Kelley participated in a debate with three other GOP candidates Wednesday evening and argued that his actions during the events at the Capitol were protected by the First Amendment, the Associated Press reported.
“That was a First Amendment activity by a majority of those people, myself included,” Kelley said during the debate. “We were there protesting the government because we don’t like the results of the 2020 election, the process of how it happened. And we have a First Amendment right. And that’s what 99% of the people were there for that day.”
During the events of January 6, 2021, video footage allegedly showed Kelley encouraging protesters as they entered the Capitol building, according to Bridge Michigan. The video footage also reportedly appeared to show the Republican candidate climbing on scaffolding outside the building as groups of rioters breached the Capitol. Kelley has denied ever entering the building.
The Michigan Republican candidate was charged with disorderly and disruptive conduct, damaging U.S. property, knowingly engaging in physical violence against person or property in a restricted building or grounds, and entering a restricted area.
Kelley’s trial comes nearly a month after his home was raided by the FBI and he was taken into federal custody on the same day the Democrat-led January 6 committee began its hearings. A week after his arrest, a federal judge ordered Kelley to surrender his guns as he awaited trial.
Kelley, a real estate broker from west Michigan, is one of the five GOP gubernatorial candidates who qualified for the August 2 primary ballot in a chaotic Michigan primary, as Republicans in the state seek to unseat Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) in November.
In a June interview with The Daily Wire, Kelley admitted that the path to defeating an incumbent governor is not easy. It’s been nearly 60 years since a Michigan governor lost a reelection bid after one term — but he remained hopeful that voters will look poorly on Whitmer’s actions over her first term.
“If there’s any time in our history as a state that an incumbent governor could be unseated, now is that time because of the events that have unfolded over the past few years,” Kelley said.