WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of protesters descended on the capital on Wednesday as Congress gathered to vote to certify the results of the presidential election.
As protesters in the nation’s capital breached barricades to enter the capitol building, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and others in the House and Senate chambers. After being escorted to a secure location along with other lawmakers, Welch detailed what happened during a conference call with reporters.
Welch said the first notion he had that something was out of at the ordinary was when he saw security staff pull Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer from the House chamber.
“They had that look on their face. This is not a drill,” Welch said of the security staff.
Reporters and Congress members then gathered in the gallery as the debate fell into a lull. Shortly after Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., took the chair to continue debate, Capitol Police announced that protesters were in the Capitol Building.
“I was very, very surprised that protesters were able to get into the capitol. It’s extremely secure,” Welch said.
Welch said noise could be heard from outside the chamber. At one point, he said he heard what sounded like a gunshot. Legislators were told by Capitol Police to don gas masks, as there were reports that tear gas was used outside.
“Using the term protester is an understatement,” said Welch. “This is criminal conduct.”
At one point, legislators were told by Capitol Police to lie on the ground near their chairs as noises came from outside the chamber, Welch said. He said there were crashing sounds against the chamber doors, and those in the chamber attempted to barricade the entrance.
Police and legislators were finally able to find a way out and make their way to a secure location. Welch said he learned later that the protesters were able to make their way into the chamber.
“We can’t let this stop us from certifying the decision that this country’s voters made,” Welch said.
— Staff writers Kate Barcellos and Cameron Paquette contributed to this report.