WASHINGTON (CBS) — U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) on Wednesday shared a harrowing story of escaping from House chambers as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.
Early Wednesday evening, Quigley and all the other lawmakers were bunkered in a room waiting for the green light to resume the Electoral College vote.
Quigley told CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov that a debate about an objection to the Electoral College vote in Arizona was about halfway done when the chaos began.
“Then we see the Capitol Police come in and they pulled the leadership off the floor – Democrat and Republican – tells you something’s up. We resumed the debate with a new speaker, and then we hear shouts, noise from outside, and then they start evacuating a few others, they barricaded the doors – there’s too sets of doors to get in. A few minutes late they told us, ‘Get on your gas masks,’” Quigley said.
Gas had been released in Statuary Hall, Quigley said.
“They started moving us around – those of us up in the balcony – to be out of harm’s way – laying flat, crouch down, move to the corners,” Quigley said.
Capitol Police then barricaded the main entrance to the House floor.
“They put a credenza, chairs, desk – it was tragic comedy – and then there were six Capitol Police officers trying to hold the door shut as protesters were trying to ram it open, and officers had their guns drawn,” Quigley said.
As this was happening, Quigley said he was thinking of “sort of what to do next,” and was concerned for his colleagues, whom he called “remarkably calm.”
“The Capitol Police were awesome – brave, really gutsy,” Quigley added.
Quigley said group of about 20 members of Congress then huddled in a corner.
“We could hear them breaking the glass to get into the House floor, and I think crouching next to a police officer who has her gun drawn, and they make a decision that we’re going to, I guess, make a run for it. So you picture 20 members of Congress crouched down, sprinting the heck out of there,” Quigley said.
The group made it to a House committee room. He said he was told Virginia State Police, Washington, D.C. Police, and Capitol Police were on the scene, and the National Guard was expected.
Members who were the last group out of the House chamber – who included Quigley – all stayed in the House committee room, while others were locked down in their offices. They could not go home because it was not safe.
Quigley said he had sensed a night ago that something like this could happen.
“Last night when I walked around the Capitol, you could sense this was ugly, and the mood of this crowd, and the things they were saying,” Quigley said. “The president doesn’t pour fuel on the fire – he ignites the fire, by telling them all to come down to the Capitol. He said he was going to walk with them. He ended up going to the White House. So yeah, this is on him.”
Other Illinois congressmen who were not at the Capitol reacted to the unprecedented siege – calling it mob action. It all occurred hours after President Trump spoke to many of the same violent protesters outside.
Quigley said he has one goal in mind – to get back to the House Floor to continue the election certification vote, and before the day is out, if possible.
But other lawmakers said the riots on Wednesday make it clear that serious conversations about the future direction of the country are needed.
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