A man in an orange jumpsuit and a red MAGA hat sits inside a cage, his head in his hands, and weeps.
He looks around before standing at a blackboard and writing: ‘Where is everyone?’
He sits down and weeps again.
The prisoner is Brandon Straka, a pro-Trump campaigner. And the one-man show highlighting his experience after being arrested in connection with the January 6 riot is the oddest exhibit at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas.
A crowd watches him as they listen on headsets to the testimony of other people who were also arrested for their part in the attack.
Then, just when it seemed things couldn’t get stranger, rightwing firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene arrived to take things to the next level. She was let into the eight-foot high cage where she kneeled and prayed with the inmate.
A drained Straka, 45, spoke to DailyMail.com at the end of his performance. He explained that he wanted to highlight the stress and suffering of people prosecuted for minor crimes on the day of the riot.
‘I think I have a lot of pent up pain and anxiety and fear, and it actually has been very kind of cathartic and therapeutic in a way as well,’ he said, sitting in the tiny cell.
Brandon Straka caused a stir at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, with a piece of performance art designed to highlight what he says is unfair treatment of people arrested for minor crimes committed during the January 6 attack
The crowd roared when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared, entering the cage to join Straka
He said he was taken by surprise when she knelt and prayed with him on Friday afternoon
Straka, the founder of the conservative ‘#WalkAway’ campaign, pleaded guilty last September to misdemeanour charges of ‘engaging in disorderly and disruptive conduct in the Capitol Building or grounds.
He avoided jail time and was instead sentenced to 90 days of home confinement and three years’ probation.
He did not enter the Capitol itself and maintained that he was there to film what was happening. But he admitted shouting, ‘Go, go, go,’ as the mob tried to storm the building.
During the performance he slumped on the floor. At times he paced the cell.
‘I think everybody is in agreement that anybody who committed violence, vandalism who caused extreme fear on that day needs to pay an appropriate price for what they did,’ he said.
‘But there are a lot of people suffering, I think, unduly. I think it’s very disproportionate to what they actually did.
‘And even more than that, I would like to say at this point that the hatred on both sides has to stop. It’s time to forgive people who made mistakes on both sides.’
The performance was a hit with attendees, who crowded around for a better view of Straka
The testimony of people arrested in connection with the Capitol riot was played through headsets, ‘silent disco’ style. They described being kept in solitary confinement
A soundtrack to the performance is offered through headphones in the style of a ‘silent disco.
Different voices describe what they say was disproportionate treatment by the authorities
‘They put me in a cell by myself,’ said one voice. ‘Total solitary confinement and a cell not much bigger than a walk-in closet.
‘And I spent the following nine days in that cell in total solitary confinement.’
Another said: ‘I didn’t see a clock for four days. I had no concept of what day or time it was or what was happening or not happening.’
The performance on Friday afternoon drew a big crowd.
And it cheered when Greene entered the cage.
‘I think I have a lot of pent up pain and anxiety and fear, and it actually has been very kind of cathartic and therapeutic in a way as well,’ Straka told DailyMail.com
Straka said he was taken by surprise.
‘She prayed with me for our nation,’ he said. ‘Both sides of the aisle for all people and no, I thought it was a really beautiful, special moment.’
Critics will say he is seeking soft treatment for political allies. Punishments are not meant to be easy.
In response, Straka insisted he was not trying to get anyone off the hook for violent crimes committed on January 6 last year.
‘I know people who saw open doors and walk through them and their lives have been destroyed,’ he said.
‘They’ve been turned in by their children. It’s pretty horrific.
Conservatives are holding a four-day conference in Dallas, Texas. Former President Donald Trump is due to deliver the key-note speech on Saturday evening
Trump cutouts are used to sell conservative cellphone plans at CPAC Texas in Dallas
‘So I am not suggesting nobody did anything wrong. And I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t pay a price for what they did.
‘What I’m saying is that this is an enormous amount of despair, and pain, and suffering and division that has been caused.’
Among the observers was Judy Nordean. Her son Ethan is a leader of the Proud Boys, and has been indicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his alleged role on Jan. 6.
She maintains his innocence and said Straka was doing an important job of keeping the issue alive.
‘They are being falsely accused,’ she said. ‘They have no criminal history whatsoever.
‘We are going to fight like hell.’