Natick resident arrested by FBI for involvement in Capitol riots

Natick+resident+Suzanne+Ianni+holds+her+hand+up+as+she+is+inside+the+Capitol+Building.+On+Jan.+6%2C+2021+Ianni+participated+in+the+mob+alongside+Trump+supporters+that+rioted+inside+the+Capitol+Building.+%22Her+actions+are+in+keeping+with+her+personal+political+characteristics%2C+which+are+destructive+and+counter-effective%2C+in+my+opinion%2C%22+Natick+resident+and+town+moderator+Frank+Foss+said.

Credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Natick resident Suzanne Ianni holds her hand up as she is inside the Capitol Building. On Jan. 6, 2021 Ianni participated in the mob alongside Trump supporters that rioted inside the Capitol Building. “Her actions are in keeping with her personal political characteristics, which are destructive and counter-effective, in my opinion,” Natick resident and town moderator Frank Foss said.

In Wayland’s neighboring town of Natick, FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Suzanne Ianni on Jan. 19, 2021. She was taken into custody for protesting at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. Ianni is facing two charges—knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Ianni is a voting town meeting representative for the town of Natick along with WHS history teacher Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer. Ianni lives in precinct three, and Cheeseman-Meyer in precinct six. Each representative serves a three-year term and because the town elected Ianni in 2019, her term will be over by 2022.

“I do not recall ever having met Ms. Ianni in person or ever having heard her speak during Town Meeting,” Cheeseman-Meyer said. “I should point out that, with 180 voting members on the Town Meeting, there are many members who rarely or never speak, so it’s not surprising that Ianni has not made any notable public statements as a town meeting member.”

Natick resident and town meeting moderator Frank Foss knew Ianni before her arrest. Foss is also a member of the Natick Town Republican Committee (NRTC) with Ianni. There have been calls for Ianni to be removed from her position, but Foss says that a Massachusetts law states that anyone convicted of a felony is automatically removed from office does not apply to Ianni because she is being charged with two misdemeanors.

“She can only be removed from office by resignation or losing a re-election attempt,” Foss said. “Or [she can] be besmirched in the court of public opinion.”

In interviews with the press, Ianni has stated that she organized 11 buses to be sent to the Capitol through Super Happy Fun America, a conservative organization that is best known for organizing the “Straight Pride Parades” in Boston. The founder and vice president of the group Mark Sahady was also arrested and charged for participating in the riot at the Capitol.

“I wholeheartedly condemn Ms. Ianni’s actions at the Capitol, and I think the claim she made in the Milford Daily News on Jan. 8, that the police just waved people through and that the intention was to protest non-violently, is implausible in the extreme, given Super Happy Fun America’s past track record of inciting violence,” Cheeseman-Meyer said. “I am shocked that she, along with so many other people who invaded the Capitol and engaged in actions that killed five people including a Capitol police officer, injured 140 Capitol police officers, threatened members of Congress and attacked the roots of constitutional democracy, have been so open about their actions in public fora. That said, it does make them easy to identify and arrest.”

Foss says he “makes no judgment of” Ianni and that she will be judged by “lawful authority”. But he also expressed that he believes Ianni’s actions were unlawful and have made her a difficult person to trust.

“I have two strong points to make about her actions,” Foss said. “I believe she broke the law and should be tried for such. I also believe she violated the trust, privileges and rights given to her under the Constitution. Such will be a mark—such as a scarlet letter—on her character and trustworthiness in her communities forever. She will never lose that brand.”

I believe she broke the law and should be tried for such. I also believe she violated the trust, privileges and rights given to her under the Constitution. Such will be a mark—such as a scarlet letter—on her character and trustworthiness in her communities forever. She will never lose that brand.”

— Frank Foss

Foss has worked with Ianni on matters before the Town Meeting during his time serving as the moderator. Based on her actions as an NRTC Member, Foss was not surprised by her participation at the Capitol.

“I also know [Ianni] as a Natick Republican Town Committee Member, finding her communicative skills most challenging and abrasive at times and that I tend to not agree with Ms. Ianni’s extreme positions,” Foss said. “As a fellow NRTC Member, no [I’m not surprised by her actions], her actions are in keeping with her personal political characteristics, which are destructive and counter-effective, in my opinion.”

WHS senior Lizzie Strehle was not surprised by the riots although Ianni’s involvement in organizing buses to the Capitol caught her attention.

“I think this information is very important to know and discuss, especially because the arrest occurred so close to Wayland,” Strehle said. “I can’t say that I didn’t see the Capitol riots coming months before Jan. 6. Given Trump’s inflammatory lies surrounding the legitimacy of the election, I think many of us were suspicious of some sort of coup occurring.”

Strehle believes this is a very important topic to speak about. Since Massachusetts has been a democratic voting state for more than 20 years, Strehle believes this creates an unrealistic reality for citizens.

“In liberal-leaning places like Wayland and its surrounding towns, it’s easier to believe that conspiracies like Q’Anon or Trump’s outlandish language don’t have a place here,” Strehle said. “Perhaps we find this way of thinking to be comforting since it allows many of us to separate ourselves from ‘those guys.’ However, I think Ianni’s arrest goes to show that Trump’s rhetoric can get folks’ attention anywhere, regardless of whether it falls in line with the political views of their surroundings. Trump’s rhetoric definitely played a role in allowing this riot to happen, but other factors such as white supremacy contributed to its occurrence as well.”

Ianni’s case was initially being prosecuted by the Massachusetts federal court. However, on Jan. 28, Massachusetts transferred the case to a federal court in Washington D.C.

“Inflammatory political language and structural white supremacy have been recurring themes in our nation’s history, and it’s time that we examine and confront them instead of saying ‘this isn’t who we are’,” Strehle said.