Every day, our journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues important to all North Carolinians.
North Carolinians are expressing horror after a violent rioting mob of pro-Donald Trump extremists stormed the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday as Congress prepared to certify the result of the 2020 presidential election, won by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The failed attempt to halt the process more than backfired, as some Republicans who had been prepared to oppose certification changed their minds and supported it early Thursday morning, with Congress overwhelmingly defeating objections to accepting electors from several states.
Meanwhile, Trump’s encouragement of the insurrection has led to some rumblings, even within his own party, for his removal from office before the end of his term.
Members of Congress expressed shock and dismay at the insurrection, while also rejecting the mob’s ability to derail the democratic process.
“I’m safe, our staff is safe, and we are sheltering in place,” tweeted Rep. Alma Adams, D-Charlotte, late Wednesday afternoon.
“The safety of our staff and colleagues is my number one priority. As soon as the situation at the Capitol passes, I stand ready to do my duty, certify the vote, and return to the business of working #For the People.”
Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Raleigh, talked to Carolina Public Press early Wednesday evening about what had happened.
“It’s really a dark day for this country,” Ross said. “We have prided ourselves on the peaceful transfer of power over more than 200 years. … That there is a segment of our population that doesn’t respect the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power, and that there are elected officials who have incited that, makes this a very, very, very sad time.
“But we’ve got to restore respect for the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power. We’ve got to accept the electors. And then, we’ve got to move on with healing and with the acceptance that we are going to have a new president and a new vice president.”
Several Republican members of Congress from North Carolina also disagreed with the rioters’ attempt to subvert the democratic process.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr strongly objected to both the violence and congressional Republicans’ efforts to prevent Biden from taking office.
“For nearly 250 years, our nation’s commitment to the peaceful transition of power has been the shining hallmark of our democracy,” Burr said in a statement Wednesday evening.
“Today, America’s core principles were threatened by those seeking to forcibly stop our electoral process and overturn the results of a presidential election with which they disagreed. Let me be clear: These actions are not a defense of this country, but an attack on it.”
Burr noted the lack of evidence to support Trump’s specious assertions that he really won the election he lost.
“I supported President Trump’s legal right to contest the election results through the courts, but the courts have now unanimously and overwhelmingly rejected these suits,” Burr said.
“No evidence of voter fraud has emerged that would warrant overturning the 2020 election. The president bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point. It is past time to accept the will of American voters and to allow our nation to move forward.
“Congress will uphold its constitutional duty and certify the results of the election.
Rep. David Rouzer, R-Johnston County, said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon: “Thank you to all who have reached out. My staff and I are safe. The lawlessness witnessed at the Capitol today is despicable and should be condemned in the strongest possible way.
“This is not who we are as a nation. A vigorous debate and differences of opinion should never — ever — be an excuse for lawlessness and violence. Praying for our Capitol Police, other law enforcement personnel and those injured today.”
Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Charlotte, similarly tweeted, “Violence is always unacceptable and must stop NOW. We solve our problems through debate and peaceful protests, not violence.”
The theme of support for law enforcement was a common one among North Carolina Republicans, including several who opposed certification of the election results but said they rejected the insurgents’ violent methods.
“I’ve been evacuated from the House floor,” tweeted Rep. Ted Budd, R-Davie County.
“We are safe thanks to the brave men & women of the Capitol Hill Police. I remain resolved to uphold my oath to the Constitution & debate our disagreements. Violence is not acceptable & protesters should disperse peacefully immediately.”
While some Republican members of the North Carolina’s congressional delegation voiced undiluted opposition to violence, the message of others compared the summer 2020 protesters marching against the killing of Blacks by police to the pro-Trump extremists who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis tweeted, “I proudly back the blue and support law and order, which is why I condemned the violence that took place in cities across the nation this summer. It’s a national disgrace to have a mob attacking Capitol Police and engaging in anarchy. This is not what America stands for.”
Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Greenville, also alluded to the earlier riots in his tweet Wednesday.
“Let me first and foremost, in the strongest way possible, condemn the anarchy and violence that has beset our Capitol today,” Murphy said. “As I have said many times, peaceful protests are one of the most meaningful foundations of our democracy.
