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Connecticut Congress members condemn storming of Capitol

U.S. lawmakers, among them Connecticut’s Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Joe Courtney, were forced to evacuate the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters breached the building.

Lawmakers were in the process of voting on the Electoral College results when Trump supporters infiltrated the Capitol Building on Wednesday, breaking through barricades and breaking up the joint session of Congress.

Courtney told The Day he was safe, and had been watching the proceedings in the Rayburn Building across the street. The House was working under coronavirus restrictions and many of the members were not in the chamber at the time that Trump supporters came in.

“At 2 o’clock when everything sort of blew up, (U.S. Rep.) Gosar from Arizona was speaking, and that’s when you knew something was going on because everybody was spinning their heads around,” Courtney said. “The Capitol police do a great job, they’re great people, but they definitely were overwhelmed.”

Courtney said he expects to resume the certification process this evening.

“At this point we’ve got about another hour or so until the House chamber and its surroundings are cleared,” he said. “We’re definitely going to pick up and keep going because this is a constitutionally mandated process, and we cannot allow this kind of trash behavior to deter Congress from doing its job. If it means we go all through the night that’s what we’re going to do.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he had been safely evacuated, adding, “This is a sad day for America.”

“My staff and I are safe at a secure location,” he said. “I am absolutely sickened by scenes of anarchist mobs violently swarming the Capitol. It’s not a protest — it’s armed insurrection. This is an assault on the heart of our democracy incited and fueled by the President of the United States and his enablers. Make no mistake: Congress will do its job. This election will still be certified, and President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn in on January 20.”

"I am ok. My staff is ok," Murphy said in a tweet. "This is an insurrection. And President Trump bears responsibility. It will not succeed. It will not stop us from doing the work of democracy. It will not stop the transfer of power. Those responsible will be held accountable."

Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, told CNN Wednesday that he and other lawmakers had been safely evacuated.

Himes has been tweeting about the evacuation. He said all members of Congress were first told of an external security threat, that no exit or entry was permitted, and to “stay away from exterior windows, doors. If outside, seek cover.” The message was signed USCP, for U.S. Capitol Police.

“They’re locking the doors in the House chamber. Debate has stopped,” Himes tweeted in real time. “They just recessed the House. A lieutenant of the Capitol Police is now addressing us. Capitol building breached. Both chambers locked down,” his next tweet read.

Police told lawmakers to be ready to get under their chairs in the chamber and asked them to “get gas masks out as there has been tear gas used in the rotunda.”

Himes later ridiculed a statement on Twitter from the Connecticut GOP, which read, in part, “Violence is never the answer. What we see unfolding today in Washington D.C. is putting a black eye on our party and our Republic.”

“As I take off my gas mask and brush the glass shards from my knees, I’ll take too little too late for $1000, Alex,” Himes said in response.

Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, commented on the scene outside the Capitol via Twitter, noting evacuations, “suspicious packages” and blocked streets.

“This is unreal. The scene outside the Capital as the electoral college votes are are being certified,” Hayes wrote. “This is not partisan — it is disgraceful.”

Courtney said he felt that “this democratic space” had been “defiled” by what happened Wednesday.

“One thing I always think about when I’m inside the chamber is, that podium is where Franklin Roosevelt spoke, and John F. Kennedy and Eisenhower and Reagan, and it feels like it’s been defiled by what happened here today. We’ve hit a trip wire now where certainly as a Congress, but also as a country, and the media, and other stakeholders that are connected to a democratic way of life — we’ve really got to do a lot better.”

State, local officials join condemnation

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities' Executive Committee released a statement condemning "the direct assault on American democracy and on our representative institutions of government in our nation's capital today." Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is the CCM president.

"For the sake of our nation, our democracy, and each of our communities, we call on all Americans to accept the results of a free and fair election and allow the United States of America to move forward with a peaceful transfer of power, as we have done for more than 200 years," the statement reads.

State House GOP Leader Vincent Candelora said in a statement, "The siege that unfolded in Washington D.C. this afternoon is unacceptable." He went on to link what happened Wednesday to "all of the violent protests we have seen over the past six months."

State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said in a statement, "Today's chaos and violence is due to President Trump's reckless comments and his rejection of the clear and decisive election results."

Republican state Sen. Heather Somers of Groton sent out a statement about the violence in Washington, D.C.

"The violent breach of the (Capitol) building was not a protest but an unacceptable act of treason, sedition. It was shameful — a threat to democracy," she said. "Donald Trump lost the election. Our democracy has spoken, and that decision must be treated with the (utmost) sanctity, by every American, regardless of political affiliation, preference or ideology. A peaceful transition of power is integral to who we are as a nation."

Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington, wrote on Facebook, "Division DOES NOT WORK, we need to come together as a nation, and we need to start today."

Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, wrote on Facebook, "There are no excuses for this type of behavior and those involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I am extremely saddened at what is occurring as a result of false claims and incitement by the president."

Democratic Groton Town Councilor and former state Rep. Aundré Bumgardner echoed Carney's thoughts on Trump in a statement.

"Trump signaled and incited an armed insurrection against our Republic," Bumgardner said. "The potent threat of white nationalists is real, and today's acts of domestic terrorism will forever stain our nation's history."

Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, in a video posted to Facebook, said the violence at the Capitol was "horrific."

"We are a democracy because we all have the right to vote, and we appoint people to elect us for a term of two years or four years or six years," she said. "If you are unhappy with the results of a race, you work hard for someone else next time. You work hard to make your voice heard, you write letters, you do emails, you make calls. We are not the country where you storm into the Capitol with guns and you hurt people."

s.spinella@theday.com

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