Moments earlier than, I had been sitting within the Senate press gallery excessive above the Chamber, watching Senate Minority Chief Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and different senators debate Republicans’ unfounded objections to counting the electoral faculty votes that will seal President-elect Joe Biden’s convincing victory over President Trump.
Immediately, Vice President Pence, who had been presiding over the chamber from the Senate dais, obtained a sign that it was time to maneuver.
A rising mob exterior had breached the barricades and entered the Capitol. Pence was rapidly ushered away by Secret Service brokers.
I bolted out of the press gallery hoping to seek out out whether or not Pence simply wanted a rest room break from the tedious proceedings. I bounded down the steps to the second ground, the place senators enter and exit the Chamber. Then I heard it: Police clashing with rioters one more ground under. I might hear a loud thwacking sound — probably a billy membership being wielded towards the invaders.
I retreated again as much as the third-floor press gallery in time to see Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) end defending her state’s electoral depend for Biden. Then Capitol Police and employees ordered everybody into the Senate Chamber.
I used to be ordered right into a gallery that’s reserved for household and shut buddies of senators — Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the vp’s brother, had simply been there watching the proceedings. However I climbed over a number of rails and chairs to get again to the same old press location, instantly above the place Pence had been sitting because the presiding officer.
Quickly, the Senate was sealed off and the session was adjourned. Capitol Police raced across the two-story Senate Chamber locking each set of doorways.
Then Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) checked out her cellphone and introduced: “Pictures fired.”
A veteran Capitol Police officer tried to calm the senators, telling them the report will not be correct. However at 2:30 p.m., police ordered everybody out.
In essentially the most dramatic moments of the siege, with armed officers in each nook of the Senate, police started barking out directions. They marched us all — a phalanx of senators, employees and press — by way of a number of workplace buildings seeking the most secure grounds to shelter on the Capitol complicated.
We didn’t understand it on the time, however an identical scene was enjoying out on the opposite facet of the Capitol, the place the Home Chamber was evacuated and lawmakers ran for canopy in a safe location on their facet of the constructing.
We weren’t allowed to take the steps, as a result of the mob was on the flooring under. So into the elevators and all the way down to the basement we went, racing towards the Capitol Guests Heart. The CVC is an unlimited underground bunker of a construction that lastly obtained constructed after 9/11. It price roughly $700 million and has a number of safe rooms and blast-resistant doorways.
An officer, holding again two doorways, ordered us to go towards the Russell Senate Workplace Constructing as a result of the pro-Trump mob had additionally breached the CVC.
Some senators ran; some walked. Safety guards held Schumer by the shoulders to whisk him alongside.
In an indication of fast employees considering, aides to the Senate parliamentarian rounded up a number of folks to seize the packing containers containing the electoral faculty certificates submitted by the states — paperwork wanted to certify Biden’s victory.
By 2:45 p.m. most senators and a set of aides and media had gathered within the safe room. An officer knowledgeable us that we had been secure, however stated it might take some time to safe the complicated. Within the meantime, they stated they had been looking for buses to get us to safer floor.
With out their cellphones, some senators had been at a loss for methods to notify spouses and different family members.
Again within the Capitol, police started a room-by-room search to seek out senators, employees and reporters who had been left behind. One senior GOP aide, who has an workplace not removed from the Senate ground, stated he took a metal rod and barricaded his door when the pro-Trump mob approached. For what appeared like 20 minutes, he stated, rioters banged on his door, attempting to interrupt in.
Others huddled in silence in small rooms with doorways locked and cellphones turned off whereas the rioters walked previous.
Contained in the Senate’s safe location, one senior officer ordered a set of underlings to go safe Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-In poor health.), a double amputee who misplaced each legs whereas serving within the Iraq Conflict. She was hiding in her workplace three flooring above, petrified of letting anybody in. The senior officer gave particular directions of what to yell: “Senator Duckworth, Senator Klobuchar stated come to the door.”
A couple of minutes later, she appeared within the safe spot.
In some way, Capitol meals service operations nonetheless seemed to be up and working by way of the melee. At four p.m. and 5 p.m., lots of of field lunches and bottles of water had been rolled into the holding spot.
Senators, employees, media and police wielding automated weapons grabbed lunches of rooster and beef.
Reporters had been herded out of the principle safe room and into an out of doors foyer. Senators stayed behind, and started discussing what had gone unsuitable with the fundamental cloth of American democracy. Finally, televisions had been wheeled into the senators-only room so they might watch the chaos unfold for themselves.
Strain mounted on the few Republicans who had been objecting to counting Biden’s electoral faculty votes, giving life to the mob’s delusions of 4 extra years for Trump. Simply earlier than 5 p.m., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) led a contingent of GOP objectors right into a separate room to debate whether or not to go ahead with their problem in mild of the mob violence their protest had helped to encourage.
After 6 p.m., increasingly senators started speaking about returning to the Senate ground in a present of Democratic power — an concept that echoed a choice by many members to return to the Capitol’s East Entrance steps the night time of the 2001 terrorist assaults. On that night time, in a present bipartisan assist, Republicans and Democrats stood collectively and sang “God Bless America.”
On the different finish of Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump blamed the lawmakers for the chaos. “These are the issues and occasions that occur when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away,” he tweeted.
A couple of minutes later, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) walked previous reporters. He was requested what he considered Trump’s assertion. Tuberville walked away, saying nothing.
Simply earlier than 6:45 p.m. — 4 hours after senators fled the Capitol — loud applause echoed from their safe room.
They’d determined to reconvene the Senate and the Home, take again Congress from Trump’s indignant mob and seal Biden’s victory.