“However, violence like today or any type of violence like looting and burning in protest is not to be tolerated. We were having meaningful debate in the House chamber regarding beliefs about the United States Constitution and possible violations of it by certain states. That meaningful dialogue has now been destroyed and marred by this violence. This is not how America operates. I am ashamed of this horrible behavior.”
Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, struck a defiant tone with blame clearly placed at the feet of the president and the Republicans who have supported him over the last four years.
“Our Republican House members from North Carolina have been ready to go along with these objections (to Biden’s victory), with no justification, no factual justification,” Price said in an interview with CPP Wednesday evening.
“One would hope that they would have second thoughts about that because we’re playing with fire here. The violent potential is clear from what happened today, but the anti-democratic potential has been evident for a long time. You must have a peaceful transfer of power when a legitimate election dictates it, and to the extent this country can’t manage that, we’re no longer a real democracy, much less an example to the rest of the world.”
But Price’s harshest condemnation was directed at Trump himself.
“We’ve seen this coming and should have seen it coming,” Price said. “I mean, when have we ever had a sitting president urging us, urging state officials to overturn a legitimate election, basically urging a coup on his behalf?
“All his career, he’s flirted with violence. You know how at his rallies he teased about people getting roughed up. He has that tendency, and he has an affinity for dictators, and we know all that. So, in that sense, his behavior has clearly led up to this, both in terms of not accepting the peaceful transfer of power and accepting the verdict of elections, but also in inciting violence.
“Still, I must tell you, I did not dream that it would come to what it did today, and I don’t think anybody else did either.”
Ross also warned that Wednesday’s rioting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power “shakes the foundation of our democracy.”
She also expressed hope that some of the Republicans who had engaged in a challenge they must have known was futile to the election’s outcome would wake up to the poisonous results of their actions.
“What I am seeing that is somewhat heartening is that many of the people who were interested in the procedure of challenging electors and making that into a spectacle have seen what it created,” Ross said.
Safety and security
Several members of the North Carolina delegation commented on concerns about the handling of the riots and the security of the Capitol in a situation that went beyond anything that the nation has seen in its history at the halls of government.
“I think it was more than enough security for any kind of normal protest,” Price said of the police presence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “And we’ve had a lot, but we have never had one like this, not in modern history, where it really is an insurgency. It’s armed mobs storming the Capitol. I’m told that didn’t even happen at the time of the Civil War.
“I do think there will be a reckoning here of the inadequacy of the security for this occasion. And we’ll have to fix that and have to, going forward, assess these white nationalist groups and their tendency toward violence and how menacing this has become.”
Ross described the tense moments as the rioting got out of control.
Members were asked to stay in their offices until they were voting, both for security and because of the coronavirus, she said, also describing an earlier evacuation of one congressional office building that ended ahead of the major rioting.
“What happens next, was that the protesters … stormed the Capitol and incited violence,” Ross said. “A woman was shot. They came … through Statuary Hall. They ignored law enforcement. And the entire Capitol Complex had to be evacuated.”
She added that law enforcement was still restoring order as she talked with CPP early Wednesday evening.
As members of Congress prepared to return to complete the disrupted process late Wednesday, Price spoke of his confidence in the system being allowed to work.
“It’s important to signal dissent that we will not be derailed by thuggery and insurgency. That’s just not going to happen in this country.”
But Price said the ultimate future of the country remains to be decided.
“Going forward the big question is, can this country come together?” he said. “Can we overcome this polarization and this extreme ideology that has poisoned our national bloodstream?”
Political advocacy groups on both the right and left in North Carolina issued statements condemning the violence Wednesday, even if they disagreed about the underlying election issues.
The right-leaning Christian Action League of North Carolina, while continuing to oppose the outcome of the election, condemned the pro-Trump extremists for actions contrary to Christianity.
“I fully understand the frustration of those who believe the election was stolen, the process constitutionally undermined,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, CAL executive director. “I share those sentiments. Like many, I smell a skunk in the woodpile.”
But Creech said he found the violent actions contrary to the teaching of Christian Scripture. Like some congressional leaders, he compared Wednesday’s failed attempt to overturn the government of the United States to summer 2020 protests.
“Mob violence, lawlessness, whether it is antifa or Black Lives Matter or Trump supporters, is not the way of Christ,” Creech said. “You cannot coddle or cooperate with it, lest you stand against Christ himself.”
