“For those asking, my staff and I are safe,” tweeted Congresswoman Kathleen Rice at 4:03 p.m. Wednesday, as she and others barricaded themselves within the chambers of the U.S. Capitol building against mobs of protesters.
Lawmakers were scheduled to spend the day debating over the certification of Electoral College results in the presidential election — a usually uneventful day in Congress. It was interrupted, however, by thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol, overrunning police barricades, scaling walls and invading the structure.
Sometime between 3 and 4 p.m., Congress members were instructed to retrieve gas masks from under their chairs.
“Tear gas had been used in the Rotunda,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, of Glen Cove, during a call to the press from an undisclosed area. His voice was measured and calm when sharing his experience. “The chaplain of the Congress said a prayer. The doors in the chamber were locked, but then people began banging on them.”
The rioters had forced security to barricade the doors to the House chamber with furniture, their weapons drawn, prepared to fire. Republican and Democratic lawmakers huddled together, Suozzi said. A protestor broke through the glass on the main door, which the president enters through for the State of the Union.
“The glass is broken, but I don’t know if it was shots or banging,” Suozzi said. “I did hear a ‘pop, pop, pop.’”
“My staff and I are safe and currently in lockdown,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement during the protests. “The storming of the U.S. Capitol is a stain on American democracy. Make no mistake—this disgraceful violence will not stop the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.”
Lawmakers in both houses of Congress later reconvened after a 6 p.m. curfew, during which time police escorted protestors out of the Capitol. They voted to certify the Electoral College results that declared former Vice President Joseph Biden as the President-elect.
Several representatives and senators have placed the blame of the attempted insurrection squarely on Trump, who for weeks has sown discord and spread lies about false instances of fraud in the November election. Protesters in and outside of the Capitol were clad with Trump merchandise.
“The President incited a domestic terror attack on the Capitol,” Rice, who represents the 4th Congressional District, including Merrick and Bellmore, wrote on Twitter. “He is an imminent threat to our democracy, and he needs to be removed from office immediately. The Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Rice later re-Tweeted a video from U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, who joined the call for the removal of Trump. Invoking the 25th Amendment would require the support of Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the president’s Cabinet. Pence would then assume the role as president if Trump is found unfit.
On Thursday, Rice again tweeted, questioning where Chad Wolf, the head of Homeland Security, was during the protests. “Absolutely unacceptable for him and the entirety of [the Department of Homeland Security] to be completely absent during this domestic terror attack,” she wrote.
Local reaction was swift. "For hundreds of years, the peaceful transition of power has been a foundation of our country," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. "It doesn't matter who you voted for — violence like what we are seeing in Washington today should never be accepted in a free society. This is not about politics. This is about safety, freedom and decency. I am lending my voice in support of law enforcement who are keeping everyone safe."
“The violence happening in Washington today is flatly unacceptable, regardless of who you supported in the election,” Legislator Steve Rhoads wrote to followers on social media. “This is America. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you fall on, when protest turns to violence it is wrong, and what we are seeing today is against everything we stand for. Our prayers go out for all who work at the Capitol and for the members of law enforcement working hard to keep everyone safe.”
This story will be updated.