Members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation were among those evacuated from the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building during Congress’ certification of the presidential election.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Portland Democrat, said he and his colleagues were evacuated to an undisclosed location for their safety as a mob took over the Capitol, including the Senate floor.
Merkley said people who came to the Capitol on Wednesday were “infuriated” after believing the false stories and conspiracies repeated by President Trump, including at a Wednesday morning rally. Despite repeated claims of voter fraud, elections officials have certified all results nationally as fair and accurate.
“I think this situation is the result of really what has been the failure to have a strong bipartisan pushback to the lies and conspiracy theories promoted by the President of the United States since the Nov. 3 election,” Merkley said.
In a call with reporters from an undisclosed location, Merkley recalled a confusing scene that erupted as the Senate was debating the presidential election in Arizona. Suddenly, he said, a staff member rushed into the chamber.
“Nobody runs on the floor of the chamber,” Merkley said. “Certainly, nobody runs up to the dais. Certainly, nobody interrupts a speech. All of that was very sudden.”
Senators were first told to leave the chamber, then immediately instructed to stay in place as staff attempted to figure out how to lock the doors.
“I think many of us are aware that protesters could be carrying arms, so there was certainly concern that there could be shooting, that there could be a breach of the chamber,” he said.
Questions have arisen among senators about how the mob was so easily able to force entry to the Capitol, on a day that authorities had known for weeks would produce tensions.
“That type of fervor and that type of belief that people were coming to interrupt a process,” he said. “We should have been very, very prepared for in ways that we weren’t.”
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer was sheltering in place in his office.
“I can’t help thinking about how Trump deployed troops in the summer (to Portland) when they weren’t needed, and now it looks like we are having trouble getting them,” he said. “This is clearly an act of domestic terrorism. When armed people break into a Capitol building … It’s an attempt to shut down the government and stop the orderly peaceful transfer of power. This is banana republic, and it’s sadly something Donald Trump has been calling for months.”
“I think people were not prepared for the President of the United States to egg these people on,” he said. “He hasn’t necessarily hidden his intent. At some point, you think there are limits.”
Blumenauer later tweeted, “Besides impeachment, I also support invoking the 25th Amendment. This madman must be removed as soon as possible and we can’t allow him to burn the house down as he goes out the door.”
In a statement from U.S. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, he described Wednesday’s events as a direct assault on democracy, “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.”
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.— Rep. Kurt Schrader (@RepSchrader) January 6, 2021
Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici said she felt like she was in a “third-world country.”
“It’s a dangerous time for our country and for our democracy,” the Oregon Congresswoman said from a location she declined to disclose for safety reasons.
“This type of behavior is not normal, not at all and it shouldn’t be normalized. We need to get back to the point where we can have policy disagreements without violence.”
Bonamici said the mob storming the capitol, destroying property and trying to intimidate lawmakers from doing their jobs should be held criminally accountable. That should hold true for the U.S. President as well, who she believes has moved beyond free speech and incited violence.
“I have called for him to be held responsible for what I believe is criminal behavior for threatening the Georgia election officials and I think he’s responsible for instigating violence today,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents southwest Washington, said D.C. police told her they found and detonated four bombs near the Capitol.
“The reports you are hearing about chaos, panic and dangerous actions by protestors are not exaggerations. I witnessed them,” she said, noting she was safe. “Is this the America we want to give to our children? A country of lawlessness and mob rule?”
Sen. Merkley held out little possibility the Senate would reconvene to certify the election results on Wednesday but said he hoped that process could be completed Thursday.
In Oregon, far-right groups convened at the state Capitol for a rally to protest the Congressional certification of presidential election results.