United States Capitol. File photo: Chas Hundley
Violence erupted in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed into the U.S. Capitol, which just moments before had seen members of the U.S. Senate debating a challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes cast for President-Elect Joe Biden.
Videos taken on the scene showed supporters fighting past police, shattering windows, entering the building, and occupying the Senate floor, congressional offices, and other areas.
According to several national media outlets, shots were fired, with one person who appeared to be with protesters seen shot in a video posted on social media. She was listed in critical condition with a wound to the neck, The Associated Press reported.
Minutes before, members of Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence had been evacuated.
The Pentagon said that the D.C. National Guard was being mobilized to aid law enforcement at the Capitol.
In a call with Oregon media from an undisclosed location, Oregon’s junior senator Jeff Merkley said that he and his staff were safe.
“We are safe, Senators were ushered to an undisclosed secure location,” Merkley said.
“The way I'm thinking about where we are right now is, I envision a mob gathering that is being fed bad information and local leaders know that mob’s getting bad information, but it's kind of popular information,” said Merkley. “And so they decide not to speak up. And because they don't speak up and bring the right facts, the mob grows stronger and more powerful and then the local leaders see how strong the mob is and they're afraid of it,” Merkley said.
Merkley described a chaotic scene as protesters began to breach the Capitol building.
“During about the sixth speech during the debate on the floor of the Senate chamber on the question of whether the votes from Arizona should be accepted or rejected,” Merkley said, is when the senator first began to hear noises in the hallway. Someone ran into the Senate chambers — something Merkley described as out of character for the Senate — and called for the Senate to be closed and for Senators to leave. The person was immediately corrected and instead directed to lawmakers to remain there, which they did until they were escorted to what Merkley described as a secure location.
During the call, Merkley praised a speech given by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who blasted Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.
“The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role,” McConnell said. “We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids. The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. They've all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever. This election actually was not unusually close,” he said.
Merkley said that he was eager to get back to the certification process when it is safe to do so, but doubted it would be today when that occurred.
The rest of Oregon’s Congressional delegation weighed in to inform their constituents of their safety, and in some cases, to condemn those who had stormed the building.
“What's happening today in our nation’s Capitol is a direct assault on democracy, a riot by insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “Every Republican lawmaker who supported his efforts to overturn a legitimate election shares responsibility for the violence at the heart of our democracy.”
“All Americans must be able to elect House and Senate members safe in the knowledge that their views will be represented in civil debate here in Congress without mob rule ever squelching that discussion.
As a steadfast defender of the First Amendment, I will always support peaceful protest even if I disagree with the views that are expressed. This is far from peaceful protest. But I thank the Capitol Police for their courage protecting all elected officials from criminals bent on destroying democracy. And I very much look forward to resuming the urgent work for our country, as soon as possible.”
Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton), Oregon’s 1st Congressional District congresswoman, said that she was safe in a statement on Twitter.
“I am continuing to shelter in place. Trump repeatedly incited this act of domestic terrorism, including encouraging armed protestors this very morning, steps from the Capitol. He must tell his supporters to leave the Capitol immediately before more people are hurt. This is a sad and dangerous day for our country and democracy,” the congresswoman said. Three days ago, Bonamici was sworn in for a fifth term.
Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), Oregon’s sole Republican in Congress, was sworn in just three days ago to serve Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District.
“Peaceful protest is essential to our society - violent protest is not. I urge all those gathered in Washington DC today to respect United States Capitol Police and allow Congress to resume deliberation in the electoral certification process,” the freshman representative said.
Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), representing Oregon’s 3rd, said he and his staff were safe.
“The people storming the U.S. Capitol building right now are domestic terrorists emboldened by Trump and every Republican who has spread lies about the results of the presidential election. This has to stop. Now is another test of our democracy: Standing up to those who would violate the rule of law both inside and outside the U.S. Capitol building,” he said.
Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield), representing Oregon’s 4th, had this to say.
“I am safe, but I am horrified at the dangerous actions of those now storming the Capitol in an effort to overturn the will of the people. This is nothing short of a direct assault on our democracy.”
And in Oregon’s 5th, Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) gave a hint to his location.
“I am witnessing something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Looking out the window, I see Americans destroying their own Capitol. These are not “protestors” they are a violent mob of terrorists hellbent on destroying our Republic. Let me be very clear, Trump must shoulder the blame of this tragic day. His lack of respect and dangerous rhetoric have caused this. The National Guard and law enforcement must disperse them as soon as possible and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”