The N.C. Association of Educators issued a statement calling for North Carolina leaders to take a united stand against what occurred Wednesday and linking it with the undercurrent of terroristic racial extremism that has been prominent among pro-Trump extremists for years.
“The violence and mayhem we are witnessing in Washington today is yet another symptom of the disease we have been fighting since before the founding of our nation: white Supremacy,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said.
“These actions amount to nothing short of a domestic terrorist attack on our country and on our very democracy.
“Those who continued to feed lies about this election, in a desperate attempt to hold onto power they clearly do not deserve and undermine the will of the people, are ultimately responsible for today’s clashes.
“We are calling on all of North Carolina’s elected officials to immediately condemn not only the actions of these provocateurs but also to condemn those who have fanned the flames of hatred and ignorance that enabled these anti-democratic ideas to take root.
“Make no mistake, an angry mob of armed white people inside of our Capitol, threatening our government, including the very Republican leaders complicit in this attack, is nothing short of terrorism, and it must be condemned as such. We must name it in order for our nation to move forward from this moment.”
At least two former presidents from each of the major parties were united in their disgust over Wednesday’s events, according to statements they issued.
Republican former President George W. Bush said he and his wife, Laura Bush, watched events with “dismay.”
“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight,” Bush said in a statement. “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic.
“Insurrection could do grave damage to our nation and reputation. … Our country is more important than the politics of the moment.”
Democratic former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president, also voiced alarm.
Obama said the violence at the Capitol was “incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election.”
Obama called the actions Wednesday “a moment of great dishonor and shame in our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”
He said the Republican Party and “its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth,” that the election was not close and that Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
“Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments,” Obama said in a statement.
“Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.”
Other reactions to the insurrection
- Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, in a Wednesday afternoon tweet: “I am safe and monitoring the violent uprising that is ongoing at the U.S. Capitol complex. Please pray for our country.”
- Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-Denver, in a Wednesday afternoon tweet: “The violence that we are witnessing at the United States Capitol is completely unacceptable. I am thankful to the brave men and women of the @CapitolPolice who are doing their duty and working diligently to keep everyone in the Capitol safe. God bless our law enforcement.”
- Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Watauga County, in a Wednesday afternoon tweet: “I am safe. Members of my staff are safe. The protestors within the Capitol must immediately back down. Senseless violence accomplishes absolutely nothing. Law and order must be upheld. Violence like what we’re witnessing in the United States Capitol is unacceptable. People have the right to peacefully protest, and there is absolutely no reason to resort to destruction. God bless the brave men and women of the United States Capitol Police for protecting us.”
- Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-Asheville, in a Wednesday afternoon tweet: “As Americans we can not tolerate violence. Peacefully protest ONLY. We must let Congress work and uphold law and order.”
- Rep. Kathy Manning, D-Greensboro, in a statement released Wednesday evening: “The violent insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol today is a dark moment in our nation’s history. Armed rioters, purposely incited by President Trump, stormed the Capitol, interrupting the certification of the Electoral College vote. Their actions required a frightening lock down of the House Chamber, with a harrowing evacuation of members and staff that could easily have resulted in injury or death. This attempted coup is an act of terrorism. Those responsible must be held accountable. I am grateful for the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers who assisted in evacuating us from the House chamber and getting us to safety. They are also to be commended for evacuating the other areas in the Capitol complex and making sure that all the Congressional employees who work so hard on behalf of the American people are safe tonight. Today’s actions will not deter us from our purpose. We will uphold our Constitutional duty and vote to certify the Electoral College vote. Democracy will win.”
- Gov. Roy Cooper, Democrat, posting to Facebook Wednesday afternoon: “The peaceful transition of power is the hallmark of our democracy. Today’s terrorism is not who we are. This attack on our country must be overcome. America is better than this.”
- Former Gov. Pat McCrory, Republican, tweeting Wednesday evening: “Mob rule and violence was unacceptable in our cities across our country this past year and it is even more unacceptable today in our nation’s capital. We must support peaceful transition of power together! I did it as a governor and our President must do the same. God bless USA.”
Laura Lee, Kate Martin and Frank Taylor contributed to this article.
Click here for long broadcast script.
Click here for short broadcast script.