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North Shore residents try to fathom what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday

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The Capitol was breached by insurrectionists Wednesday afternoon during a debate over certification of Electoral College results at approximately 3:45 p.m. Members of Congress were instructed to retrieve the gas masks from under their chairs, as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, overrunning police barricades, scaling walls and entering the heavily protected building.

Americans nationwide watched the incident unfold on their televisions. They learned that security had barricaded the doors to the House chamber with furniture and that their weapons were drawn. One protester was shot, and later died. As National Guard troops were summoned to the Capitol to restore order, along with officers from the Federal Protective Service and Secret Service, ordinary citizens experienced a bevy of emotions.

Even as a 6 p.m. curfew was ordered in Washington, D.C., many Trump protesters lingered  in the streets for some time. Then, at roughly 8 p.m., with members of the National Guard from Virginia and the capital district there to protect them, the House and Senate reconvened to count the Electoral College votes. During the wee hours of Thursday morning Joseph Biden was certified as the winner of the presidential election.

Manhattan attorney John Napolitano, who lives in East Norwich, said he was sickened by the storming of the Capitol. “When I saw Trump supporters in the Capitol, I said, ‘You idiots. You cannot destroy public property,’” he said. “This is the Capitol. That was so wrong. They ruined it for the rest of us.”

Napolitano said that the mayor of Washington, D.C., knew there would be thousands of Trump supporters but did not step up the police presence.

“Conservatives always get played,” he said. “Yesterday was inexcusable. I love this country. I’m happy having a Hispanic-American citizen and a Black doctor living next door to me. Long Island is too white. But I think we are all being manipulated by the government.”

Laura Savini, of Bayville, said she watched the protest unfold and was brought to tears. “I can’t believe we’re supposed to be the ideal of what freedom is,” she said. “We had people in the Capitol putting our elected leaders in harm’s way with no respect for what we have done for  nearly the last 250 years. It was heartbreaking for me.”

Glen Head civil rights attorney Mahir Nisar said he had to turn off the news to take a break from it all. Describing the protest as an attempted coup, he said that the Trump supporters had committed treason.

“It also shows, to many extents, the white power and privilege,” Nisar said, and then referred to the National Guard and police response to previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations as an example. “It’s against the law, and if we don’t hold the same standards of enforcement for all people and then we pick and choose who we are going to enforce the law with, then we’re really catering to a very unjust society.”

Bob Pemberton, who was a 60-year resident of Glen Cove before moving in March to an assisted-living facility in Florida, is a retired Nassau County police officer. He said he had no problem with people peacefully protesting, describing it as an American right. But storming the Capitol is a violation of the law, he said.

“I think people across our country are in a state of anomie,” Pemberton said. “They have lost their faith in all of the things going on around them. We have to differentiate between those who were peaceful protesters, of which there looked like there were many, and those that unlawfully entered the Capitol with intent to commit a crime.”

Ravin Chetram, an activist from Oyster Bay and the vice president of the Oyster Bay–East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, said he questioned how people with baseball bats, chairs and flags, breaking windows in the Capitol, could get away with that.

“They knew these people were coming here, and the police couldn’t stop them from getting into the [Capitol],” Chetram said. “The [insurrectionists] felt no threat. There were no rubber bullets being shot. They’re literally walking into the building of our Capitol.” 

Marie Gallagher, of Oyster Bay, said what she saw was a peaceful protest. She is suspicious of those who were shown wearing helmets and goggles, saying that people who support Trump would never do that. “I saw people waving an American flag, not an angry, mob,” Gallagher said. “. . . It’s sad to compare the people during the summer who were rioting and looting stores to those who were there yesterday.”

There was a permit approved for a 1 p.m. rally, she said, that was to take place in front of the Capitol. But it never happened. “They planned to be loud so the people inside, the elected leaders, could hear them,” she said. “Now you had thousands of people standing around with nothing to do. I thought to myself, ‘This is going to get out of hand.’”

Fred Nielsen, a veteran leader from Glen Cove, expressed sorrow that young people had to witness Wednesday’s events. A Vietnam veteran, Nielsen said that he took an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. “Who in the world would be a domestic enemy to our Constitution?” he asked. “Now we know.”