As a mob stormed the United States Capitol on Wednesday and fought with police in Washington D.C. — actions widely described as an unprecedented coup attempt to prevent the transfer of power from Donald Trump's administration to president elect Joe Biden — elected officials from Southern California evacuated their offices or sheltered under police protection.
By 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, CNN and other news agencies reported that shots were fired on the capital grounds and at least one woman had been shot. She reportedly is in critical condition. By 12:55 p.m. CNN and other outlets reported protesters had broken onto the Senate floor and the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one member of the mob apparently left a note on a desk in that office that read: “We will not back down.”
A few minutes after 1 p.m. president elect Biden appeared on television to deliver a live national address, saying the mob does “not represent” American values, and added “the work of the moment, and of the next four years, must be the restoration of democracy.”
Minutes after Biden concluded his speech, in which he asked Trump to “step up” to end the violence,Trump issued a video via Twitter that was aired on CNN and other outlets. Though Trump urged his followers to go home, he repeatedly re-stated his false claim that the election was fraudulent and “stolen.”
The violence prompted local leaders in Washington D.C. to declare a curfew starting at 6 p.m. and police to evacuate or close two buildings near the capitol. Those closures affected elected officials and staff from Southern California, particularly before police gained control and when individuals were still breaking into government buildings and offices.
At 11:42 PST, Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, of the 49th District tweeted: “I am sheltering in my office due to multiple threats from suspicious packages and Trump supporters storming the Capitol, but I am safe. I am incredibly grateful for the brave Capitol Police officers keeping us safe.”
A few minutes earlier a similar tweet was issued by Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, of the 47th District: “I am safely sheltering in place, and am grateful to the Capitol Police for their service. Violence will not prevent a transfer of power, and cannot destroy our constitutional process.”
One of Trump’s harshest critics in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, of the 28th District, was in congress, debating the acceptance of results of the Electoral College, when rioters began to storm the building.
“Our fellow citizens did their civic duty,” he said during the debate. “The question we face today is, will we do ours?”
Soon after, Schiff was among the elected officials evacuated from the House floor. He later issued a statement saying he was safe.
Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who represents the 46th District, also was evacuated, and later offered pointed criticism of Trump.
“President Trump has proven today that he is a Dictator. He has incited American citizens to storm the US Capitol in the middle of fulfilling our job of certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
“People may get hurt, and some may die because Trump refuses to let go of the presidency,” Correa added. “He is an embarrassment to this country.”
A bit after noon, a spokesperson for Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra, the newly sworn in representative for the 39th District, said the congresswoman and her team are safe in her office at the Longworth House Office Building, a mile from the U.S. Capitol. (Orange County’s other new congresswoman, Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Seal, Beach of the 48th District, was not at work Wednesday because she has tested positive for the coronavirus. Her office said she is under quarantine.)
Rep. Linda Sanchez, R-Whittier, of the 38th District, posted video and comments to Twitter in real time as Congress prepared to vote on accepting the Electoral College results.
Just 15 minutes after her video showing senators leaving the chambers, because she said they’d been asked to vote separately, Sanchez tweeted: “I am safe, and am sheltering in my office due to security threats at the Capitol complex. I am very grateful to Capitol Police and others who are keeping us safe.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, of the 30th District, was locked down in his office in the Rayburn building on Wednesday, incredulous, preparing for something he’s never seen.
“They are going to use tear gas in the Rotunda. Oh my God.”
Sherman was among many in D.C. who want Trump to do more to quell the violence.
“They are doing this in his name.”
Rep. Karen Bass, who represents the 37th District, said Wednesday afternoon that she was in a secure location, and offered criticism of the protesters and Trump.
“The President of the United States is inciting a coup,” Bass said. “We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred.”
Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican recently elected to represent CA-25, issued a statement: “The actions we are seeing by those charging the Capitol today should not be condoned or encouraged. I urge these people to peacefully exit so that Congress may continue to execute our Constitutional duties and our staff and Capitol Police may safely go home to their families.”
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte), who represents the 32nd District, was in her office when the insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.
“These people don’t understand what they’ve done to our image, our democracy and how they’re affecting it because they won’t accept the fact that the race is over.” She blamed President Trump and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, for inciting violence with recent public statements that suggested pro-Trump forces should “go to the streets.”
“Watch out for who you elect,” she said.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, of the 40th District, said: “This is a tragic day in American history as we see Trump-supporting domestic terrorists surround and breach the Capitol building. My staff and I are secured and safe thanks to the courageous actions of the Capitol Police. Praying for the safety of everybody and the very soul of our nation.”
Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro, who represents the 44th District, spent much of Wednesday sheltering in an office with two aids. Like many, she was critical of what she said was Trump’s delayed address to tell rioters to go home.
“I’m sorry, but three-and-a-half hours after it started he finally got around to it?”
Harley Rouda, who recently lost his re-election bid to represent CA-48, which includes much of coastal Orange County, tweeted: “Is this what the leader of the party of law and order meant when he said, ‘stand back and stand by?’”
It’s unclear if the protests will prevent congress from continuing to debate the results of the Electoral College. Earlier Wednesday, a few members of the House and Senate voted to object to results from Arizona and planned to issue objections to results in a handful of other battleground states that voted for Biden.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Nov. 3 election was fraudulent and the debate over the Electoral College is not expected to change the results. Biden is expected to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Staffers Andre Mouchard, Ryan Carter, Brooke Staggs, Chris Haire, Hayley Munguia, Bradley Bermont and Donna Littlejohn contributed.