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Protesters gather outside state capitols nationwide as chaos sweeps Congress

Phil McCausland and Minyvonne Burke and Ezra Kaplan and Alicia Victoria Lozano
·4 min read
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In Sacramento, California, demonstrators got into physical altercations. In Los Angeles, Trump supporters clashed with police. And in Olympia, Washington, the governor and his family were moved to a secure location.

These were some of the scenes that played out across the country Wednesday as capitol buildings in multiple states bolstered security or shut down in response to protests and chaos on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Georgia, Texas, Wyoming and Pennsylvania were among the states that took precautionary measures as rioters stormed Congress, roamed Senate halls and occupied lawmakers' offices in protest of the Electoral College vote affirming President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the November election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who recently earned the ire of the president, was escorted to his vehicle before leaving the state Capitol building Wednesday.

In Sacramento, police reported physical altercations between two groups of demonstrators before they were separated. California's Secretary of State said its Sacramento offices would close early after Trump supporters gathered outside the Capitol.

And Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled a scheduled coronavirus news conference to keep his staff safe.

In Los Angeles, Trump supporters clashed with police, who declared an unlawful assembly. Mayor Eric Garcetti called it a "dark day for America."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his family were moved to a secure location after protesters broke into the grounds of the governor's mansion in Olympia, according to the state police. Inslee released a statement earlier in the day condemning the violence that exploded in the nation's capital.

“The members of Washington’s congressional delegation, their staff and all who serve in the Capitol should never fear for their safety in carrying out the people’s work," he said in a statement. “But know this — democracy will not be denied."

Unrest also erupted in Salem, Oregon, where state police declared an unlawful assembly after pro-Trump demonstrators attempted to march to the state Capitol. At least one person was arrested, according to police.

Meanwhile, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Texas closed their state legislative buildings and, in some cases, evacuated the employees as demonstrations grew in support of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging the legitimacy of the election results.

The Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, were also closed to the public Wednesday afternoon “out of an abundance of caution,” the Department of Public Safety said in a statement. “While we do not discuss operational details, DPS will continue to adjust our operations as needed to maintain public order and address potential threats,” authorities said.

A group gathered outside the Texas Capitol building earlier Wednesday, according to the local media outlet KVUE. State Attorney General Ken Paxton warned that anyone protesting in Austin or Washington, D.C., “should practice their constitutional rights in a peaceful manner.”

“I stand for election integrity and the democratic process,” he tweeted. “I will not tolerate violence and civil disorder.”

Image: Pro-Trump supporters (Paul Sancya / AP)
Image: Pro-Trump supporters (Paul Sancya / AP)

Also in Texas, the state Republican Party said it had removed one of its party officers, Walter West, who had posted on social media celebrating the U.S. Capitol takeover. West had been the state party’s sergeant at arms, one of 12 officer positions with the party, and his primary duty had been to maintain order during executive committee meetings.

In posts on Facebook, West endorsed the takeover by supporters of President Donald Trump, writing, “Deal with them taking back OUR HOUSE!” He did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Protesters in Kansas entered the state Capitol building, said Tom Day, the director of legislative administrative services, but they were allowed to stay and remained peaceful as of the late afternoon.

Demonstrators also gathered outside the legislative buildings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Phoenix; Madison, Wisconsin; Denver; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Governors across the country called for peace in their states and in Washington.

In Michigan, several hundred protesters wielded guns and carried "Stop the Steal" signs, The Detroit Free Press reported, but they did not storm the Capitol building or force an evacuation. The building was closed Wednesday.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol said about 200 people gathered outside of the Capitol in Cheyenne but remained "very peaceful." Protesters dispersed in the early afternoon, a spokesperson said.

Two lawmakers in Tennessee held a prayer rally, denouncing Biden's win.

“We need to be praying for the truth to be revealed,” state Sen. Mark Pody, a Republican, told the crowd in Nashville, according to The Associated Press.

Image: Pro-Trump supporters (Mark Humphrey / AP)
Image: Pro-Trump supporters (Mark Humphrey / AP)

State Rep. Bruce Griffey, also a Republican, said that he hoped Vice President Mike Pence could somehow prevent the certification of Biden becoming president.

“But if he doesn't, it doesn't matter. God is in control," Griffey said before leading the crowd in chanting: “We love Trump! We love Trump!"

Protesters in Harrisburg also remained largely peaceful on the sidewalk as they had not obtained a permit to be on the steps, according to state officials.

CORRECTION (Jan. 7, 2021, 3:37 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated how Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger left the state Capitol on Wednesday. He was escorted to his vehicle while leaving; he was not evacuated.