By Max Bowenemail@example.com
In her 20 years as a state representative, Betty Poirier has seen a number of protests and fully believes in the people’s right to express their opinions.
But after seeing footage of protesters storming the US Capitol on Wednesday, she said she was horrified.
“That’s not our democracy,” said Poirier, formerly the representative for the 14th Bristol District.
As lawmakers met on Wednesday to count the Electoral Votes that would confirm the victory of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, thousands of protesters gathered outside, many supporting theories of a rigged election and fake votes, some of which have been purported by President Donald Trump over the last several weeks.
Carrying pro-Trump flags and banners and chanting “USA USA” and “Stop the Steal,” the protesters stormed the steps of the Capitol in the early afternoon, breaking down doors, destroying statues and artwork, and invading offices of politicians, who were evacuated for their own safety. It has been reported that four people were killed during the riot, which has been denounced by officials both in the U.S. and across the world.
Poirier recounted a somewhat similar incident around 10 years ago. The Massachusetts State House is open to the public, and people can view sessions of the House and Senate. During a late evening when Representatives were debating a proposed budget, hundreds of people gathered and began to jeer and throw things. The representatives were evacuated to a safe location and later told to go home.
“It was scary, very scary,” said Poirier.
Poirier was especially saddened to hear of all the vandalism that has been reported, including protesters breaking into offices and stealing items. She said that private information regarding constituents is kept in those offices.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “It’s not about the representatives, it’s about our districts.”
State Rep. Adam Scanlon was sworn in on Jan. 6, and described the events in Washington as a “shock and a complete surprise.” He said there were no patriots in what was done that day, and that it was “an act of domestic terrorism.”
“It’s extremely abhorrent what happened today,” said Scanlon. “I think everyone thought 2021 needed to be a year for unity and working hand-in-hand.”
Scanlon said that there is certainly polarization in the U.S., but deep down, he believes many Americans want to see the country move forward. He said that the actions seen that day are those of a few and do not represent the people as a whole.
“I think history will judge what happened today and over the last four years,” said Scanlon. “History will have its eyes on us.”
Many have accused President Trump of encouraging the protesters, continuing to speak of how the election was stolen and telling them to gather and oppose the count on Wednesday. As the protesters stormed the Capitol, he called for peace, telling them to go home, but also stood by the belief that the results were rigged.
Poirier said that people are clearly angry with the election results, but that this isn’t the way to deal with them.
“It was just horrible, it hurt me,” said Poirier. “It was almost like a physical pain to watch.”
State Sen. Becca Rausch was being sworn in when the protesters forced their way into the Capitol. Afterward, she received a text message and a link to the news coverage. She said that though shocked and horrified, she not surprised by what she saw.
“The President of the United States literally invited them,” she said. “It’s not even the most recent indication. Donald Trump has been feeding the flames of this fire for the duration of this presidency, even before. This is domestic terrorism, through and through.”
News media captured much of the protest, including images and video of the mob after they entered the Capitol. Rausch said that one image which has stayed with her is guards barricaded in one of the chambers with guns drawn and pointed at protesters who were breaking in through the windows. She has said that everyone involved—including the person who instigated it—should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Our democracy has survived, the Biden-Harris victory has been certified,” said Rausch. “We continue to show the people of the nation and the world that we do not bend to terrorists.”
Many have called for President Trump’s removal, either through impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment. Section 4 stipulates that when the vice president and a majority of a body of Congress declare in writing to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office, the vice president immediately becomes acting president.
Rausch said that even though Trump’s term is up in under two weeks, actions need to have consequences.
“No sitting President of the United States should be able to maintain office for any amount of time when he has so clearly lost any grasp of reality and intentionally subverts democracy while perpetuating flat-out lies designed to wrongly call into question the valid results of a free and fair election.”