Tennessee’s Congressional delegation was safe on Thursday after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of electoral college votes from the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The violence that disrupted Congress led both Tennessee Senators to change their votes on certifying the electoral college results.
“I have always believed in peaceful protesting,” wrote newly elected Sen. Bill Haggerty on his Facebook page. “What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence. I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn wrote on Twitter, “To the protestors that have breached the Capitol building: you are disrupting the democratic process. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is violence. This is a crime. It must stop.”
Congressman John Rose, who represents Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District which includes Cumberland County, wrote, “We, the House, cannot ultimately be deterred by those who interrupted proceedings today through force and intimidation. To miss the call to fulfill our duty to the people in completing the process we started early today would be as damaging to our national image and legacy as the action of the thugs who incited violence against police inside our Capitol. I stand ready to fulfill my duty and condemn this violence, as I have all the violence we have seen for the past year. Those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and while we let the police do their work, we should do ours as soon possible.”
On Wednesday, hallowed spaces of American democracy, one after another, yielded to the occupation of Congress.
The pro-Trump mob took over the presiding officer's chair in the Senate, the offices of the House speaker and the Senate dais, where one yelled, "Trump won that election."
They posed for photos in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one with his feet propped on a desk in her office, another sitting in the same seat Vice President Mike Pence had occupied only moments before during the proceedings to certify the Electoral College vote. That certification would eventually take place, but not until well after midnight.
There was a heavy police presence at the Capitol on Thursday morning, including officers from D.C., Maryland and Virginia and the D.C. National Guard. But the streets were quiet.
The crowd had been in attendance at a speech by President Trump at the Ellipse shortly before they walked down Pennsylvania Ave.
"If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore," he said. "Let the weak ones get out," he went on. "This is a time for strength."
Early on, some inside the Capitol saw the trouble coming outside the windows. Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota surveyed the growing crowd on the grounds not long after Trump had addressed his supporters by the Ellipse, fueling their grievances over an election that he and they say he won, against all evidence.
"I looked out the windows and could see how outmanned the Capitol Police were," Phillips said. Under the very risers set up for Biden's inauguration, Trump supporters clashed with police who blasted pepper spray in an attempt to hold them back.
It didn't work. Throngs of maskless MAGA-hatted demonstrators tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol's steps. Some in the crowd were shouting "traitors" as officers tried to keep them back. They broke into the building.
Announcements blared: Due to an "external security threat," no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said. A loud bang sounded as officials detonated a suspicious package to make sure it was not dangerous.
It was about 1:15 p.m. when New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, a Democrat, said Capitol Police banged on his door and "told us to drop everything, get out as quickly as we could."
"It was breathtaking how quickly law enforcement got overwhelmed by these protesters," he told The Associated Press.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Vice President Mike Pence were evacuated from the Senate as protesters and police shouted outside the doors.
"Protesters are in the building," were the last words picked up by a microphone carrying a live feed of the Senate before it shut off.
Police evacuated the chamber at 2:30 p.m., grabbing boxes of Electoral College certificates as they left.
Police said they recovered two pipe bombs in the area and a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktails on Capitol grounds.
Authorities eventually regained control as night fell.
Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements started using tear gas in a coordinated effort to get people moving toward the door, then combed the halls for stragglers, pushing the mob farther out onto the plaza and lawn, in clouds of tear gas, flash-bangs and percussion grenades.
Video footage also showed officers letting people calmly walk out the doors of the Capitol despite the rioting and vandalism. Only about a dozen arrests were made in the hours after authorities regained control. They said a woman was shot earlier as the mob tried to break through a barricaded door in the Capitol where police were armed on the other side.
She was hospitalized with a gunshot wound and later died.
Later Wednesday night, lawmakers returned to their Chambers and picked up where the debate had been interrupted hours before: debating a challenge to the Arizona electoral college votes.
Earlier in the day, at least a dozen senators had supported the challenge. By Wednesday night, the number had been cut in half.
Blackburn announced she would vote to certify the election results, writing on Twitter, “I will vote in support of certifying the electoral college results.”
Haggerty also voted in support of certifying the results.
The Senate voted 93-6 to certify Arizona. Later in the night, the Senate voted 92-7 to certify the results from Pennsylvania.
Those were the only two challenges to receive support from both a member of the House and the Senate to trigger debate and votes in both chambers.
In the House, results were upheld on votes of 303-121 for Arizona and 282-138 for Pennsylvania.
Rose voted in favor of the challenge to Arizona and Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes.
“I just voted to OBJECT to certify the results from Arizona,” Rose wrote on Twitter. “Tennesseans have reasonable doubts about the election results of this and other states with irregularities.”
He also voted to object to the Pennsylvania results.
Rose wrote, “The debate today was an important opportunity to voice the concerns of the millions of Americans who have lost their trust in our election process. Now, states need to step up and properly reform their processes, where needed, to deliver trustworthy results in the future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.