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The Insurrection is Happening at State Capitols; Pennsylvania GOP Prevents Seating of Elected Democrat

Across the country, protesters have rallied outside, as well as inside, state capitol buildings over Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. New session of Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start, with GOP refusing to seat a Democratic senator.

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Trump supporters gather outside the US Capitol building following a Trump rally on January 6., Spencer Platt/Getty Images // Vox

The Insurrection is Happening at State Capitols - Fabiola Cineas (Vox)
Pennsylvania GOP Senators Refuse to Seat a Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding - Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

 

The Insurrection is Happening at State Capitols

Across the country, protesters have rallied outside, as well as inside, state capitol buildings over Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.

By Fabiola Cineas

January 6, 2021
Vox

A mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol building Wednesday afternoon, abruptly halting a session of Congress that was supposed to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Just hours after Trump encouraged the crowd at a rally to “take our country back” and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani suggested “trial by combat,” hundreds of people clad in Trump gear, some carrying Confederate flags, climbed the steps of the building, breached barricades, broke windows, and entered the halls of the Capitol — an insurrection that threatened the lives of lawmakers inside.

Two hours later, Trump posted a video to Twitter stating that while the election was stolen, “you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our people in law and order.”

But it was too late. Moments before Trump’s statement, one person was shot and later died, according to DC Emergency Medical Services, with at least five others being transported to the hospital. And uprisings had already spread to other parts of the country.

Capitols across the country also saw rallies and violence

In conjunction with the Senate certification vote, protests were planned in cities across the country on Wednesday, in which organizers planned to “stop the steal” and contest the fact that Joe Biden won the presidential election. Though many protests remained peaceful, some turned odd, and others violent.

Arizona

Pro-Trump rioters in Arizona gathered by the hundreds to demonstrate anger and deny the election results. They could be seen in videos banging on the locked doors of the state capitol building in Phoenix. The group struck on the window until the glass fractured.

Another group brought a guillotine to the gathering, which they explained in a letter obtained by the Arizona Republic. The letter contained misinformation about the election outcome and voter fraud and expressed their feelings toward a potential war:

“You may ask why we are here, why do we have a guillotine with us? The answer is simple,” the document read. “For six weeks Americans have written emails, gathered peacefully, made phone calls and begged their elected officials to listen to their concerns. We have been ignored, ridiculed, scorned, dismissed, lied to, laughed at and essentially told, No Ones Cares.”

“Let it be known, if the Constitution, our way of life, and the Freedoms that we hold so dear are threatened by internal or external enemies, we will rise to the challenge and defend this great nation by all means necessary. While we pray for Peace, but we do not fear war.”

California

In Sacramento, Trump supporters, including right-wing militia group the Three Percenters and the far-right street-fighting group the Proud Boys, confronted counterprotesters. Groups rallied around the state capitol giving speeches that denied the results of the presidential election and cursed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus rules. The Sacramento police announced on Twitter that they arrested individuals carrying pepper spray.

Colorado

Denver officials closed offices early as a precaution, and state police suited up in riot gear.

Florida

In Florida, about 150 Trump supporters, including dozens of Proud Boys, rallied outside the state’s capitol in support of the “Stop the Steal” movement. One publication described the gathering as tame, with protesters praying together as early as 8 am. By afternoon, the large crowd broke off into smaller groups.

Georgia

Just a day after Georgia held its runoff elections — with Democrats winning control of the Senate — senior staffers, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, were escorted out of the state capitol building as a group of demonstrators rallied outside. Tensions rose after the insurrection in DC unfolded.

Kansas

Demonstrators moved into the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday afternoon after hundreds of people demonstrated outside the building earlier in the day. According to local news outlets WBIW and KSNT, protesters had permits and followed protocols as they contested the count of electoral votes in Washington, DC.

Minnesota

More than 500 Trump supporters in St. Paul cheered when they learned that a mob had breached the US Capitol on Wednesday. According to the Star Tribune, some in the group dressed in Colonial-era costumes and spoke about being ready for battle as they rallied for about four hours. State troopers guarded the state capitol and Gov. Tim Walz’s residence where the pro-Tump supporters landed. Among the group were Three Percenters, members of the Boogaloo Boys, and local Republican lawmakers who emboldened the Trump supporters.

