Orange County's Leaders Respond To Capitol Hill Crisis, Violence

Ashley Ludwig

ORANGE COUNTY, CA — Many of Orange County's lawmakers were on Capitol Hill Wednesday, during the joint session of Congress in Washington D.C., to certify the 2020 presidential election results. That session was disrupted by a volatile protest that saw hundreds of Trump supporters breach the Capitol Mall in Washington D.C.

The staff of multiple congress members was hiding in place or evacuated from nearby buildings like the Senate and House chambers went into lockdown.

Read: Protesters Amass In CA In 'Wild' Protest Of 2020 Election Results | Across California, CA Patch

Orange County's leadership has shared their messages over social media after being disrupted during Congress's joint session in Washington D.C. Wednesday.

The congressmen and women met to certify the presidential election results when that session was disrupted by hundreds of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol building.

Congressman Mike Levin of the 49th District arrived early Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, expecting a long day of debates about the presidential election and heeding warnings about protests, but never expected the scale of the violence that erupted.

"I followed the guidance provided by the sergeant of arms to come to my office early this morning, knowing the situation was going to be a difficult one," Levin told City News Service.

"We knew we would have voted on three states to be contested," Levin said. "I got here early, and we were told to stay in your office because of the public health recommendations, which suggested we shouldn't have too many people on the floor at any given time, so it was significantly limited. So I remained in my office and waited for the debate over Arizona and for a vote to occur, and, obviously, we never got there. They had to recess because the protesters had breached (the Capitol)."

Levin said the insurrection was "truly disgraceful. What can I say? I never thought it would happen."

The congressman said he and his colleagues have all been "sheltering in place, waiting for further instructions. No one gets in or out of the (Capitol) complex. It's a very difficult situation."

Levin condemned the violence.

"It's not who we are as Americans," he said. "We are better than this. We can disagree all we want, have passionate disagreements, but we should never resort to violence over our political differences."

He added, "Those who resorted to violence must be held to account. It's just unacceptable."

Levin praised local law enforcement's response.

"I think they did their best with the resources they had," Levin said of District of Columbia police. "Hats off to Capitol Police, who keep us safe every day around here. And D.C. Metropolitan police do a great job as well. But we're talking about thousands and thousands of protesters, and the fact of the matter is the National Guard should be here."

Levin said he was mostly "just sad. Sad for our country, sad this group has decided to undermine decades of peaceful protest, traditions of peaceful protest." He added that it was acceptable to have passionate disagreements over politics, but "the fact that this has happened is awful."

Santa Ana Rep. Lou Correa was on the House floor Wednesday when the mob that stormed the Capitol tried to barge in. Many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues joined together, "ready to kick some ass," Correa told City News Service it was like "just like a movie."

On Wednesday morning, Correa dropped his family off at the airport in Baltimore and took a train to the Capitol.

"There must have been 60 to 70 (President Donald) Trump supporters on that train," he said. "They were very respectful, very quiet, just going to support the president."

Then, as they made their way to the Capitol, "Trump and his son whipped the crowd up, saying, 'You have to defend them,"' Correa said. Later, when he was in the House chamber, Correa described the scene.

"I looked up, hearing people banging on those chamber doors," he said. "I saw something I never saw before. I saw Democratic congress members, Republican congress members joining hands and helping the more senior members of Congress evacuate, helping ladies get through that area and getting ready to defend that castle in case of a breach. I saw unity, unity of purpose, unity of Americans."

Then, security advised the congressional members to take cover, and if they sensed tear gas, to not look up, Correa said.

"They said 'everybody gets out. We're about to use tear gas. There are tear gas masks under your seats,'" Correa said. "I never knew we had tear gas masks under our desks, but I looked, and there was a package. We grabbed one, and we're walking around with it. You could smell (the tear gas)."

As the mob tried to push its way into the chamber, Correa said there was a sense that, "We were ready to hold the line. I don't know what would have happened, but you saw Democrats and Republicans ready to kick some ass."
Correa said he saw security "grabbing very priceless desks, probably antiques, using them as reinforcement to stop the doors from opening and the guns were drawn everywhere."

Correa said he expects a push to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

"I don't think he meant to (unite Democrats and Republicans) but he has united us," Correa told the media.

He called on his congressional colleagues, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to "stop the fiery speeches. I would ask them in their conscience, what are you going to do now? Isn't it time to stop playing politics with these divisive themes that are essentially destroying the nation?"

Correa said he was "more determined than ever" to finish certifying the presidential election results.

"I don't want to leave until we finish our job," Correa said.

Correa praised local police for their restraint.

"If they started opening fire on those crowds, how many people would have died?" Correa said. "Thousands, if not hundreds."

Newly sworn-in congresswoman, Young Kim of the 39th district, shared that she and her staff are safe amid the chaos in Washington.

"My team & I are safe," she said over Twitter. "Thank you to our law enforcement, who are putting their lives on the line. Peaceful protests are a First Amendment right & fundamental to our democracy, but violence is unacceptable. The chaos & violence we're seeing at the Capitol must stop immediately."

Rep. Katie Porter was reported as "safe and sheltering" by her staff.

Michelle Steel, of the 48th congressional district, is quarantined due to recent coronavirus exposure. Patch has reached out to her office for comment and will update this post when that is received.

The Republican Leader and representative from Bakersfield area Kevin McCarthy said over Twitter that Wednesday's activities by the mob of rioters are "unacceptable and un-American. It has got to stop."

This report will be updated.

This article originally appeared on the Lake Forest Patch