Lawmakers representing southern Wisconsin condemned the violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
One former state legislator called it a coup attempt.
Sharing a video while on lockdown, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said President Donald Trump was “inciting domestic terrorism” during an earlier speech before his supporters forcibly stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“Unfortunately, Donald Trump at a rally today basically told his supporters to storm the Capitol and guess what? His supporters sheepishly, blindly followed what he said and have now broken into the U.S. Capitol building,” Pocan said in a video shared on Twitter at about 2 p.m. Wednesday. “We’re on lockdown. I’m in my office right now.”
Still, he said lawmakers would get the process of certifying the election results “done.” That process had started earlier Wednesday before pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol.
“But it’s a sad day for America when the president is inciting domestic terrorism and acting so incredibly irresponsibly because he’s not happy that he lost the election,” he said.
Rep. Bryan Steil, the Janesville Republican who represents Wisconsin’s 1st District, tweeted at 4:20 p.m., condemning “actions of criminals inside the United States Capitol.”
Steil in his statement thanked law enforcement for efforts to maintain safety and repeated that people expressing their First Amendment rights should follow the law.
The chaotic protests in Washington, D.C., happened fewer than 24 hours before state Rep. Sue Conley, D-Janesville, was set to participate in her first vote in the Wisconsin Assembly.
Conley, who was elected in November, said she feels confident state officials are preparing for possible protests at the state Capitol, but she had not received any official correspondence regarding safety at today’s session.
“I think what we are watching (at the U.S. Capitol) is heartbreaking,” Conley said. “I don’t think this is who we are as Americans. I am worried about how we get past this and heal from this.”
Conley said she is proud of how proactive Gov. Tony Evers was Tuesday by sending National Guard members to Kenosha in case of protests there after officials decided not to charge the police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, last summer.
With that in mind, Conley said she was surprised U.S. Capitol law enforcement was not more prepared, given that the president has continued to urge his supporters to come to Washington.
“We need leaders that lead professionally,” Conley said.
Debra Kolste, the Janesville Democrat who stepped down from the state Assembly this month, called the violence on Capitol Hill a coup attempt.
“That’s what it is when people try to forcefully take power, and that’s what they were doing,” Kolste said.
“We know the people that were there are the vast minority, even of the people who might believe this hype,” Kolste said, referring to Trump’s falsehoods about the presidential election being fraudulent.
Kolste said she was glad to hear Republican leaders decrying the Capitol invasion and blaming Trump for it. She said she has hope that some of the people who believe Trump’s rhetoric don’t support such violence.
“My concern is what would’ve happened if this was people of color, what would’ve happened to that crowd?” Kolste said.
She noted that peaceful protesters in front of the White House were tear-gassed in June to make way for Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a nearby church.
Gas and flash-bangs were seen Wednesday, but it appeared those measures were not used until after protesters had forced their way into the Capitol.
State Sen. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, also released a statement.
“Violence and mob actions committed by any group can’t be tolerated in a free society,” he said in the statement. “The violence and mob actions we are witnessing at the U.S. Capitol today must be met with swift and immediate justice aimed at those individuals committing criminal acts.”
Nass said those of all political beliefs are allowed to protest, but they are not allowed to “threaten public safety in any way.”
“As I did during the rioting and mob violence that ravaged our cities last year, I am condemning the violent thugs involved with the reprehensible conduct that has occurred at the U.S. Capitol today,” he continued. “I support law enforcement utilizing all means necessary to restore law and order.”
State Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, said what happened Wednesday was an “atrocity.”
She said in a statement that Joe Biden won the presidency “fair and square.”
“One of the many things that makes our democracy special is the peaceful transition of power between administrations after an election,” she said. “President Trump’s inability to put what is the best for our country above his own needs threatens our Democracy and Constitution.”
Gazette reporters Jonah Beleckis, Ashley McCallum and Frank Schultz contributed to this story.
A Janesville beverage company will get $20,000 a month to help it through the pandemic, a company official said.
The donations come from fundraising by Barstool Sports and its eccentric and controversial founder, Dave Portnoy.
“I just feel so honored. There are really no words to describe how generous this is. I can’t believe our little voice was heard,” said Sarah Gray of Gray Brewing, who helps run the business with her brother, Jacob, and their father, owner Robert “Fred” Gray.
Gray said she follows Barstool and Portnoy on Instagram, and when he announced his plans last month, she sent an email immediately, explaining the Gray history and how the pandemic has hurt the business.
Monday, Barstool asked for a video, which Sarah and Fred produced. Sarah said she was surprised to get a call from Portnoy on Tuesday morning, telling her of the donation. She held her young son in one arm as she excitedly responded to the video call.
“I’m still in shock,” Sarah said Wednesday.
Gray Brewing got funding through the federal Payroll Protection Program, which ended in October, and then Fred Gray stopped taking a paycheck, and Sarah cut her hours, Sarah said, so the company could maintain employees’ pay and health insurance.
The company employs eight people, including the family members.
Sarah is going through the frustrating process of trying to figure out if the company can apply for help under the COVID-19 aid bill passed last week.
If government aid comes through, she would check with the Barstool Fund to see if the money could be used for utilities or supplies, she said.
Gray Brewing is marking its 165th year. It brews craft beers and bottles carbonated soft drinks, as well as packaging bottled goods for other beverage makers.
Brewery tours were suspended and a tasting room was closed during the pandemic.
Liquor sales are up, but craft beer sales are down during the pandemic, Sarah said. When bars were closed, one of Gray’s top revenue sources—barrels of beer—was cut off. The UW-Madison Memorial Union was a top customer, buying 120 to 140 half barrels per summer, but the union was closed for the summer, she said.
