Lawmakers turn to social media after insurrectionists storm Capitol


Newly minted U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman was still setting into his new office on Capitol Hill when he was called to the House floor to take part in a joint session gathering that happens only once every four years: certifying the Electoral College votes for president.

The congressional role in this process is almost always ceremonial, although some lawmakers will occasionally use the proceedings led by the Vice President of the United States to air grievances about candidates.

This time around, Congress would rubber stamp the election of Joe Biden as the country's 46th president two weeks ahead of his inauguration. But this particular certification ceremony was going to be anything but normal.

Rioters and insurrectionists stormed Capitol Hill, overrunning police there, and making their way inside the hallowed halls of Congress.  At the time, both the House and the Senate were meeting separately, debating the first of what was expected to be a half-dozen challenges made to Electoral College decisions from Republicans loyal to President Donald Trump.

Police evacuated both chambers and cleared out offices for anyone who was not on the floor. Bowman found himself huddled with his staff, fearing for his safety. And he was angry. And the congressman took that anger to Donald Trump's favorite platform: Twitter.

"What we are seeing right now is fascism fueled by white supremacy," Bowman wrote, after assuring followers he and his team were safe. It's "the logical extension of our failure to reconcile history."

Photos and video footage of the insurrectionists inside the Capitol building showed some of them carrying large Confederate battle flags, while many others were decked out in campaign material touting what would ultimately be Trump's failed attempt to win re-election. Unlike most every other man and woman who lost a presidential race in American history, Trump refused to accept the results — even after losing nearly all of more than 60 court cases around the country challenging those results.

Trump, however, seemed determined to disrupt the certification of Biden's win, with reports he huddled closely with Vice President Mike Pence in hopes he could, as presiding officer, throw out votes intended for Biden.

Five hours later, as some of the last insurrectionists were removed from the capital building and Congress got ready to get back to work on the election results, Bowman tweeted one more time: "Trump must be removed from office immediately."

Not far away, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat — whose congressional district touches Kingsbridge Heights — shared similar sentiments on social media.

"I am upset that the President of the United States has unleashed violence on the Congress, and that he refuses to accept the results of the election," Espaillat said on Twitter. 

"I was elected to serve the people of" the 13th Congressional District. "We will not be bullied. We are not afraid."

Many news commentators, especially, compared police response to the Trump insurrectionists to previous Black Lives Matter protests. There, it appeared whole armies had been dispatched to protect every inch of private and public property.

Yet, despite warnings violence could erupt in an attempt to disrupt Electoral College certification on Capitol Hill, it took hours for Trump to call out National Guard troops — and then only long after the mayor of Washington, D.C., ordered a strict curfew beginning at sundown.

"This is a breach of the Capitol," Espaillat said. "Someone will answer for this. If this was a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration, they would have been met with rubber bullets, bean bags and handcuffs.

"Nearly 300 peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested in just one night back in June. Yet, today, we saw rioters break into Congress, gaslit by this failure of a president. Yet they were peacefully moved off the stairs with no handcuffs in sight. This is abhorrent."

Hundreds of miles away from the mayhem, some local leaders also expressed their disgust over what was happening in Washington.

"It's a coup attempt right here in the USA," Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz wrote on Twitter. "Trump and all of his quislings should be put on trial for treason. BLM protesters never stormed the Capitol. Only Trump's thugs."

Congress finally certified the vote just before 4 a.m., and as expected, Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in just after noon on Jan. 20. As the sun rose Thursday, early morning news outlets tried to put into words what happened the day before, all while seeing pictures of people sitting in the same chair Pence had occupied just minutes before, while another rioter kicked his feet up in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Espaillat, however, took a picture of himself walking through the halls of the Capitol, a bright white mask on his face, and Capitol police in the background.

"We are strong. We are resilient. We will not be intimidated," the congressman wrote. "This is America."