Sugar Shack Owner’s Participation in Capitol Protest is Unjustifiable

Tinsley+poses+for+a+photo+in+front+of+the+Capitol+wearing+a+flag%2C+hat+and+shirt+that+read%2C+%22Make+America+Great+Again%22+and+%E2%80%9CKeep+America+Great.%E2%80%9D+The+photo+circulated+on+social+media+after+it+was+leaked+from+a+group+chat+that+Tinsley+sent+it+to.

Tinsley poses for a photo in front of the Capitol wearing a flag, hat and shirt that read, “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.” The photo circulated on social media after it was leaked from a group chat that Tinsley sent it to.

Alea Marks, Staff Writer

On Jan. 6, Americans nationwide watched as chaos unfolded at the Capitol; I watched in astonishment as thousands of people stormed the Capitol building. A few days later, I learned someone within the local community attended this event. Suzi Tinsley, who owns a small candy store in Menlo Park called The Sugar Shack, attended the rally at the Capitol. A photo of Tinsley was leaked and circulated on social media after she shared it on a group chat with some of her friends. In the photo, she is draped in a MAGA flag, shirt and hat as she poses in front of the Capitol. 

The first glaring issue I see in this picture is that Tinsley is not wearing a mask. During a global pandemic, she chose to fly across the United States to attend a rally with around 30,000 people, some of whom were not wearing masks. She then returned to return to the Bay Area and potentially put our community at risk of COVID-19. Effective on Dec. 17, San Mateo County went into a regional stay-at-home order because of the rise in COVID-19 cases and the drop in intensive care unit capacity. The California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory last updated on Jan. 6, saying that Californians should avoid all non-essential travel to any destination more than 120 miles from one’s residence. Tinsley blatantly disregarded this statewide advisory by flying to Washington, D.C. to attend the rally. The picture clearly shows Tinsley standing in a crowd while not wearing a mask. According to a study conducted at the University of California, Davis, wearing a mask decreases your chances of infection by 65%, and social distancing decreases your chances of infection by 90%. Tinsley did not abide with either, from what we can see in the picture.

According to statements she issued to ABC 7 News, Tinsley attended the rally because it was Trump’s last public appearance as president and she expected a “peaceful march.” But the violence that took place at this rally was anticipated by his followers on Twitter long before stepped foot onto the plane to D.C. In weeks prior to the Capitol attack, Trump had circled Jan. 6 as a day of reckoning. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!” According to The New York Times, dozens of Trump supporters responded to this tweet by posting images of weapons and commenting about an intent to overturn Biden’s confirmation. Anyone paying enough attention could clearly see that these reactions to this tweet were alarming and directly foreshadowed the events that ensued on Jan. 6. If Tinsley was following this series of tweets closely enough to learn about the rally and decide to attend, she might have seen the potentially dangerous situation and risk involved with attending.

Tinsley did not respond to requests for an interview, so I cannot speak to her morals as a person. Her political beliefs are obvious from the photo and the fact that she attended a Trump rally. There is a critical distinction between policy and values, and she might not support Trump as a person but solely as a politician. Although I vehemently believe that supporting Trump speaks volumes about a person’s character, I will not draw that conclusion without having a conversation with her. If I criticized Tinsley’s character on the basis of her support for Trump, I would be completely writing off the 46% of Americans that support him. My argument is not political. Instead, it is an ethical debate about her actions, which I feel are selfish and unjustifiable because she acted irresponsibly and put others’ health and safety at risk.