A large mob of extremists who support President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today in protest of the ratification of Electoral College votes in favor of President-Elect Joe Biden. Emboldened by Trump’s apparent desire to overturn the election, the crowd turned violent, breaking the Capitol barricades, shattering windows, and taking over offices like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s. One woman, allegedly a Trump supporter, was shot and killed, allegedly by security forces, while several others have been taken to the hospital.
The insurrection occurred as Congress was holding a joint session to count the Electoral Votes for the 2020 presidential election, but the House and Senate had to suspend the session and go on lockdown. Currently, officials say the U.S. Capitol Building is secure and the vote count is resuming. The Electoral College ballots, which the mob apparently tried to set on fire, have been rescued.
Members of Congress such as Missouri’s Rep. Cori Bush are calling this a domestic terror attack and calling for the expulsion of Republicans who incited it through their efforts to overturn the election.
Many members of Congress had to flee the floor, while others sheltered in place in their offices. We spoke with Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan about her experiences during today’s events, ahead.
How are you doing? Are you and your staff safe?
“Everyone is safe. We’ve been in the same location, which is in my office, all day, and we’re prepared to get back to work. I’ve been sheltering in place here.”
That is good to hear. I’m wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what your day has been like.
“I was seeing activity outside my window at New Jersey and Independence avenues, and so I can see a little bit of what is going on. I heard that one of the office buildings was being evacuated, that had nothing to do with the storming, it had to do with an unidentified package. Then, I heard through the news, I was watching CSPAN, what’s happening outside my office. It’s just something else.”
How did you feel when you saw what was happening?
“I felt calm and focused on staying calm and understanding that we’ve seen this in Michigan with protestors in our State Capitol, protestors at town halls. So, even though there were some isolated incidents of violence, and certainly unprecedented actions of people storming the Capitol, reaching the barricades of the Capitol put up by police, I focused on listening to the directions and staying where I was. I can’t speak for the people who were on the floor of the House because that was a slightly more dangerous situation.”
What did you see and hear when it comes to the protestors? Did you witness any of the violence?
“I heard lots. I heard lots of chanting. I heard one person saying ‘open up,’ just outside the building on the sidewalk. Some of this is compounded by the pandemic, since normally people are allowed in the Capitol. Today, no one was allowed except staff and members of Congress. I heard them detonating the unidentified package — which I don’t have any more information on, unfortunately. It was certainly surreal watching on the TV what was happening outside of the floor of the House, which is that the mob stormed the Capitol and got into Statuary Hall.”
Have you talked to any of your colleagues? How are they doing?
“All colleagues who I’ve spoken to have reported and checked in as safe.”
How would you describe what happened today?
“It is absolutely one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history. It was a violent mob of thugs who were emboldened by an outgoing president, and they stormed the Capitol. It was nothing short of an attack on our democracy and our government and all people who serve in this building and in this chamber. Frankly, I believe that this was a result of failed leadership. Lives were absolutely put in danger because of the president’s words of stoking hatred and violence. This is a wakeup call. We’ll find a way to overcome this. It’s going to be a process. People need to be brought to justice. We know that we are better than this as a nation, and I believe that we will keep moving forward.”
What do you believe should happen now, as far as charging the protestors?
“I’m not going to speculate on that now, until I hear more from Capitol Police.”
It’s about 5 p.m., one hour before the D.C. curfew goes into effect. Are you seeing people disperse now?
“I’m seeing people disperse, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to resume floor activity soon. I do believe that we need to work toward safety and see that this curfew that the Mayor of the District of Columbia put into place is implemented very strictly.”
Since you’ve seen this quite a lot in Michigan, what do you believe we as a country need to do to deal with the rise in domestic terrorism?
“I don’t believe that this is something to take lightly and I think everyone needs to join together in disavowing the people and the events that took place today. This is so wholly unacceptable and troubling, and concerning and threatening to our government, to law and order. We need a functional government, and this should be taken seriously, this should not be the status quo. And frankly, I believe that we need to reclaim the humanity and our country and our systems of government, and work to make things better for people. Yesterday was again the largest number of deaths from COVID-19, we are in the middle of a pandemic that is ravaging our society and our social functions, and I think that’s contributing to the lack of stability right now.”
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