They were there: Garamendi recounts siege of Capitol

Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. Jan. 

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi was on his way to the Capitol floor last Wednesday to cast his vote to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election when he was turned around by police and told to find a safe place – the Capitol Building was under siege by a mob attempting to disrupt congressional proceedings.

Garamendi, a Fairfield Democrat, represents California’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Colusa, Sutter, Yuba and portions of Glenn, Lake, Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties.

The atmosphere leading up to the incident was tense, he said. Approximately 40,000 people attended a rally in Washington, D.C., that President Donald Trump had been planning for weeks. At that rally, Garamendi said, the president proceeded to encourage those in attendance to march to Capitol Hill to stop the Electoral College voting process. A short time later, a mob descended on the federal building and overtook the United States Capitol Police.

“There was a lack of preparation by police. They simply didn’t do their job, and the planning, if there was any, was clearly inadequate,” Garamendi said. “Keep in mind a few months earlier for the Black Lives Matter protests, there were federal troops on the steps of the Capitol. There were none (Wednesday) and no one was in riot gear, so there was a lack of planning. Clearly, a riot was incited by the president.”

Garamendi watched the siege from a safe location, though some of his colleagues were caught in the middle of it before being evacuated to safety themselves. He described the incident as an extremely sad event for the nation.

“The overwhelming saddest, that the president of the United States would incite the mob to stop the election process, to desecrate the icon of America’s democracy: the Capitol Building. I’m angered that it would come to this,” Garamendi said.

If any positives could be taken from the incident, it was the fact that both the Senate and the House of Representatives reconvened that same day to carry out Congress’ constitutional task of certifying the election. Garamendi said he was proud that members were back in their chambers conducting business within four hours of the riot.

He expects Congress to conduct an investigation as to why the necessary police force was not in place, especially considering the mayor of Washington D.C. had asked for the National Guard to be mobilized hours before the mob had arrived at the Capitol.

Following the incident, lawmakers brought up the prospect of impeachment, despite Trump being only weeks away from leaving office. Garamendi said he is supportive of that effort for two reasons: first because he believes the president broke federal and state law when he pressured an election official in Georgia to find more than 11,000 votes to change the outcome of the election; and secondly because the president for three weeks encouraged his supporters to come to Washington, D.C., for an event where he incited a mob to storm the Capitol Building.

“His words, his intent was clear. It’s all on video, there’s audio. Those are impeachable offenses,” Garamendi said. “…Do I think there will be a vote? Possibly, but the odds are not good, and we only have 13 days to do it. But I do believe the American record, the Congressional Record, should clearly show that many members of Congress found the president’s actions in Georgia and in Washington as impeachable offenses. That should be in the history books.”

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Garamendi said he has confidence that Inauguration Day will be carried out successfully, considering those events are all-hands-on-deck for public safety personnel in charge of crowd control and riot control. Because of the ongoing pandemic, most people will be watching the event virtually.

“I want (north state residents) to think deeply about our democracy and to understand that our democracy is fragile. Each and every one of us, in our words and votes, must always have in mind that we are blessed with the democracy that has been in place for 244 years, and it’s our responsibility to push further into the future. We do that by voting and calling out those and opposing those that would harm our democracy,” Garamendi said.

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