Five weeks after surgery and needing a cane to hobble about, Rep. Pramila Jayapal knew she couldn’t make a run for it when the U.S. House was overrun by protesters Wednesday.
So the Seattle Democrat, who represents part of Snohomish County, tried to stay calm and huddled with U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, who prayed aloud. They were among about a dozen members of Congress stranded in the gallery above the House floor. They were given gas masks, which they were prepared to use had pepper spray been needed.
In those tense, chaotic minutes, Jayapal said, she prayed silently for peace and the safety of her colleagues, for the Capitol police and even for the demonstrators who breached security to invade both chambers of the U.S. Capitol.
“I was terrified for our democracy the whole time,” Jayapal said Wednesday in an interview with reporters.
Demonstrators overwhelmed security to spill onto the chamber floor during an Electoral College certification vote by both the House and Senate to confirm results of November’s presidential election. The proceedings were suspended for several hours as law enforcement officers cleared the building. Eventually, the entire D.C. National Guard was called in to help restore order, and a citywide curfew was imposed.
Jayapal blamed President Trump for inciting the chaos, calling the arguments to overturn election results in key swing states ludicrous.
“I think … the level of temper, anger, rage was perhaps not unexpected given what the president and his allies are doing,” she said.
She also vowed that Congress would carry out its legal obligation to certify the election results and declare President-elect Joe Biden the nation’s next leader.
Now, Jayapal said, she worries about the message Wednesday’s mayhem sent to other corners of the world about the state of democracy in America.
“We will recover. We will prevail,” she said. But “this is a serious, serious blow and a serious set of wounds to our democracy.”
Jayapal’s district includes most of Seattle and outlying areas, including Edmonds, Shoreline and Woodway.
Other congressional leaders serving Snohomish and neighboring counties took to Twitter in reaction to Wednesday’s violent protest.
Here’s what the locally elected lawmakers, all Democrats, were saying:
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett: “Thank you to the Capitol Police for helping to safeguard democracy today. I am sorry that people are treating … you with such disrespect. To all: I am currently safely sheltering in place waiting for debate to start again and preparing to vote NO on the AZ objection.”
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene of Medina: “The Capitol has been breached by protesters. President Trump encouraged this violence. He needs to call them off. Please stay safe if you are in the area.”
Thank you to the Capitol Police for helping to safeguard democracy today. I am sorry that people are treating the you with such disrespect.
To all: I am currently safely sheltering in place waiting for debate to start again and preparing to vote NO on the AZ objection
— Rep. Rick Larsen (@RepRickLarsen) January 6, 2021
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray: “In response to questions about my safety: I’m safe and so is my staff, but I condemn in the strongest terms the hate-fueled violence we are seeing in our nation’s Capitol today, as should every leader committed to the peaceful transfer of power in our country.”
Murray later posted a follow-up comment:
“This violent mob & the President who stoked their rage must be held accountable. They should not be allowed to delay our democratic processes for a minute longer. We have a Constitutional duty to certify the election. We should resume that work right now and finish tonight.”
U.S. representatives serving other parts of the state were also weighing in, including two Republicans from Eastern Washington:
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane: “Stop these attacks on Capitol Police who serve to protect the People’s House. Protesting peacefully is your right. Violence, aggression, and breaching security perimeters are not. Stop this now.”
(McMorris Rodgers referred to Joe Biden as president-elect in a tweet Tuesday. The same day, she announced her intention to object to an Electoral College vote count that would confirm President-elect Biden’s victory. On Wednesday, she reversed course and said she would not challenge his confirmation.)
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside: “I wholeheartedly condemn this violence. This is not who we are, and this needs to stop immediately.”
(Newhouse, who voted for Trump, tweeted that he would vote to certify the Electoral College results.)
Some local leaders in Snohomish County responded, as well:
Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring, a Republican: “It is difficult to find words to express my disappointment and disgust with what I’m watching unfold in our nation’s capitol today. Political violence, regardless of where it is coming from, is completely unacceptable.
“Breaking into federal buildings, attacking police officers, shootings and bomb threats are as un-American as it gets. This behavior must be strongly condemned by all Americans. Please say a prayer for our country today.”
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, a Democrat: “I’m saddened and outraged by the violence occurring in our nation’s capital. This is not who we are as a country.”
Herald reporter Caleb Hutton contributed.