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Washington state lawmakers on both sides condemn violence at U.S. Capitol

Jan. 6, 2021 Updated Wed., Jan. 6, 2021 at 10:07 p.m.

The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia features the classic dome architecture and houses the governor's office and the Legislature's two chambers.   (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia features the classic dome architecture and houses the governor's office and the Legislature's two chambers.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
By Jim Camden and Laurel Demkovich The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – In Washington, D.C., pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, overtaking the House and Senate chambers, pausing the 2020 presidential election certification and leaving one woman dead.

In Olympia, pro-Trump protesters climbed the fence of the governor’s mansion, running to the door and chanting “Open up.” No one was hurt.

The events that unfolded Wednesday shocked the country, leading many Washington lawmakers on both sides to quickly condemn the violence.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the violent protests at the U.S. Capitol should be denounced by both sides, just as last summer’s violent protests in Seattle and Portland should have been .

“There’s never an excuse for any event to turn violent by anybody,” Schoesler said. “We all have to say ‘No’ to violence and destruction.”

Schoesler said he was involved in several meetings and other activities Wednesday and only heard some of Trump’s remarks before and during the protests.

“Whether he went over the top, I don’t know,” he said. “But you have to condemn violence.”

Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Spokane, said he doubted there would be much controversy over the 2020 presidential election if Democrat Joe Biden won by a larger margin.

“National politics appears to have evolved into a contact sport,” he said. “And often, power politics doesn’t translate well into the running of a state or the running of a country.”

A former police detective, Holy said he previously served on a police tactical team that was trained to handle demonstrations, including rights of people to protest, but also how to handle violence and property destruction.

Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said in a statement that what happened at the U.S. Capitol was “unacceptable.”

Braun said he understands that some question the legitimacy of the most recent election.

“The U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to have their voices heard through peaceful assembly. They even have the right to challenge the election process in a court of law,” his statement read. “But nothing grants anyone the right to storm the Capitol building and terrify those inside.”

Some Democrats took it a step further, criticizing Trump and other Republicans who refused to stand up earlier against the president’s claims about election fraud.

In a statement, state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said he was glad to see prominent Republicans speaking out against the violence. However, he called on elected officials to denounce the day’s actions, adding the election was “fair and secure.”

“I am disappointed that it took violence at the United States Capitol Building for them to finally condemn what has been manifesting for years under this president and in recent weeks through the support of conspiracy theories designed to undermine our democracy,” Billig’s statement read.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the siege was fueled by “the unrelenting and totally discredited lies of Donald Trump and his lackeys in Congress.” He called the siege “an attack on democracy itself.”

In a video address Wednesday, Inslee called on all leaders, especially Republican leaders, to “do some serious soul searching” and get “disinformation out of our public discourse.”

Inslee said the country is going through “a moment of great turmoil” but he is confident it will get through it. He called on national and state lawmakers to work across the aisle to move forward, something he called “a most difficult task.”

“Those acts of intimidation will not succeed in any way, shape or form,” Inslee said.

Spokane Democrat Rep. Marcus Riccelli called out U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Twitter after the congresswoman urged protesters to stop the violence. On Tuesday, McMorris Rodgers said she would challenge the certification of president-elect Joe Biden’s win.

“You did this and you are part of this. Make no mistake. This is your legacy,” Riccelli wrote in a tweet. “You have put not only the lives of the Capitol Police at risk, but our democracy. Instead of showing leadership to put a stop to this months ago you have helped lead this insurrection.”

McMorris Rodgers has since rebuked her Tuesday statement, saying she would vote to certify the results Wednesday night.

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at the conservative Washington Policy Center, tweeted from the center’s account that there was no justification for “this sad and disgraceful chapter in American history.”

“I haven’t felt this way since watching the second plane hit the twin towers,” a second tweet read. “Numb with shock.”

In Olympia, lawmakers are preparing for more protests next week as the legislative session begins. On Wednesday, protesters who stormed the governor’s mansion ended their siege by saying they’d “be back on the 11th” – the first day of the legislative session.

Schoesler said he understands that some Washington residents are angry over being shut out of state buildings and the prospect of not being able to attend upcoming legislative events in person.

“Their access has been truly diminished,” he said. “We can’t hide behind ‘You can watch it on the Web.’ ”

But Schoesler condemned the actions of protesters who forced their way through the gated entrance to the governor’s mansion Wednesday afternoon.

“Trespassing into the governor’s mansion is wrong,” he said. “Demonstrate all you want, but there’s some things you just don’t do.”

The state Capitol is often the site for large demonstrations. One of the biggest in recent years, Holy noted, was staged by hair dressers angry over a proposed change in state laws governing their rights as independent contractors.

Holy said he is willing to wait to see what happens during planned protests Monday when the Legislature opens, but if demonstrators try to force their way into the Legislative Building “that would be a step too far,” he said.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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