APTOPIX Electoral College Protests

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Watauga County representatives and local party leaders are condemning the violence that broke out on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.

Philip Lewis, a senior front page editor at the HuffPost, tweeted out a video of protestors pushing and shoving past Capitol Hill police officers to get to the building.

Earlier that day, President Donald Trump held a Stop the Steal rally with his supporters where he claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent and urged them to march to the Capitol building where they showed up en masse as Congress was voting to certify the presidential election.

Trump tweeted out at 3:13 p.m. to “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

The Associated Press reported at 3:30 p.m. that Senators were evacuated and people were told to shelter in place and don gas masks after tear gas was deployed in the Capitol Rotunda. One person was reportedly shot at the Capitol according to the AP.

Trump's press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tweeted at 3:30 p.m. that the National Guard was on its way to the Capitol at the direction of Trump.

At 4:15 p.m., Trump tweeted out a video talking to his supporters and telling them he knows their pain, but “we have to have law and order.”

“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special.”

Early in December, the AP reported that Attorney General William Barr said U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, who represents North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District including Watauga County, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Violence like what we’re witnessing in the United States Capitol is unacceptable,” Foxx tweeted at 2:49 p.m. as supporters roamed the halls of the Capitol. “People have the right to peacefully protest, and there is absolutely no reason to resort to destruction. God bless the brave men and women of the United States Capitol Police for protecting us.”

She later tweeted at 4:18 p.m. that she was safe and that law and order must be upheld.

"I am safe," Foxx tweeted. "Members of my staff are safe. The protestors within the Capitol must immediately back down. Senseless violence accomplishes absolutely nothing."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper went as far as to call the events on Capitol Hill terrorism.

"The peaceful transition of power is the hallmark of our democracy," Cooper tweeted. "Today's terrorism is not who we are. This attack on our country must be overcome. America is better than this."

At 5:30 p.m., the AP reported that five weapons were recovered and 13 people have so-far been arrested in the pro-Trump protests.

On Jan. 7, the United States Capitol Police announced that Officer Brian Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty. According to a press release from the USCP, Sicknick was responding to the "riots" at the Capitol when was injured while physically engaging with protesters. 

His death will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch, the USCP and its federal partners. 

Rep. Foxx released a statement on Facebook after his death was announced. 

"U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died while protecting this institution and the many people who work here," Foxx wrote. "My prayers go out to his loved ones. His service will never be forgotten." 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking information that will help identify individuals who took part in the violence in Washington, DC. The FBI is accepting tips & digital media depicting rioting & violence in the U.S. Capitol Building & surrounding area on Jan. 6.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tweeted Jan. 8 that his office is supporting federal law enforcement agencies investigating North Carolinians who participated in the "raid at the U.S. Capitol." 

"If you have any information about a North Carolinian who participated in this lawless insurrection, please email investigationtips@ncdoj.gov," Stein tweeted. 

Rep. Ray Pickett (R-Blowing Rock) condemned the violence that took place.

"I believe that peaceful and respectful protest are a part of the freedoms that we all enjoy, but violence is not the answer," Pickett said. "I hope that everyone will regain their composure and no one else gets hurt. My prayers go out to those who lost their life."

Pickett is referring to the reporting by the AP that a woman who was shot inside the Capitol has died. 

The morning after the events on Capitol Hill, Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) posted a statement on her Facebook. In it, she said the events gave her an a sense of "overwhelming sadness, frustration, anger." 

"But I am buoyed by the bravery and courage of our law enforcement and first responders in the midst of the violence and chaos," Ballard wrote in her statement. "I know those responsible will be held accountable and am thankful our elected officials were able to safely finish performing their Constitutional duties early this morning. The electoral certification result is final — we have a new President of the United States. It is a new day. Let’s go to work, listen and respect one another, hug our families tighter, pray for our nation and its leadership, disagree without hate and move forward." 

Kim Brackett, a Boone area resident, helped organize a bus from Boone to attend the rally after she said there was a lot of interest from people in the High Country. 

Brackett said she went to join other Americans in support of Trump and for "free and fair elections." 

"Our group, as were most, were unaware of what had happened and most were already starting the long walk back for scheduled pick up before the violence started and departed on time," Brackett said. "We condemn violence, support law and order and those responsible held accountable. Those that caused the violence do not represent the tens of millions of law abiding, hard word working, tax paying citizens and families that were there."

Brackett said nine buses left from North Carolina and the one from Boone represented four counties. An invite from the North Carolina Values Coalition, which helped organize the event, stated there were 55 seats on the bus and seats would go fast.

The North Carolina Values Coalition describes itself as non-partisan, non-profit education and lobbying organization with a statewide grassroots network. 

In a Facebook post, the organization said those from North Carolina who traveled arrived back safely. 

"Violence is wrong," the Facebook post said. "We can do better. We are one Nation now on a different course."

The Watauga County Democrats posted on Facebook that “This Is a moral abdication on the part of the President.” A request for further comment had not been returned at the time of publication.

Charlie Wallin, chair of 5th District Democrats and Watauga County commissioner, condemned the violence at the Capitol. He said he was "shocked" and "disgusted" to see what happened on the Capitol.

"I am a firm believer of both the First Amendment and people’s right to peacefully assemble," Wallin said. "Once people broke through barricades, broke windows and stormed the Capitol it ceased being a peaceful assembly. To forcefully enter the sacred chambers of the House and Senate where you earn the privilege to walk the floor and where leaders have gathered to mold and shape this nation is despicable."

Wallin also said his thoughts and prayers are with everyone in DC, including the law enforcement and fire personnel.

The chair of the Watauga County GOP, Ann-Marie Yates, said in a statement that it was sad to see the "disintegration of the country before our eyes." 

"We denounce violence at every event but support one person one vote," Yates said. "In an effort to restore unity as stated by President-elect Biden, we strongly encourage an investigation from the Justice Department regarding the questions surrounding the 2020 election and subsequent runoff elections of fraud allegations."

Michael Davis, App State senior and student body president, worked on Capitol Hill as an intern for North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr in 2019.

"A peaceful transition of power has been a tradition that America has prided itself on for quite some time," Davis said. "It is both sad and frustrating to see violence and misinformation continue to plague our democracy. I hope those that committed and aided today's storming of the Capitol are held accountable, and that we will move forward as a nation and have a better start to the new year."

Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts also responded to the events that occurred. She posted a statement on Twitter that said the "violent attack" was reminder of the value of truth, civil discourse, and the respectful exchange of ideas and beliefs. 

"As educators, it is our responsibility to and privilege to advance these fundamental principles," Everts said in her statement. "As Mountaineers, we must be part of forging a future in which we recognize the humanity in none another to sustain the democracy we so deeply value." 

The AP reported that president-elect Joe Biden has called the violent protests on the U.S. Capitol “an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business.”

Phillip Ardoin, the chair of the political science department at Appalachian State, said the events occurring on the Capitol is something “we have not seen in contemporary American Politics.”

“Not only was today disturbing because of the symbolic intrusion into the U.S. Capitol, but these individuals were encouraged by a sitting president and his partisan supporters,” Ardoin said.

Five professors from Appalachian State have signed onto an open letter from political scientists calling for the removal of Trump through impeachment of the 25th Amendment. Those professors include 

Ardoin said that he is an optimist and hopes that what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 will bring the country together.

“Perhaps we will see that we can't keep thinking of our country as red America versus blue America,” Ardoin said. “We are the United States of America and if we want to move forward and address the critical challenges facing our country we must figure out a way to unite as a country.”

This is a developing story. 

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