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Oregon US Senator Jeff Merkley Describes Senate Chamber Scene During Capitol Unrest


  • Protesters – did reach the halls of the Capitol. They did reach the Senate chamber. They reached the House chamber. We are safe. Senators were ushered to a undisclosed, secure location,

    The first word we had of what was going on was during about the sixth speech, during the debate on the floor of the Senate chamber, on the question of whether the votes from Arizona should be accepted or rejected. And so that was the, the, where we were at that moment.

    The first notice was – people, we heard noises in the hallway. Someone ran in, called for the Senate to be closed, told us to leave the Senate chamber and then immediately was corrected – said no. Stay in the Senate chamber. And we did until we were escorted to a secure location. Uh, when the first individuals rushed into the room – Nobody runs on the floor of the chamber. Certainly nobody runs up to the dais. Certainly nobody interrupts the speech. So all of that was very, very sudden, very unusual. And because we could hear noises, my assumption, and I think all of their assumptions was that protesters had entered the building, I mean, that just seemed like the automatic response. And the moment, the Vice President was rushed off the floor, the instructions were given to leave the chamber – and then immediately corrected – stay in the chamber.

    There was a sense that, yes, this is all about protesters, I think many of us are aware that protesters could be carrying arms. So there was certainly concern that there could be shooting, that there could be a breach of the chamber. The sergeant at arms team and the Capitol Police were working to get the doors locked – to basically lock us in. There was a lot of confusion over whether where the keys were and how to lock the doors, and doors of the press gallery up above, so on and so forth, things of this nature.

    It’s a strange feeling to be locked in a room, that, you know is not really designed to be secure – when they’re angry people outside. So there was just – kind of a lot of folks starting to check their, cell phones, information to try to find out what was going on, because we had been just immersed in a very unusual debate. And we were all there in the chamber listening to each other, which is so rare for the Senate. And each senator is limited to five minutes.

    We had a very powerful initial speech by Mitch McConnell, speaking to his vision of the Constitution, and it was a speech that could have been delivered by someone of either party, in defense of our constitutional responsibility, It was very, very well written and very well. delivered, certainly captured many of my views of the situation we’re in at this moment. And we were into, we had had about six speeches going back and forth. Chuck Schumer had spoken, Ted Cruz had spoken, Amy Klobuchar had spoken. James had spoken Langford – Kyrsten Sinema, representing the facts from Arizona. And it was somewhere about then, that moment – that the chaos began.

    I did look around the room to think of somebody does burst in with a gun. What what do you what do hit the floor? I mean, the thoughts like that were going through people’s heads, because it wasn’t as if we, you know, we were – we were there in that chamber. Trapped in that chamber.”