In a day they described as alarming and surreal, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation described Wednesday locking down in their offices or other secure locations as a mob supporting President Donald Trump breached security barricades, stormed into the U.S. Capitol and tried to enter the House chamber.
“They are trying to break down the doors of the House chamber now,” said U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat.
“The president has to be charged with sedition for inciting to riot. It’s outright sedition. This is nothing short of an attempt to take over the government of the United States,” the congressman said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun.
Mfume was locked down in the Rayburn House Office Building as his staff monitored social media. The staff said there had been evacuations of two other office buildings in the Capitol complex, Madison and Cannon, but that Mfume was “sitting tight.”
Said Mfume: “I grew up in Baltimore. I grew up in the streets. You’ve got to do a whole lot to scare me. “I’m more concerned about the innocent men and women who work in this building and whose safety is in jeopardy. They are almost the victims of a crazy mob incited by the president.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen remained locked down in his office late in the afternoon, saying defiantly that Congress should not leave the Capitol complex until it finishes its task of certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The mob assembled at the Capitol to support Trump’s contention that the election was rigged against him.
“I really do cry for our country today,” Van Hollen said. “Nobody should be successful in using mob violence. I never thought we’d see a violent mob take control of the U.S. Capitol. It frankly makes me sick to my stomach.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin offered an angry retort after Trump tweeted his support of Capitol Police and law enforcement.
“Pouring the gasoline, lighting the match and then praising the firefighters,” Cardin tweeted. “Really quite unfathomable that this chaos was instigated — encouraged — by the President of the United States.”
Trump, Cardin tweeted, “needs to stop this now. His volatile words started it and he must end it peacefully.”
A spokeswoman for Democratic Rep. David Trone said the congressman was in the House gallery for floor debate when he was evacuated. He sent the staff photos of himself wearing a gas mask.
Trone said the mask had been placed under his desk by Capitol Police in the event it was needed. He said police had considered “gassing the demonstrators themselves” in the House chamber, if necessary.
When the mob reached the Capitol, the congressman said police “locked the doors and we continued with the debate. The debate ended when the protesters were seen in the rotunda.”
Trone said he and about 100 other members and staff were led to a secure location where they are being given water and vending machine food.
“It really boggles my mind,” Trone said. “President Trump will no doubt go down in history as the worst president of the United States. He has fed the flames consistently.”
As the riot escalated, people bearing American flags and Trump-themed flags crowded onto the Capitol steps and some made their way into the building’s Statuary Hall as Capitol Police were unable to hold them back.
The dangerous display came as Maryland Democrats accused congressional Republicans of trying to subvert Democracy by contesting Biden’s victory.
“The 2020 election is over and the people have spoken,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said on the House floor earlier in the afternoon.
All of Maryland’s delegation are Democrats except Rep. Andy Harris, who did not return calls seeking comment. Harris has backed Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud and had planned to take an active part in legislative efforts by some Republicans on Wednesday to challenge the Electoral College tally for Biden.
About 90 minutes into the chaos Wednesday afternoon, Harris posted a message on his Facebook page.
“A peaceful protest outside is fine, but what is happening at the Capitol building right now is not. Let us make the case for each state we’re objecting to. Let the points be made. We can’t do that with the riotous behavior.”