Chaos Reigns on Capitol Hill

Law enforcement barricade the door to the Senate floor to keep Pro-Trump protesters out. (Contributed photo)

The nation’s house was broken into this afternoon. 

A mob of pro-Trump protesters stormed Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon smashing windows to access the building and interrupting the certification of the nation’s next president, causing ongoing chaos that resulted in a woman being shot, a lockdown in the capitol building, and a 6 p.m. citywide curfew.

The politically charged chaos and raiding of the offices of the nation’s representatives sent New York City federal lawmakers scattering, caught up in a chaos that held people around the country glued to their TV screens and Twitter feeds. They huddled in the secret bunker, and their offices while various police agencies tried to restore order to what was supposed to be a peaceful transition of power.

The last time the Capitol had been breached the United States was at war with the British Empire. 

“I never thought I would see what I am seeing now,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) in a video message posted to Twitter and filmed in her D.C. office where she was locked down. “This is something I read about and watch in foreign countries, but not in the great democratic election-respecting United States of America…I am proud of America, but I am not proud of this.”

The rally in Washington against President-elect Joe Biden’s certification was a last-stand-protest turned violent. Around 1 p.m. hundreds of rioters pushed past barriers around the perimeter of the Capitol, breached security, and entered the building as the lawmakers were certifying the electoral votes inside. Protesters and law enforcement officers faced off inside while the protesters took over the building and posted photos from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee and Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference hours after the initial breach. Contee said “chemical irritants” were poured on officers trying to contain the mob. One person was confirmed shot inside the capitol building. She would later die from her gunshot wounds.  

A couple of hours into the melee a spokesperson from U.S. Rep. Gregory Meek’s (D-Queens) office, who was not at Capitol Hill, said that it was chaos and they were being told to get ready to duck under chairs. He said that he didn’t know the congressman’s status for communicating at the moment but that he was with staff and was safe. 

Just under two hours later Meeks tweeted: “Update: I am safe and sheltered, but utterly devastated by today’s events.”

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island), who was at the Capitol for the certification, tweeted that she was safe and that Capitol Police had taken her to a secure location.  

Notedly, Malliotakis was one of a minority of GOP Congressmembers who backed Trump’s efforts to review election results for fraud and overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race. 

“Everyone who is responsible for this violence and lawlessness must stop. This is absolutely unnacceptable (sic) and un-American,” she tweeted. 

Many lawmakers echoed President-elect Joe Biden, who, in a press conference mid-afternoon, said that the protesters actions “borders on sedition” and urged President Trump to call off the mob. 

“This is domestic terrorism. Period, full stop. We are in throngs of a coup because @realDonaldTrump refuses to respect the will of the American people. The eyes of the world are on us right now. Democracy will prevail,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clark (D-Central Brooklyn).  

Some elected officials, like U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), tweeted sporadically throughout the unprecedented ordeal. Her updates capture in real time what started as uncertainty and led to terror as the pro-Trump mob did what many thought was impossible. 

“Oh…I’m a little nervous now. They’re trying to get into the building here,” she tweeted. 

As reality dawned, her concern grew.

“Pray for our country. This is terrifying and not ok,” she wrote.

As developments changed, she offered another, this one increasingly anxious. 

“We are on lockdown now. Everyone be safe. Stay away from windows and doors,“ she tweeted. 

Finally, as the threat grew more dire: “Omg the senate just gaveled out.”

One voice missing was that of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, the Bronx). 

After issuing a statement, a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez retracted it saying that out of an abundance of caution, they’d rather not comment at this time –– even about her safety. 

Trump released a video on his Twitter feed after 4 p.m. telling his supporters to go home.

“We had an election that was stolen from us,” he said. “But go home, and go home in peace.” 

They didn’t listen. As the sun set, it seemed as though the lawmakers intended to finish what they began — a peaceful transfer of power. Although this time it was going to be with a mob outside being held back by a mix of law enforcement from different states and agencies in riot gear. To the West, a noose hung from a wooden scaffold, framing the Capitol Building in the distance. 

One common refrain from lawmakers across the country was “this isn’t the United States of America.” But, actually, it is; it’s the Capital.

Reporting contributed by Ariama C. Long, Chaya Gurkov, and Michael Rock.