Delaware congressional delegation describes scene inside as U.S. Capitol is breached
Tom Carper could hear the intruders running down the halls of the Capitol. Chris Coons described the unfolding events as "scary and chaotic." Lisa Blunt Rochester reportedly prayed over her colleagues as they waited in lockdown.
Amid the chaos of the Capitol building being breached by a violent mob of ardent Trump supporters Wednesday, Delaware's congressional delegation were among lawmakers taken to a secure location.
They were there to begin the process of certifying the presidential election, but it soon combusted into turmoil as Americans witnessed one of the darkest days in the country's history.
The U.S. Capitol hasn't been breached since 1814, when British troops set it on fire during the War of 1812, according to historians.
Hours later, the building was deemed secure.
Just after 8 p.m., members of Congress reconvened to the Capitol to resume the certification process. Several members of Congress rescinded their decision to object to the certification.
In the early afternoon, President Donald Trump held a rally in which he continued to make false claims about the election. A mob of thousands then traveled to the Capitol while the debate over certifying the presidential election was taking place inside.
The rioters pushed past Capitol police, and stormed into different areas of the Capitol building, including Pelosi's Office, where they went through desks and drawers. One man was walked down the halls carrying a Confederate flag – an unprecedented act.
Photos showed U.S. Capitol Police drawing guns as rioters tried to break into the House Chamber. Police said four people died around the Capitol grounds during rioting Wednesday, including one woman who was shot by police and three people who suffered medical emergencies.
In Wilmington, President-elect Joe Biden spoke at The Queen, saying the country's democracy "is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we've seen in modern times."
He called on Trump to go on national television and "demand the end of this siege."
"It's not a protest, it's insurrection," Biden said. "The world is watching."
Just moments after Biden's speech, Trump posted a video to Twitter. He continued to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him and called his supporters "very special people."
"You have to go home now," Trump said, "we have to have peace."
The mayor of Washington, D.C. instituted a curfew from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday. Although the crowd became dramatically smaller as day turned into night, hundreds remained in the area surrounding the Capitol.
The Delaware National Guard is sending troops to the region to assist local law enforcement if necessary, spokesperson Bernie Kale said Thursday morning. Kale said they learned of the request late Wednesday night. National Guard members from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland were previsouly dispatched to the Capitol area.
Before resuming the certification process, Vice President Mike Pence said "violence never wins" and declared that the Capitol remains the "people's House."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called those who stormed the Capitol "rioters and insurrectionists, goons and thugs, domestic terrorists." He called Trump the country's worst president, and that Wednesday afternoon will be a "stain" on the country's history.
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While Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not directly criticize the president, he said that "criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress."
Carper released a statement around 9:40 p.m. Wednesday that called for Trump to resign. If the president does not, Carper said in a statement that "we must find ways to safeguard our democracy for the next 14 days and remove him from office."
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester called for Trump's removal "as quickly as possible," believing "he poses a clear and present danger to the country," according to a spokesman.
In a phone interview earlier Wednesday evening, Carper, Delaware's senior senator, said he and his colleagues were led to a secure location of the Capitol complex. He declined to disclose the location citing safety concerns.
"It's the kind of thing you never imagine would happen in America," he said. "Sadly, it was aided and abetted in a speech, I think, the president gave earlier today to the folks who gathered in protest in Washington."
"Our words do matter," he continued. "In this case, I think the president is complicit in creating a certain environment that led to this violence."
Carper described the attempts to overturn the results of the election as "insane" and "very sad."
"This didn't have to happen," he said.
As the the building was being breached, a reporter in the Capitol tweeted that Blunt Rochester, the First State's sole U.S. representative, prayed over her colleagues as they waited in lockdown.
Later Wednesday evening, Blunt Rochester released a three-minute video on Twitter, in which she described the lockdown.
"Even as I was up in the balcony of the Capitol," she said, "when the House was going through what it was going through there was just an anger that i felt – that why are we in this situation right now? And it was very hard to lay down that anger so that I could even just pray. I couldn't even pray that's how sad and upset I was.
"But in doing that, I could pray for healing. I could pray for peace. I could pray that we understand our purpose is to love."
Coons, Delaware's junior senator, said on the Senate floor around 11:20 p.m. that the country will have an opportunity to heal. And the U.S. Senate will have the opportunity to be the most effective it has been in decades in passing legislation.
"What happened here today," Coons said, "should leave all of us gravely concerned about the health and the future of our democracy and the opportunity we will have two weeks from today is one we should not let us pass by."
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman. Contact Esteban Parra at (302) 324-2299, email@example.com or Twitter @eparra3.