OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Wednesday morning, congressional leaders gathered to witness the certification of the Electoral College. Now, they are witnessing the aftermath of rioters storming the Capitol building.
Political leaders from Nebraska and Iowa reacted to the civil unrest.
Rep. Don Bacon says he was watching the proceedings from another room when the violence began.
“That’s when I saw on C-SPAN, people barging into the chamber and people fleeing the chamber," Bacon recalls. "And that’s when we knew we had a serious escalation.”
Like Bacon, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry retreated to his office with his staff when it became clear that the situation had turned dangerous.
“A lot of this is surreal," Fortenberry said. "I mean, I’m watching the TV from outside the Capitol and people still milling about, right here in the park behind me a guy walking his dog, and two blocks away you have this mob violence going on inside the Capitol.”
Congressional leaders from Nebraska and Iowa issued statements throughout the day as the Capitol was in lock down, with many confirming that they and their staff were safe. All leaders condemned the violence, saying it was shameful and unpatriotic.
“Those who are turning this into violent protests and are taking over public buildings and creating dangerous situations and undermining our democracy, undermining their very rights," Fortenberry said. "This is reckless and wrong.”
Sen. Deb Fischer had this to say of the events: “These rioters have no constitutional right to harm law enforcement and storm our Capitol. We are a nation of laws, not some banana republic. This must end now.”
Others, like Sen. Ben Sasse, are condemning President Donald Trump for not respecting a peaceful transfer of power and continuing to spread messages about unproven voter fraud.
"Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his vice president for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the constitution," Sasse said.
Bacon says it's also time for Republican leaders to step up.
“I think in the end, we always have a choice," said Bacon. "Do you play into the populism which may give you a short term benefit and surge? Or are you the person that you want people to trust?”
Read additional reaction from political leaders in Nebraska and Iowa below.
Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith pic.twitter.com/umOWjgQKsy
— Jennifer Griswold (@griswoldkmtv) January 6, 2021
I served in uniform to defend the right to peaceful protest.— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) January 6, 2021
What’s happening at the Capitol right now is not peaceful nor a protest. It’s anarchy, & a betrayal of the American ideals we all hold dear.
My staff and I are safe.
Thanks to Capitol Police for your selfless work.
What is happening at the U.S. Capitol is unacceptable. I condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. Peaceful protest is the American way. Violence and destruction of property is not. I encourage the protestors in D.C. to leave and go home.— Gov. Pete Ricketts (@GovRicketts) January 6, 2021
This is a dark day in our democracy.— Rep. Cindy Axne (@RepCindyAxne) January 6, 2021
The American people have spoken.
The Electoral College has voted.
But my Republican colleagues have allowed disappointment w/ the result to fester into this scene that looks like something from another part of the world.
This has to stop. https://t.co/Jj2ggw2mad
These rioters have no constitutional right to harm law enforcement and storm our Capitol. We are a nation of laws, not some banana republic. This must end now.— Senator Deb Fischer (@SenatorFischer) January 6, 2021
Standing with and praying for the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and all who have been endangered by the violence and unrest happening at our nation’s capital. This behavior is unacceptable and not who we are as Americans.— Kim Reynolds (@KimReynoldsIA) January 6, 2021
Statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley:
“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself. This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights. These were un-American acts worthy only of condemnation. Those who plowed over police barricades, ignored law enforcement or desecrated our monument to representative democracy flouted the rule of law and disgraced our nation.
“I condemn today’s violence in the strongest terms and perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“The United States has stood as a beacon of self-governance, free expression and the peaceful transfer of leadership since its founding, and we must uphold these principles. Our nation has been through highs and lows. We’ve vigorously debated differing philosophies and have endured disagreements on policy and leadership. Through it all, our shared values have held strong. We must not lose grip of those shared values today.
“This is a sad day for America. As a nation, we must be better than this.”
Statement from Sen. Ben Sasse:
"Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution. Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division. Americans are better than this: Americans aren’t nihilists. Americans aren’t arsonists. Americans aren’t French revolutionaries taking to the barricades. This is not how we peacefully transfer power. The American people are tough, our Constitutional order is strong, and we will meet this moment with strength and grace."
Statement from Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert:
"The rioting today at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. strikes at the very heart of the American ideals we all cherish. These shameful actions jeopardize our nation’s most important foundations of self-rule, freedom, democracy, and lawful conduct. The lawlessness and those involved should be condemned by all Americans.
I am also angry and heartbroken that people around the world will view our nation with contempt as a result. America is better, much better, than this.
As our country turns to new leadership in Washington, I hope and pray that political division recedes, and a more cooperative spirit can lift up our great country.”
Statement from Lincoln Mayor Gaylor Baird:
“The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to our democracy. These acts of aggression at our nation's Capitol are antithetical to our values. I join leaders on both sides of the aisle and at all levels of government in calling for an end to the violence and for allowing the final certification of the electoral college."
Statement from Nebraska Attorney General Peterson:
"Today’s violent assault on our US Capitol is an afront to the principles of our Constitution. We are a nation of laws that are designed to maintain order and protect our freedoms. These freedoms include the right to peacefully protest, but lawlessness by any individual or organization cannot be tolerated. We as a people are better than this. We must live up to the greatness of this nation and not submit to lawless impulses."
Nebraska Democratic Party statement:
NDP Chair Jane Kleeb and the Nebraska Democratic Party condemned the actions of a throng of Trump supporters who breached security and broke into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday under the belief that President Trump did not actually lose the Nov. 3 election to President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump -- who lost the popular and electoral college vote -- continues to dispute the results, without evidence, and has encouraged his supporters to attend the rallies in the nation’s capital, according to news reports [washingtonpost.com]. After Trump addressed the protesters, dozens of them broke into the Capitol. One protester was reportedly shot.
“The horrific violence we are witnessing is the fault of Trump and his GOP enablers -- including Reps. Don Bacon, Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith along with Senators Sasse and Fischer,” Kleeb said. “Trump has fomented anger among his supporters by falsely repeating his contention that the election was rigged against him. America is better than this behavior from the Republican Party no matter what tweet they try to send now.”
“People in wheelchairs were arrested in 2017 when they were peaceful as they protested not having access to healthcare,” Kleeb said “But violent Republican thugs are allowed to just storm the building? The Republican Party is rotten to the core. Trump and the Republicans have spent the last four years and hundreds of millions of dollars painting Democrats and good people that belong to our party as evil and radical -- knowing full well that Trump and the Republican Party were stoking anger among his radical base that would lead to this day,” Kleeb said. “The GOP owes Americans an apology for the disgusting behavior that they have enabled. There is no sidestepping this. There is no looking the other way. The Republican Party must own the behavior that they enabled from their radical base.”