As the House of Representatives was doing a ceremonial counting of the Electoral College votes Wednesday to award the White House to President-elect Joe Biden, a crowd of rioters incited by President Donald Trump stormed the building, leading members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff and members of the media to temporarily seek shelter.
Before they were cleared by authorities, the rioters wandered around the Capitol, breaking windows, ransacking offices and making off with souvenirs.
Four people were killed in the riot, including a rioter shot by Capitol police.
After order was restored, the House and Senate completed their tabulation of the vote (after a few GOP objections to some vote tallies states, including Arizona, that were overruled) and acknowledged that Biden had defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
Most Arizona elected officials condemned the storming of the Capitol, but some Republicans had praise for the rioters.
Sen. Mark Kelly, the newly elected Democrat from Arizona, criticized the Republicans who challenged the outcome of the election as well as the rioters.
“Our democracy was tested today,” Kelly said. “First, by a baseless objection to Arizona’s electoral votes, despite the fact that Arizona’s elections were fairly administered and certified by a Republican Governor, a Democratic Secretary of State, and public servants at every level of government and representing both political parties. And then again by individuals, spurred on by the president, storming the Capitol in an unpatriotic attempt to overturn our election."
Kelly added that after elections, “we have come together to find common ground and solve our challenges, and that is the work we begin tonight. My focus will continue to be on representing Arizonans by working with Republicans and Democrats and the incoming administration to beat this virus and rebuild our economy.”
Kelly’s fellow Democratic senator, Kyrsten Sinema, condemned the violence and blamed Trump for inciting it.
“The violence of today cannot become commonplace in America,” Sinema said. “This was not protest; protest is peaceful. This was violent insurrection incited by Donald Trump. We must remain the shining light and model for democracy and peaceful transitions of power, where the people’s voice is the law of the land. I will forever be grateful to the law enforcement and first responders who risked their own safety for others. Now, we reject violence and recommit to the values that make us America.”
Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) likewise blamed Trump for inciting the rioters and said Wednesday's events “will go down as one of the darkest and most shameful days of our republic as domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol in an effort to threaten and intimidate lawmakers into overturning our free and fair elections.”
“For years, President Trump has engaged in a relentless assault on our values, sought to divide us, and pitted communities against one another,” Grijalva added. “He’s denigrated our institutions, attacked our values, and winked and nodded to the ideas of dangerous militias and conspiracy theorists. What occurred at the Capitol today was the product of Trump and all the havoc he’s wrought on our system—all with the tacit approval of his willing congressional enablers. Calling it a disgrace isn’t enough. It’s an outright abomination to this country, and those who engaged in these acts must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Southern Arizona Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick likewise called it a “dark day in American history” and put the blame on Trump.
“Make no mistake: today’s acts have been brewing for four years under the outgoing president,” Kirkpatrick said. “The cowardly assault on our democracy is not new — it’s simply more visible. It paves the way for a terribly slippery slope to fascism. Those who infiltrated the Capitol Building and threatened the lives of law enforcement, journalists, elected officials, essential workers, and many others, will not bring down democracy. Together, we are stronger than the mob.”
During the riot, Gov. Doug Ducey took to social media to call for it to end.
“In America, we practice peaceful transitions of power,” said Ducey, a Republican who faced criticism from Trump supporters after he co-certified Arizona’s election results. “We respect the law and law enforcement. The scene at the United States Capitol right now is wrong and has no place in our form of government. All should denounce, and it should end now.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican who also affirmed Arizona’s election results but later looked into joining a lawsuit led by the state of Texas to invalidate votes in other states, spoke out against the action of the rioters but said their concerns about election integrity needed to be heard.
“This is America,” Brnovich said. “We do not destroy buildings and institutions in order to save them. I encourage everyone to express themselves in a peaceful way and I hope our elected officials will listen to the concerns of the people. We all need to stop the fighting and start the listening.”
Other Republicans praised the assault on the Capitol. Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who has been engaged in numerous protests and frivolous lawsuits designed to overturn the election, said that lawmakers should stop with the ceremony and allow state lawmakers to toss out Biden’s victory and replace his electors with their preferred slates.
“Congress is adjourned,” Ward tweeted. “Send the elector choice back to the legislatures.”
That brought a blunt retort from U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ070, who tweeted: “Fuck you we are. Democracy will not die tonight.”
State Rep. Mark Finchem, an Oro Valley Republican who pushed to throw out Arizona’s legitimate election results and give the race to Trump, was in D.C. and tweeted a photo from the scene of the riot. Finchem’s caption for the photo: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. and Vice Chairwoman Wavalene Saunders released a joint statement condemning “the violent and disgraceful events that unfolded yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. While peaceful protest is the right of every American, yesterday’s actions were nothing of the sort. Rioters violently and deliberately disrupted the constitutional process of certifying the Electoral College vote, part of the peaceful transfer of power that is the very foundation of our democracy.
“This assault was stoked by a President who has demonstrated his utter contempt for his responsibilities as an elected leader,” the prepared statement continued. “His incitement of yesterday’s riots serves as a final stain on his legacy of failed leadership. It was a shameful moment, and insults to our shared values as Americans. We cannot allow a single individual – or a mob – to simply discard the will of more than 81 million voters who made their voices heard last November.”