New Mexico

Officials evacuated the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Wednesday afternoon as an estimated 500 Trump supporters gathered outside of the building and terror escalated in Washington, DC. According to a local report, supporters arrived by car, truck, and horseback to fight the Electoral College ballot count. Participants placed signs around the Roundhouse that read “End the Lockdown” and “We want honest elections.”

New York

Outside the New York Capitol in Albany, where Gov. Cuomo was delivering an address about his coronavirus plan, two people were taken to the hospital and one person was taken into custody in connection with a stabbing. Law enforcement told reporters that the violence stemmed from a protest that was underway just outside the state capitol.

Ohio

At the statehouse, members of the Proud Boys and other Trump supporters clashed with Blacks Lives Matter supporters early in the afternoon. Video captured by the Columbus Dispatch showed a white man punching a Black man amid an altercation near the statehouse. Other videos show larger clashes involving dozens of participants, with police officers and Ohio Highway Patrol trying to deescalate the violence.

Oregon

In Oregon — where unrest continued for months in 2020 after the police killing of George Floyd, and federal agents abducted protesters in unmarked vehicles and counterprotesters escalated tensions — officials made the decision to close the capitol building to public and staff all day Wednesday. In the afternoon, hundreds of Trump supporters marched around the capitol in Salem to contest the election and dispute the state’s coronavirus regulations. The crowd even burned an effigy of Gov. Kate Brown, according to Oregon Live. Just two weeks ago, about 50 people, including Patriot Prayer members, reportedly pepper-sprayed a line of officers and broke into Oregon’s capitol in protest over coronavirus restrictions.

Texas

At the Texas Capitol, hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators gathered as the insurrection broke out in Washington. Officials were quick to shut down the building and surrounding complex to “maintain public order and address public threats,” according to the state’s department of public safety.

Utah

“Stop the Steal” proponents joined together at the Utah Capitol (all officials were evacuated in the afternoon), carrying thin blue line flags and signs that read “Election fraud is treason.” Though the gathering of hundreds remained mostly peaceful, according to the Associated Press, there were some clashes. A Trump supporter pepper-sprayed a Salt Lake City Tribune photographer. In response, the city’s mayor tweeted, “An assault on a journalist is an attack on freedom of press and democracy. This is unacceptable, and should not be allowed to go unchecked.”

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the crowd of about 300 chanted “USA! USA! USA!” and “Recall Romney.” In the evening, Sen. Romney made his thoughts clear in a statement:

What happened here was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.

Washington

At least three rallies were planned in Olympia, Washington, where rallygoers protested the election results. At the capitol building, Patriot Prayer members made speeches about the need to “speak truth” and carried flags that read “Trump is our President.” When one participant announced that the US Capitol had been breached, people cheered and he claimed “It’s war now!” according to the Olympian. Dozens of people made their way to Gov. Inslee’s mansion, where they breached the gates. They were unable to enter the home.

rhetoric about the election. In Pennsylvania, rallies to stop the certification of the 2020 election largely took place on Monday. In Idaho, a rally run by an organization called MAGA Girl brought forward speakers who spewed false claims about the election, according to the Idaho Press, though it was relatively calm. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, organizers gathered on the Capitol’s steps, flew “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Keep America Great” flags, and criticized Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who called on Trump to condemn the violence on Wednesday. Speakers at a rally in Oklahoma City disputed the results of the election and called Biden an illegitimate president; some attendees carried guns and wore body armor. In Michigan, an estimated 700 to 800 people, many without masks, kept their rally outside of the capitol building in Lansing, with some delivering speeches about how they doubted Michigan’s vote count.

 

Pennsylvania GOP Senators Refuse to Seat a Democrat and Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman from Presiding

by Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez

January 5, 2021
The Philadelphia Inquirer

 


President Donald Trump supporters gather on the statehouse steps as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are sworn in.
Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press  //  Boston Globe

HARRISBURG — The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start Tuesday, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials.

