Virginia’s elected officials describe scene at U.S. Capitol as mob breaches building: ‘I don’t recognize our country today’

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lawmakers are sheltering in place at the U.S. Capitol and the entire D.C. National Guard has been activated after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the building Wednesday as several Republicans in Congress were sharing their objections to the election results.

The mob breached the building as legislators were debating the electoral college results during what is normally a ceremonial proceeding. The debate came to a halt and members of the House were instructed to wear gas masks when tear gas was deployed in the Rotunda.

“We’ve been given gas masks on the House floor. Tear gas has been used in the Rotunda,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said in a tweet.

Elaine Luria, another Virginia Democrat in the House, shared that she was told to leave her office after reports of a pipe bomb, which has yet to be confirmed, and that she believed she heard multiple gunshots. She added that the mob, who she described as domestic terrorists, “will not stop democracy.”

“I just had to evacuate my office because of a pipe bomb reported outside,” Rep. Luria said in a tweet. “Supporters of the President are trying to force their way into the Capitol and I can hear what sounds like multiple gunshots.”

“I don’t recognize our country today and the members of Congress who have supported this anarchy do not deserve to represent their fellow Americans,” she continued.

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, two Democrats, both shared that were safe and sheltering in place. “Please join me in praying for our country, and four our fellow Americans to do the right thing,” Warner tweeted.

“My staff and I are safe right now — following the instructions of Capitol Police and praying for the safety of Capitol workers, members of the press, and all here in Washington today,” Kaine wrote on Twitter at 4:43 p.m. “This violence must end now.”

Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) was at the nation’s capital today ahead of the election certification. She says she was there today to advocate for a free, fair, transparent election and to be the voice for the people back home. Chase and her team happened to leave before everything transpired. 

She tells 8News that it is horrible that a causality was involved. Chase says she understands people’s frustrations and felt safe while at the capital.

“I do believe that our election system has been, the confidence of the people has been violated,” Chase said.

Former Virginia Governor and current Senator, Terry McAuliffe, released as statement saying “Today has been one of the darkest and ugliest days in our nation’s history.” McAuliffe said today’s violence was a direct result of Trump’s calls to invalidate our fair and democratic president election, as well as many Republicans’ continued support of his efforts.

“This isn’t the first time Trump has incited violence in our streets and his statement today of ‘love’ for these violent extremists makes him a continuing threat to our democracy,” the Senator added.

In his statement, McAuliffe also called on Vice President Mike Pence to “invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Donald Trump from office before more Americans are harmed.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m. curfew in the nation’s capital and activated the entire D.C. National Guard. Bowser also urged Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to send members of the Virginia National Guard and 200 state troopers, a request that Northam granted.

Northam later issued a state of emergency in Virginia and declared a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew — with limited exceptions — in Alexandria and Arlington at the request of the localities.

8News’s Alex Thorson briefly spoke with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) but her first sentence was cut short. “Hold on, they’re making an announcement. I have to get off. I’ll be back,” she said before hanging up.

In a tweet, Spanberger thanked the Capitol Police for keeping people safe while the mob “tried to break down the doors.”

“We can’t normalize this,” she told Thorson in a second call. “This is not something that is not supposed to happen in this country. This is not something that has happened in this country. THe united states capitol getting swarmed by people who don’t want us to count electoral votes after 50 states certified the election. It’s just outrageous.”

“The president and the other seditious members of Congress have started this mess in order to slow down the count for Joe Biden,” Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) told Thorson. McEachin shared that he was safely sheltering in place.

Spanberger told 8News that she was in the House chamber when the rioters began trying to break in, explaining that they were banging on the doors and breaking glass. “People were trying to break into the House chamber. Banging on doors, breaking glass, Capitol Police barricaded the House chamber with I guess tables. It was chaotic.”

Both told Thorson that they were rushed to safety.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), called on the president to urge his supporters to leave the grounds immediately.

“I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the violent rioting and destruction happening in Washington D.C.,” Cox said in a statement. “These events are in no way justified or excusable.”

“The President needs to call on his supporters to leave the Capitol immediately. We are a nation of laws and those who have sworn to uphold the Constitution need to do so. Anyone who rightly spoke out against lawlessness and violence last summer cannot with integrity be silent now. We all have a duty to speak up.”

The president spoke after Cox’s statement was released, telling supporters to leave the area while reiterating false claims about a “stolen” election. Todd Gilbert, the Republican Minority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, called the situation “a riot masquerading as a protest” in a statement.

“Those in the Capitol building should leave immediately. Those who refuse should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, just as we insisted for rioters who looted and burned our cities over the summer,” Gilbert said. “The time for an end to this madness has long since passed.”

8News reporter Olivia Jaquith spoke with Virginia Del. Delores McQuinn, who was out for a walk, trying to unplug, when she heard the news from Washington, D.C.

“What an attack against democracy and our Constitution, a sacred place, a sacred way for our nation, being directed and empowered, and those things that help us to live in a nation that is free of some of the things that we have seen across this world; those things that have protected me, as an African American and as a woman. Those, to me, were under attack,” McQuinn said. “I guess I have to be confident that, even with our Constitution and democracy being attacked, that it still works and it will continue to work and it will continue to live on for generation after generation.”

McQuinn says she reached out to her constituents on Capitol Hill once she realized what had happened, praying for their safety.

“Where were those individuals that we expect to protect the U.S. Capitol, to protect those who are lawmakers and their families and their staff?” she said. “I’ve also lived through Black Lives Matter protests, and when individuals who were protesting […] I had to ask myself — they were considered thugs and they were considered a mob, and yet the individuals who’s supposed to have represented democracy had to literally be begged to come out and make a statement about what was going on.”

McQuinn tells 8News that the only way for the nation to move forward is through assessment and discussion of how events have been able to transpire.

“Silence is not golden, particularly in this situation,” she said. “When you see injustice, when you seen inequality, when you see inequities, it is a must that you stand up and speak up for the protection of all of us.”

Just before 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam released a statement on the chaos that ensued in the nation’s capital.

“The violence we saw at the U.S. Capitol today was nothing short of an armed insurrection and a humiliating assault on American democracy. The President incited this mob with his refusal to accept the lawful results of a fair and secure election. And the members of Congress who have enabled him—and continue to encourage and praise his efforts—bear just as much responsibility,” Northam said.

Northam goes on to say elected leaders took dangerous steps by rejecting facts and promoting conspiracy theories, “all in pursuit of power.”

“I continue to pray for the safety of every member of the House and Senate, all the staff, the journalists, everyone who works in the Capitol,” Northam said. “And I commend the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police for quickly stepping up in this time of great need.”

The governor says he has been coordinating Virginia’s response throughout the day with law enforcement agencies and leaders in Washington, D.C. “Let me be clear: Virginia will be there for as long as it takes to protect our nation’s capital and ensure the peaceful transition of power,” Northam said.

Rep. Donald McEachin took to Twitter on Wednesday night to call for Trump’s impeachment. “Either President Trump needs to be immediately impeached & convicted or the Vice President & the Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment, remove President Trump from office & allow the Vice President to serve the remaining two weeks until Inauguration Day,” McEachin said.

Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.

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