldn’t be sitting here under strict house arrest 2 1/2 years later—not even allowed to walk outside on the grass, not allowed to go to work outside my home, not allowed to take my kids to sports or medical appointments. If Judge Lamberth does what he has done in other J6 cases, he may decide that 2 1/2 years of house arrest will not count towards time served.
Should I go to prison for years over a broken window because of a protest that got out of control? It doesn’t make any sense to me that we would be punished like this, you know? Should I have to go to jail for a broken window? Should my children be motherless while I am in prison?
As a mother, it just breaks my heart to see that one mistake in my life has caused my children the pain that it has. One of my daughters was a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding, a wedding I couldn’t attend. People thought she was weeping for her sister, but she was weeping because I couldn’t be there. Her heart was just so broken. These events in our lives are just supposed to be beautiful and wonderful, the most precious things in life. And our family can’t have them because our government won’t let us.
To the court, I would say, please just let me pay for a window. Let me pay for ten windows, but just let us go because I am not the criminal that they make me out to be. I didn’t abandon my children like the media said. I didn’t smash cell phones to keep them from the government like the media said. All these things that they portray me as what?! I’m just a mom. I just want to garden, have a family, work, and do good things for my community.”