Amid high emotions and partisan finger-pointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session. They apparently did so because they did not believe Fetterman was following the rules and recognizing their legislative motions.

Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.

The bitterness and rancor on display were a departure from the normally staid and sedate workings of the chamber. And it potentially sets the stage for a tumultuous two-year session, which will include debate over key legislative priorities such as redistricting.

“With this reckless, out-of-control, cowboy-like behavior, with this Trumpian behavior that we saw today from Republicans … this does not bode well. It does not bode well for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Vince Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

For now, at least, Democratic State Sen. Jim Brewster, of Allegheny County, will not be allowed to take the oath of office, as Republicans believe litigation over the outcome in his race must first play out in federal court. GOP leaders have said the state constitution gives senators the authority to refuse to seat a member if they believe the person does not meet the qualifications to hold office.

Brewster narrowly won reelection over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election results. At the center of that legal dispute are several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on an outer envelope, as required by state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed those ballots to be counted, which gave Brewster the edge in the race.
 


Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (center) confers with Senate Secretary Megan Martin (right), as Sen. Jake Corman (front, center), takes over the session to conduct a vote to remove Fetterman from residing over the session in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Bobby Maggio, Fetterman’s chief of staff, stands to the left.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny), along with Sen. Anthony Williams (D., Philadelphia), delivered stinging rebukes to Republican colleagues for refusing to acknowledge Brewster’s win. Costa has said he believes the maneuver was out of “the Trump playbook” of nakedly partisan maneuvers and refusing to accept valid election outcomes.

Costa also had tough words for Corman as he urged his colleagues to vote against the senator.

“The president pro tempore is to be a leader for the entire body — not of one party,” Costa said. “Nowhere in the constitution does it say that the leader should be beholden to the partisan whims of his own party.”

The state’s top Democrat, Gov. Tom Wolf, called the Senate’s refusal to seat Brewster, whose reelection was certified by the state, “simply unethical and undemocratic.”

“Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationally have spread disinformation and used it to subvert the democratic process,” the governor said in a statement.

For his part, Corman appeared unruffled. Addressing the chamber, he called his new role “the honor of a lifetime,” and said he would work as a leader not just of Republicans — as he did in his previous role as the GOP’s majority leader — but the entire Senate.

He also pledged transparency and good-government reforms.

“We are here today and every day to serve the public,” Corman said. “And I’ve always been a big believer that things that unite us are far stronger than things that divide us.”

As the session opened Tuesday, Democrats attempted several legislative actions to force the GOP to swear in Brewster. But as the minutes ticked by, tempers flared and several senators began to shout across the aisle as the two sides locked horns and Fetterman presided.

Within an hour, Republicans had voted to remove Fetterman from his spot at the rostrum at the front of the chamber after he failed to recognize a GOP motion to prevent Brewster from being seated.

For several chaotic minutes, there appeared to be two people presiding over parallel sessions, as Fetterman refused to leave the chamber.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Fetterman said he was disappointed that what should have been a day of pictures and smiles as senators were sworn into office devolved into bitterness.

But, he said, he had a conversation with Corman before the session in which he was unequivocal about his belief that the chamber should seat Brewster, just as every other senator whose election had been certified.

“He has the identical credentials that everyone else who was sworn in had today,” Fetterman said, adding that what unfolded on the Senate floor “subverted the democratic will of voters.”

The fracas overshadowed a moment of history in the chamber, with Republican Sen. Kim Ward of Westmoreland County becoming the first female majority leader.

Meanwhile, across a hallway in the Capitol, the mood was much calmer in the House of Representatives. There, members elected Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) as speaker.

“I hope that as we begin this new legislative term that you will always remember that the most important people here in this commonwealth are not the ones that occupy the seats in this beautiful chamber. And to be clear, they’re not in the Senate either,” Cutler said. “It’s all of our citizens back home. Let us never forget that in a republican form of government, the sovereign is always the citizens of the commonwealth.”

[Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters..]