Beer festivals also dried up.
Supplies, such as labels, are harder to get with wait times lengthening from two weeks to five or six weeks, she said.
Sarah said she wants to pay it forward to small restaurants and bars in Rock County that are hurting, especially those who carry Gray products.
Barstool reported Wednesday it had raised more than $19 million, with donations made to 82 businesses.
Barstool Sports posts articles and video relating to sports and popular culture with an adult bent that might not be suitable for children.
Barstool’s Portnoy has been accused of using racist and sexist language and being anti-union. Sarah said she didn’t hesitate to take the donation and is just focusing on the positives.
“I think what Dave is doing now with his platform is just amazing. He is doing something good with it,” Sarah said. “So many people in this world have big platforms and don’t do anything for us little guys. … I’m just a little guy in Janesville, Wisconsin, trying to keep a business alive. … I can’t thank them enough.”
A violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and forced lawmakers into hiding in a stunning attempt to overturn America’s presidential election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Democrat Joe Biden from replacing Trump in the White House.
The nation’s elected representatives scrambled to crouch under desks and don gas marks while police futilely tried to barricade the building, one of the most jarring scenes ever to unfold in a seat of American political power. A woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol, and Washington’s mayor instituted an evening curfew in an attempt to contain the violence.
The rioters were egged on by Trump, who has spent weeks falsely attacking the integrity of the election and had urged his supporters to descend on Washington to protest Congress’ formal approval of Biden’s victory. Some Republican lawmakers were in the midst of raising objections to the results on his behalf when the proceedings were abruptly halted by the mob.
Together, the protests and the GOP election objections amounted to an almost unthinkable challenge to American democracy and exposed the depths of the divisions that have coursed through the country during Trump’s four years in office. Though the efforts to block Biden from being sworn in Jan. 20 were sure to fail, the support Trump has received for his efforts to overturn the election results have badly strained the nation’s democratic guardrails.
Congress reconvened in the evening, lawmakers decrying the protests that defaced the Capitol and vowing to finish confirming the Electoral College vote for Biden’s election, even if it took all night.
Vice President Mike Pence, reopening the Senate, directly addressed the demonstrators: “You did not win.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “failed insurrection” underscored lawmakers’ duty to confirm the vote. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would show the world “what America is made of” by finishing the count.
Punctuating their resolve, both the House and Senate soundly defeated the first objection, to election results from Arizona that had been raised by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. Still, most House Republicans had voted for it. Proceedings pushed into the night.
The president gave his supporters a boost into action Wednesday morning at a rally outside the White House, where he urged them to march to the Capitol. He spent much of the afternoon in his private dining room off the Oval Office watching scenes of the violence on television. At the urging of his staff, he reluctantly issued a pair of tweets and a taped video telling his supporters it was time to “go home in peace”—yet he still said he backed their cause.
Hours later, Twitter for the first time locked Trump’s account, demanded that he remove tweets excusing violence and threatened “permanent suspension.”
A somber President-elect Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated, said American democracy was “under unprecedented assault, ” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans. Former President George W. Bush said he watched the events in “disbelief and dismay.”
The domed Capitol building has for centuries been the scene of protests and occasional violence. But Wednesday’s events were particularly astounding both because they unfolded at least initially with the implicit blessing of the president and because of the underlying goal of overturning the results of a free and fair presidential election.
Tensions were already running high when lawmakers gathered early Wednesday afternoon for the constitutionally mandated counting of the Electoral College results, in which Biden defeated Trump, 306-232. Despite pleas from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, more than 150 GOP lawmakers planned to support objections to some of the results, though lacking evidence of fraud or wrongdoing in the election.
Trump spent the lead-up to the proceedings publicly hectoring Pence, who had a largely ceremonial role, to aid the effort to throw out the results. He tweeted: “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
But Pence, in a statement shortly before presiding, defied Trump, saying he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
In the aftermath, several Republicans announced they would drop their objections to the election, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who lost her bid for reelection Tuesday.
Earlier, protesters had fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls. Lawmakers were told to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda. Some House lawmakers tweeted they were sheltering in place in their offices.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., told reporters he was in the House chamber when rioters began storming it. Security officers “made us all get down. You could see that they were fending off some sort of assault.” He said they had a piece of furniture up against the door. “And they had guns pulled,” Peters said.
The woman who was killed was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police said. She was shot in the chest by Capitol Police and taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. City police said three other people died from medical emergencies during the long protest on and around the Capitol grounds.
Staff members grabbed boxes of Electoral College votes as the evacuation took place. Otherwise, said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the ballots could have been destroyed by the protesters.
The mob’s storming of Congress prompted outrage, mostly from Democrats but from Republicans as well, as lawmakers accused Trump of fomenting the violence with his relentless falsehoods about election fraud.
“Count me out,” said Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Enough is enough.”
Several suggested that Trump be prosecuted for a crime or even removed under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which seemed unlikely two weeks from when his term expires.
“I think Donald Trump probably should be brought up on treason for something like this,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., told reporters. “This is how a coup is started. And this is how democracy dies.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who has at times clashed with Trump, issued a statement saying, “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.
The Pentagon said about 1,100 District of Columbia National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement at the Capitol. More than a dozen people were arrested.
As darkness fell, law enforcement officers worked their way toward the protesters, using percussion grenades to clear the area around the Capitol. Big clouds of tear gas were visible. Police in full riot gear moved down the steps, clashing with demonstrators.
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