4:30 P.M. UPDATE:
Vela commented on his situation during a phone call at 3:18 P.M., CT.
“Members are spread out everywhere. Members,” Rep. Filemon Vela paused and included himself, “we’re all in different places. We’re all calling each (other) and texting each other just to make sure everybody is okay.”
When reached for comment at 1:35 p.m., Vela replied, “Yes, I’m safe right now, but it’s a crisis so I’ll call you later.”
By 3:18 p.m., he said he felt “sort of safe.”
Although there was law enforcement presence, Vela said they were outnumbered. “We don’t have enough Capitol police to handle the kinds of crowds that we’re dealing with today,” he said.
Vela did not disclose his current location, though he said the Cannon House Office Building — which houses offices for Vela and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez — was the first building to be shut down after a confrontation between protesters and police.
Members of congress were scattered in different and undisclosed locations as a safety measure, Vela said.
“It’s a sad statement about where this democracy is and it lies right at the hands of the president of the United States and, from the standpoint of Texas, Senator Cruz, because Senator Cruz decided he was going to object to this electoral vote count,” Vela said.
Vela heard President-elect Joe Biden’s speech where he called the violent disruption an “insurrection.” “I think that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “We have norms that we live by, and most people live by them, and today all those norms were totally shattered.”
“This is a sad day for democracy,” Vela said.
During the phone call with Vela, the president posted a one-minute message on his social media platform. Trump called the election “fraudulent” and “stolen” and told protestors to “go home now.”
Vela said he didn’t believe that message was enough to quell protests. “I think the president needs to concede the election.”
The congressman said he hopes to continue the certification of the electoral votes when it’s safer.
“As bad as today has been, I’m confident that as soon as tonight things will be back to sorta normal,” Vela said.
Though members of Congress were in D.C. today, no interns with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley were present. UTRGV sent a statement reaffirming they “do not have any interns with our Archer Program in Washington, D.C., right now.”
3:25 P.M. UPDATE:
Congressman Vicente Gonzalez gave a brief rundown of his experience at the Capitol, describing tense few moments where he heard “popping noises” and was told to get down.
“I was in the chambers when they came in and told us the Capitol had been breached,” he texted The Monitor shortly after 3 p.m. “They took the speaker out of the chambers and locked us down (and) told us to stay in place. Later there were popping noises where we had to get down and follow Capitol police orders out. As (we were) leaving (they) breached the doors to the chamber itself.”
“For now I’m still hunkered down in what appears to be a safe location,” he added. “When our Capitol is secured, I will return to the chamber to fulfill our constitutional duty.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump issued a video in which he continued to make unfounded claims about election fraud, but asked supporters to go home.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now,” he said. “We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.”
Previous updates below:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says National Guard troops along with other federal protective services are en route to the Capitol to help end an violent occupation by President Donald Trump’s supporters who are seeking to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that “At President @realDonaldTrump’s direction, the National Guard is on the way along with other federal protective services.”
She added, “We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful.”
Republican lawmakers have publicly called for Trump to more vocally condemn the violence and to call to an end to the occupation, which halted a joint session of Congress where lawmakers were beginning to count electoral votes.
Trump lost the November election to Democrat Joe Biden. He has refused to concede and has worked over the last two months to convince his supporters that widespread voter fraud prevented his own victory.
2:32 P.M. UPDATE:
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, tweeted another update more than an hour after addressing the situation at the Capitol.
“I am hunkered down in a safe location,” Gonzalez wrote. “Pray for our democracy.”
2:20 P.M. UPDATE:
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar was in good spirits but was monitoring the situation closely.
“There’s thousands of people. This is what President Trump has done. I hope he’s happy with all this stuff,” he said during a phone call Wednesday.
“I am looking out the window at the Capitol. It looks to be smoke. I assume it’s gas,” he said.
Cuellar, D-Laredo, reported he and his staff were in lockdown as of 2 p.m. and said they trust their law enforcement officials.
“They complain about the antifa, and look what they’re doing over here,” Cuellar added.
“We saw this 10 years ago by the right-wingers called the Tea Party people,” he said referring to an incident in 2010.
Cuellar, a congressman known to work with Congress members from across the aisle, said he lays no blame on moderate Republicans.
He said this has nothing to do with bipartisanship, adding, “This is an extreme group of individuals.”
Cuellar said the protests broke when they reached Arizona.
“We’re not going to let anybody derail democracy and we are going to certify the votes,” Cuellar said.
2 P.M. UPDATE:
Local lawmakers weighed in on the situation developing at the Capitol Wednesday, with two saying they were safe, and another vowing to vote to certify the Electoral College.
Congressman Gonzalez said in a tweet at 1:09 p.m. that he and his staff were “safe” as violent clashes broke out between President Donald Trump supporters and federal police on Wednesday, causing the U.S. Capitol to go on lockdown.
“I condemn any effort meant to overthrow a legitimate election including the violence occurring outside the Capitol,” Gonzalez said on Twitter. “My staff and I are safe and we thank the Capitol Police for their efforts to protect us. Now is the time we must come together as a nation and move forward.”
At about 2 p.m. Gonzalez told The Monitor he was “hunkered down” and would speak at a later time.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, also told The Monitor he was safe.
“I’m safe right now but it’s a crisis,” he said via text, also wishing to comment at a later time.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar issued a statement Wednesday following the eruption of chaos at the Capitol in Washington as protestors broke through safety measures and into the building.
Cuellar said he would vote to certify the Electoral College and listed dozens of his reasons.
“The American people spoke with their ballots and selected the leader they want in this time of crisis: a choice that must be respected,” the congressman said in a pre-produced news release Wednesday. “Disturbingly, however, many Republicans in Congress and the Trump campaign refuse to respect the will of the people and recognize the election results. Instead, they are pushing wild conspiracy theories and falsely alleging voter fraud, which undermines faith in our democracy.”
President Trump also tweeted in response to the activity at the Capital.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” Trump wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
This is a developing story.