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January 7, 2021

‘Unreal’ scene as pro-Trump mob invades U.S. Capitol

PHOTO | File image The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

A mob supporting President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, forcing an evacuation of the House and Senate chambers and delaying the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

“We’ve been evacuated from the chamber,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said by telephone. “It’s a sad day for America.”

Biden addressed the nation on television, urging calm and asking Trump’s supporters to let “the work of democracy go forward.” His presence and Trump’s absence signaled the transition of power was going forward, not stopped.

“The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire,” Biden said. “At their worst, they can incite. Therefore, I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”

The president followed in a brief broadcast, but he legitimized the rioters’ sense of grievance.

“I know how you feel,” Trump said. “But go home, and go home in peace.”

Earlier, he had denounced Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter for not joining his effort to undo the election.

Gunfire was reported inside the Capitol, but Connecticut’s congressional delegation was reported safe in frantic posts on Twitter, text messages to staff and loved ones, and eventually in telephone calls. Due to COVID-19, access to the chamber had been tightly limited.

U.S. Reps. Jim Himes, D-4th District, and Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, were among the few House Democrats inside.

“Police have just told us to be prepared to get under our chairs in the chamber,” Himes tweeted. “Lieutenant advising us to be prepared to get behind our seats. There is no behind our seats.”

Three minutes later, he tweeted again: “Police have asked us to get gas masks out as there has been tear gas used in the rotunda.”

About 6 p.m., Himes said in a telephone interview, “We just got an announcement that the Capitol is secured.”

“Make no mistake, this was a coup attempt instigated by President Trump. Everyone who has aided and abetted him for the past four years bears responsibility for today’s violence,” DeLauro said in an emailed statement. “January 6 will go down as a dark day in United States’ history, but our democracy will prevail over the violent mob that ransacked our Capitol. In two weeks, President-elect Biden will take office and begin the work of healing our nation.”

U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, reacted furiously in a telephone interview, saying responsibility for the mob and its actions lay squarely with the president and the small coterie of Republican senators doing his bidding.

“It’s just testimony to what happens when you have an egocentric megalomaniac in the White House, self-absorbed in his own importance,” Larson said. “It’s all about him.”

Larson spoke from his office in the Longworth Office Building, directly across from the Capitol. He was listening to the debate from there when the Capitol was breached. He said he could see the mob surge forward.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, was at his office at the Rayburn House Office Building — about five minutes from the House chambers via underground tunnels — when chaos erupted around 2:15 p.m.

Courtney said security initially instructed him and colleagues to remain in their offices and to stay away from windows.

Members of the House then were escorted by security to a meeting room of the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, a large conference room in another building in the Capitol complex — where they remained as Courtney spoke to CT Mirror at 4:10 p.m. 

At that point, he said, House members had not been informed by security when they would be released from the grounds. One of Himes’ staffers said the House sergeant-at-arms had asked the members inside the Capitol to cease telephone interviews until the building was secured.

Courtney, too, blamed Trump for “whipping people up.”

“That was not a calming message for the country,” Courtney said.

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