Iowa lawmakers sheltering as rioters storm the U.S. Capitol

Iowa lawmakers are sheltering in place after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol while the Senate was tallying Electoral College votes.


Katie Goodale

The United States Capital is seen in Washington DC on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

Julia Shanahan and Caleb McCullough

Iowa’s members of Congress and staff report they are safe and sheltering in place after pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, shutting down the counting of electoral votes and forcing the evacuation of the Senate and House chambers.

Video of the Senate Floor shows U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, being escorted out of the chamber immediately after calling a recess during debate over the electoral college certification. The chamber was later evacuated.

“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself,” Grassley wrote in a tweet later in the afternoon. “I condemn today’s violence in the strongest terms & perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Supporters of President Trump, encouraged by the president’s consistent false claims of election fraud since the November election, have broken glass in multiple doors and breached the Senate Chamber, Rep. Cindy Axne spokesperson Ian Mariani said in an email to The Daily Iowan. Tear gas has also been deployed inside the complex.

People can be seen surrounding the Capitol waving Trump flags and flooding stairways and hallways. There were reports of suspicious packages found around the Capitol and several law enforcement officials are being treated after being sprayed with pepper spray.

Iowa’s members of Congress condemned the actions of the protesters, and they and Congressional staffers said they were in safe locations as they waited for Capitol police to disperse the protesters.

The rioting has raised questions as to how secure the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden will be on Jan. 20.

“I served in uniform to defend the right to peaceful protest,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wrote in a tweet. “What’s happening at the Capitol right now is not peaceful nor a protest. It’s anarchy, and a betrayal of the American ideals we all hold dear.”


Axne called on President Trump to condemn the violence from the extremists in a tweet, and said she and her staff were safe. Mariani said they had been advised to shelter in place while Capitol police disperse the protesters.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, also confirmed she and her staff were safe on Twitter. She condemned the violence from Trump’s supporters at the Capitol.

“You can protest and be peaceful,” she wrote. “Storming government buildings and attacking law enforcement officers is unacceptable.”

Newly-elected Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, called the behavior of the mob unacceptable. Hinson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hinson co-authored a letter with 10 other members of Congress, saying that lawmakers have no role in changing the results of an election, and to do so would be unconstitutional.

Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, called for people at the Capitol to remain peaceful, denouncing the violence. Feenstra has been a strong supporter of Trump, and was recently seated after ousting nine-term Republican Steve King in the June primary.

Congress was gathered Wednesday to certify the votes cast by the Electoral College in December and debate any objections. Before Trump supporters stormed the Senate chamber, some Republicans objected to the Electoral College tally in Arizona despite baseless claims of election fraud.

One person was confirmed to be shot inside the Capitol and several other people were taken to area hospitals. The governor of Virginia sent National Guard troops to Washington D.C., and the D.C. National Guard was also deployed.

Leaders in Congress called on Trump earlier in the afternoon to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol area. Trump encouraged people via Twitter to “stay peaceful” and support Capitol police and law enforcement officials.

Trump later posted a video message on Twitter telling those who had stormed the Capitol to go home. He prefaced the message by repeating the false message that the election was stolen, and saying he understood the pain and hurt of the rioters.

“Go home, we love you, you’re very special,” he said. “You’ve seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

Biden addressed the country in a speech given from Delaware saying “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent” the U.S. Biden said that this isn’t a protest and that it’s “insurrection” and that the “mob” is hindering the democratic process.


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