At a Wednesday morning rally near the White House, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, told the pro-Trump crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
He is the leader of a group of representatives challenging the Electoral College votes of three states where President-elect Joe Biden won in the November election.
A few hours later, he was among hundreds of legislators hunkering down and then fleeing as Trump supporters broke through police lines and stormed into the Capitol building, leading to a lockdown that stalled certification of November’s vote. One woman was shot in the chest and died, and several law enforcement officers were injured in the melee, the District of Columbia mayor said in a press conference.
“DOORS LOCKED! CAPITOL COMPLEX BREACHED! CHAMBER DOORS LOCKED. SPEAKER LEAVES!” Brooks first tweeted while detailing his experience in the Capitol.
He later tweeted that the police evacuation of the House of Representatives was “hurried but otherwise orderly” and said he “heard loud shouting echoing down Capitol halls during evacuation.”
While Brooks supported protests around the effort to stall certification of votes Biden’s win, apparently he didn’t expect them to go as far as they did.
“As a strong supporter of (the) Rule of Law, I hope EVERYONE who illegally breached Capitol is prosecuted to fullest extent of the laws,” he tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Quite frankly, I am surprised by the constraint of Capitol Police. Senseless. Achieves nothing productive.”
He later issued a statement saying that the violence at the Capitol was “despicable, un-American, and tears at the fabric of our great Republic.” He continued to say, “In America, the appropriate way to achieve political goals, to beat the stew out of disagreeable political philosophies, is via free speech, vigorous public debate, and at the ballot box.”
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Birmingham Democrat, also was on the House floor when the Capitol was overrun. “There has been a breach of the Capitol building. We are locked inside the House chamber until Capitol Police allows us to leave. Praying that this chaos dissipates and no one gets hurt,” she tweeted.
She later followed up to reassure her followers that she was “sheltering in a safe location and praying for the safety of our nation, members of Congress, congressional staff, law enforcement and Capitol Hill residents.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt tweeted that he also was on the House floor objecting to certification of electoral votes when the incursion began. He later said, “God has brought this nation through many dark days over the past 240 plus years. We have always been able to settle our disputes peaceably. I believe He will continue to guide & protect this nation. However, as a nation we need to see His guidance in peace. He is in full control!”
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby on Twitter lamented the events: “Today is a very dark day for our country. I am safe thanks to the protection and swift action by our law enforcement officials. Our Founding Fathers warned against mob rule. Law and order must be established and maintained.”
Former Sen. Doug Jones left office Sunday after losing his bid for a full term to Tommy Tuberville and was not at the Capitol on Wednesday. But he said in a scathing statement Thursday that the violence was “the culmination of dangerous and divisive rhetoric from the President, a subservient party leadership and rank-and-file, and a right-wing media eco-system that spreads lies and information all for the purpose of short-term political gain and at the expense of our treasured democracy.”
Jones also weighed in on the ineffective response of security forces to the pro-Trump mob, saying the rioters “enjoyed kid glove treatment in the halls of Congress” while last year the nation saw “tear gas, rubber bullets and physical force liberally used on peaceful Black Live Matter protesters.”
The former U.S. attorney also expressed his shame that Tuberville and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Gary Palmer, Mike Rogers, Barry Moore and Jerry Carl, all Republicans, supported an effort to challenge certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College. Jones called that “an effort to subvert democracy with absolutely no basis” and said the Alabamians were now acting “as if they had no idea their words had (the) power to enable the actions of the mob we saw yesterday.
“But of course, they knew,” Jones said. “Words have meaning and consequences. Our own state history is a masterclass in how dangerous words can be. Senator (Richard) Shelby and Congresswoman (Terri) Sewell are the true patriots here.”
Shelby, the state’s senior senator and a Republican, and Sewell, the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, did not support the Electoral College challenge.
“America is hurting and sick,” Jones said. “We all have to be a part of her healing.”
Alabama’s Republican and Democratic Party chairmen also issued statements condemning the attacks on the Capitol.
GOP chairwoman Terry Lathan said in a statement that the mob’s actions were “not American and cannot be tolerated.”
“We support law enforcement efforts to control and arrest any person who is violating laws and causing harm to property or people,” she said.
Democratic chairman Chris England in his statement said Trump and Brooks encouraged the rioters in remarks at rally earlier in the day.
“The American people voted loud and clear that Donald Trump did not deserve a second term as President of the United States, and the disorder of this lame duck period shows clearly why,” England said in his statement. “(Biden and Harris) will take office on Jan. 20 … because the Constitution says they will. At that point, this sorry period of American history will be over, but our healing will just begin.”
Alabama’s newest House members, Reps. Jerry Carl and Barry Moore, also tweeted about the day’s events.
“Americans have a right to protest, but violence is never the answer. I’m praying for the safety of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the law enforcement protecting us,” Carl said.
Lawlessness and anarchy are never the answer. We are — and always will be — a nation of law and order. While I support Americans’ 1st Amendment rights, I strongly condemn any and all violence & fully support our brave Capitol Police and LEOs,” Moore said.
This story was updated Thursday evening to include Jones’ statement.
Tom Gordon contributed to this report.