by Andrew Engelson
During a historic and shocking day in Washington D.C. in which a violent mob of Trump-supporting terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday as the Electoral College vote was scheduled to occur, local elected officials in Seattle and Washington State condemned today’s anti-democratic actions. The chaos spread to Washington State when a group of dozens of Trump supporters occupied the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia.
President Trump, after failing to discourage the insurrection by his supporters, even after one person was shot and killed in the Capitol, appeared not to back down on his false assertions that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent and invalid. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that Congress would reconvene Wednesday evening to continue the Electoral College proceedings. Twitter suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours after he made false claims about the election.
Representative Adam Smith, who represents the Ninth Congressional District, which includes South King County and Tacoma, said in an emailed statement, “The assault by pro-Trump extremists on the United States Capitol is a criminal act aimed at ending our democracy as we know it. The Capitol campus must be cleared of these extremists as soon and as safely as possible.”
During the crisis at the Capitol, Smith, who serves as Chairman of the House Armed Services committee, talked with Department of Defense leadership, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mike Milley and Capitol police leaders, about ejecting the violent protesters from the Capitol.
“President Trump and his enablers are directly responsible for the despicable acts at our nation’s Capitol that we all have witnessed today,” Smith said in the statement. In an interview on CNN on Wednesday, Smith said, “It’s a scary situation, the President of the United States inciting a riot.”
In his email, Smith also asserted, “Order will be restored. Congress will do its job. This election will be certified, and Joe Biden will, as he was duly elected to do, take office as our next President on January 20th.”
According to a report in The Seattle Times, a group of dozens of protesters, some armed, opened a gate at the Governor’s Mansion and occupied the lawn in front of the house on Wednesday. A tweet from the Washington State Patrol said that Gov. Inslee and his family had been moved to a secure location.
Tina Podlowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, condemned the attacks on democracy in the U.S. Capitol and in Olympia, saying in an email statement, “Let’s be honest here. Today was a massive attack on the American system of democracy by white domestic terrorists. Let’s get real here. We’ve seen more force, including deadly force, used against Americans peacefully marching for Black lives to matter than we do when CONFIRMED white nationalist groups are marching through the halls of our nation’s Capitol.”
Citing the break-in at the governor’s mansion and the recent arson at Democratic Party headquarters in Spokane, Podlowski did not mince words: “This is not new to the Republican Party under Trump, either here in Washington State or nationally. This is the culmination of four years of his dangerous, anti-democratic rhetoric. We’ve seen repeated instances of the embrace of this kind of extremist violence among the WA GOP, who have failed time and time again to condemn that behavior — in Matt Shea, and Robert Sutherland, and Jim Walsh, and Loren Culp and on and on.”
Many other local elected officials and organizations spoke out firmly against the anti-democratic actions. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said in an email statement, “The horrific demonstration of far right violence we’re seeing in D.C. today is a scary reminder that Trump may have lost the election, but Trumpism and the far right is growing … Police in city after city brutalized peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer, in the name of ‘law and order.’ Where are these alleged defenders of law and order when the far right goes on a terrorizing rampage?”
President Larry Brown and Secretary Treasurer April Sims of the Washington State Labor Council issued a statement noting the ironies of the moment in Washington, D.C.: “In this moment, we are thinking of our immigrant siblings who have escaped authoritarian governments and dictatorships in search of free democracy. Today, we are all seeing a sitting president incite a mob to prevent the peaceful transition of power. We know that today’s events are traumatizing for so many of us, especially as we watch the stark contrast between the treatment of the pro-Trump rioters attempting a coup and the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors demanding justice for all Americans.”
In a Facebook post, writer and Emerald board member Ijeoma Oluo wrote, “If you’re at all surprised by what’s happening in DC right now you should probably read my book.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine also offered strong words in an email: “This is a sad, dark moment in our nation’s history. I urge leaders at all levels of government and across the political spectrum to stand together in support of our nation, our constitution, and the peaceful transfer of power that these traitors are seeking in vain to disrupt.”
And NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director Kia Guarino lamented the events transpiring in Olympia, saying “I have been glued to the news this afternoon, watching my old neighborhood and our own Governor’s home overrun by an insurrection. Today’s direct attack on democracy is terrifying but not surprising. The hypocrisy of elected leaders and law enforcement is gut-wrenching. The domestic terrorists who carried out today’s attempted coup were aided and abetted by Republicans who either directly fomented doubt in the election or stayed silent in the face of endless, baseless claims.”
Most of Washington State’s Congressional delegation called for the insurrection to halt, with U.S. Senator Patty Murray writing in a tweet, “This violent mob & the President who stoked their rage must be held accountable. They should not be allowed to delay our democratic processes for a minute longer.” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican representing the Fifth District, told the Spokesman-Review that because of today’s events, she had changed her mind and would now vote to uphold the Electoral College results when Congress reconvenes.
Former King County Executive Ron Sims said in an interview on KING-TV, “I was stunned. … I kept thinking it would end. I’m still stunned. I think that Congress is going to have to unite and move forward; they will confirm the results. We need a time for unification and I think it’s in Congress’ hands. It’s time. It’s time. … And I think it will make us a stronger country.”
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Podlowski said in her email that she has concerns for the state’s BIPOC, recent immigrant, undocumented, and gender non-binary residents who’ve previously been targeted by right-wing extremists.
“Please — reach out to each other and make sure that your local folks are safe, and take the time to talk to each other,” she wrote. “Please report any threatening notes, or calls or social media, any “non-normal” activity near your homes, or other disturbances, to your local police and to us.” She offered the email of the Washington State Democratic Party’s Communications Director and attorney Will Casey for any reports of harassment or threats: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Engelson is news director & deputy assistant at the South Seattle Emerald. He was the founder and editor of Cascadia Magazine and his journalism, essays, and writing have appeared in Crosscut, Real Change, Tin House, High Country News, Seattle Weekly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Times, Washington Trails, and other publications. He’s lived in Seattle’s South End for nearly 20 years and is passionate about telling the stories of the people who live in South Seattle and covering the issues they care about.