As Congress met to certify the 2020 presidential electoral votes on Jan. 6, pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol building, forcing legislators into lockdown at an undisclosed location. At the same time as the U.S. Capitol insurrection, right-wing protesters in Salem clashed with counter-protesters, leading to the declaration of an unlawful assembly.
The mob at the U.S. Capitol came from a Save America March, where President Donald Trump, two of his sons and Rudy Giuliani among others spoke. At the rally, Giuliani called for a “trial by combat” and Trump told protesters, “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
“We heard noises in the hallway. Then someone ran in and called for the senate to be closed,” Senator Jeff Merkley said during a press conference about the insurrection. Then the Capitol went into lockdown. He adds that the senators remained in the Senate chamber until they were escorted into an undisclosed secure location. “Many of us were aware that the protesters could be carrying arms. So there was concern that there could be shooting, and there could be a breach in the chamber,” Merkley said.
According to media reports, one woman was shot and killed. The New York Times reported she was a “civilian” but no other information has been released.
After the chambers were evacuated, the rioters flooded the Capitol attempting to enter both the House and Senate Chambers where photos show Capitol police pointing guns at the door. The insurrection eventually moved into the chambers.
Live stream footage showed protesters outside the Capitol and on its steps rallying for hours, generally maskless despite COVID-19, with no interference from law enforcement until they were dispersed for a 6 pm curfew. This is in stark contrast to Black Lives Matter and other protests.
Meanwhile, in Salem, Trump supporters gathered out front of the Oregon State Capitol building in protest of the presidential election results. During this rally, video footage shows protesters “tarring and feathering” an effigy of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Reports from OPB journalist Sergio Olmos showed right-wing protesters outside of the Oregon Capitol watching a live feed of the U.S. Capitol insurrection. According to a video on Olmos’s Twitter account, Oregon Sen. Dallas Heard of Roseburg told Oregon protesters that no one in the Legislature is better than them — and he knows because he works with “those tools.” The right-wing rally led to a clash between Proud Boys and counter-protesters. A Proud Boy was caught on Olmos’s video shooting a paintball gun at the counter-protesters.
As the rioters converged outside of the Capitol in Washington D.C., Merkley said an attempted coup was taking place as Congress counted votes. He says the strategy was to remove enough votes so that Biden would not have a majority. This would shift the vote to the House of Representatives where each state would have one vote, giving the advantage to Republicans.
“That is a coup,” Merkley said. “That is not the vision of the Constitution.” He said later that the Senate was debating the count of Arizona’s votes when the session was halted.
Rep. Peter DeFazio said on Facebook and Twitter that he was safe and that protesters storming the Capitol was an “effort to overturn the will of the people.” He added, “This is nothing short of an assault on our democracy.”
Trump’s Twitter account was locked, according to Twitter Safety, “due to repeated and severe violations of Twitter’s Civic Integrity policy.”
In an email statement, Sen. Ron Wyden also called the riot at the Capitol an assault on democracy, and called rioters “insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism.”
He added that every Republican lawmaker who supported Trump’s ongoing efforts to overturn a legitimate election is partially responsible for the “violence at the heart of our democracy.”
Wyden said that as a defender of the First Amendment he will always support peaceful protesting but this event was far from peaceful.
Merkley says the situation today is a result of the failure to have bipartisan pushback again Trump’s lies surrounding the Nov. 3 election.
He later tweeted a photo, writing that the electoral ballots were rescued from the Senate floor before the mob had reached them.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress will return to the Capitol tonight to resume counting electoral votes.