STEVE LEBLANC and BEN FOX
BOSTON (AP) — For years, Vincent Gillespie fought a legal battle trying to gain control of hundreds of paintings by his father, renowned post-war American artist Gregory Gillespie.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Gillespie engaged in a very different kind of battle, joining rioters as they tried to wrest control of the US Capitol from the federal government in one of the most violent clashes of the riots, prosecutors said.
Gillespie, who investigators say was identified by half a dozen sources in photographs taken that day, was among the mob that tried to break through the tunnel on the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol, an attack that, by his own description, was almost a success.
“We almost got them,” Gillespie, who had blood visible on his head as a result of the collision, told the Associated Press journalist who was present at the scene that day. “If we had 15-20 more guys pushing us, I think we could win.”
The AP video of a flushed Gillespie loitering outside the Capitol that day defiantly recounting his role in the attack – and his lamenting that no more like-minded people joined the fight – shows the depth of determination of many rioters and the uncertainty of others that they will do once inside the building.
What is clear, federal investigators said, is that Gillespie was involved in a bitter fight against law enforcement officials trying to keep rioters out of the building as a joint session of Congress was busy certifying Electoral College votes.
An Athol, Massachusetts resident was seen outside the Capitol pouring water into his eyes, apparently to combat the effects of a chemical spray used to control crowds.
Gillespie told AP at the scene that day that he was among those who tried to storm the building. Gillespie said that he and others tried to break through the hole.
“I was with other guys. And then we started to put pressure on them, and they beat us and sprayed pepper spray in our eyes. But we had a bunch of people crowding behind us,” Gillespie told AP.
“What you guys need to know and no one is going to listen to this, we were very (expletively) close.” If there were more people behind it, he said, “that is, the second set of doors, we would just break into it.”
What was apparently less clear to Gillespie that day was what he and the others would do to him if they managed to take control of the Capitol.
“I would hope they would rush in and be unable to do anything. This is what I hope they will do. Take it. Take it. Own it for a few days. I’m not an anarchist, but you can’t leave out what happened in this election,” he said, clearly alluding to former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
Although he was quick to give his name when asked by an AP reporter, Gillespie hesitated before saying where he was from.
“They’re coming for me, man,” he said after a moment’s hesitation before adding, “I’m in Massachusetts.”
Ultimately, Gillespie faced seven criminal charges, including civil disorder, assault on officers, and disorderly conduct at the Capitol. He pleaded not guilty.
He is one of more than 775 people arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, in which Trump supporters tried to stop Joe Biden’s 2020 victory from being confirmed. The rioters smashed windows, broke down doors, beat and bloodied law enforcement officers who were completely unprepared for the crowd.
Vincent Gillespie is the son of Gregory Gillespie, an artist whose self-portraits, fantasy landscapes, and geometric abstractions are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and other museums. .
His paintings are also at the center of a protracted and so far unsuccessful legal battle that Gillespie is waging against his stepmother and her lawyers in an attempt to contest control of the paintings. In a 2020 lawsuit, Vincent Gillespie described his father as a well-known artist who left behind over 400 valuable paintings after his death.
Gillespie’s involvement in the January 6, 2021 events is well-documented, including photos and videos that helped whistleblowers identify him, investigators say.
According to the Justice Department, open-source video and security cameras captured several images of Gillespie as he participated in the riots.
Investigators were briefed by a former neighbor, the manager of a local hardware store, and employees of the city of Athol, where Gillespie attends meetings and pays his tax bills at the town hall. Only six witnesses independently identified him from footage taken during the riots.
In the chaos of the uprising, Gillespie pushed, shouted, jostled and fought with police, according to the FBI. Images included in his court papers show him making his way through the crowd, eventually maneuvering through the rioters to a line of cops and gaining control of a police shield.
Officials said he saw and heard on a body camera a Metropolitan Police Department officer pushing his way through the crowd, using a police shield to ram officers and yelling “traitor” and “treason” while pointing at a law enforcement officer.
After his arrest, the judge ordered the 60-year-old Gillespie to stay away from Washington, except in matters related to the court. He was ordered not to carry firearms or other weapons.
Gillespie’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 29 before Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia.
Contacted by the AP after his arrest, Gillespie declined to comment.
“My lawyer talked me out of it. He said there are only downsides to it,” he told AP. “I would like to talk. There are a lot of things that are wrong.”
This isn’t the first time Gillespie has been put on trial.
A few years earlier, Gillespie made local headlines by challenging a $15 parking ticket despite having to pay $250 to register. He eventually challenged the non-refundable filing fee in 2011 all the way to the state’s highest court.
He received no refund.