After a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, response from Oregon’s elected officials was swift and sometimes controversial.
The events in Washington, D.C., prompted evacuation of the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the electoral college votes making Joseph R. Biden the 46th president of the United States. Several members of the Senate and more than 100 representatives contested the results of the election based on unproven claims of election fraud in numerous states.
Because of the rapid way the topics morphed from the riot itself to who was responsible and talk of impeaching President Donald Trump, the discussion, too, runs the gamut.
Locally, Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer) lit a fire on Facebook when he wrote, “I am very aware that many of the ‘protestors’ in DC were in fact ANTIFA infiltrators. Let me be clear whether you are a Trump supporter or ANTIFA infiltrator, this behavior is unacceptable. Period.”
Responses to the comment accused Post of spreading information he knew to be false. There is no proof as yet antifa, a loose network of people willing to resist fascism and meet violence with violence, was present anywhere in the attack on the Capitol.
Post later tried to walk back the statement.
“No antifa was NOT in this. It was Qanon people. There are literally hundreds of stories about this,” Post wrote and provided a link.
On the national level, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) ignited a different type of firestorm when he likened a new effort to impeach Trump to a “lynching” on a caucus conference call Friday, Jan. 8. The difference between impeachment and lynching is that impeachment is the act of holding an elected official accountable and lynching involves the killing of someone, typically a black man, without any sort of legal proceeding.
Schrader also walked back the comment later on Twitter.
“I recognize the horrible historical context of these words and have started to reach out to my colleagues personally to express that I understand the harm caused. I will work hard to rebuild trust and again, I humbly apologize,” Schrader wrote.
As the conversation turned toward whether Trump was personally responsible for inciting the protestors that stormed the seat of the U.S. government, Schrader signaled support for a second round of impeachment proceedings.
“This President is a clear and present danger to our country. While I have pushed other remedies for his criminal conduct, impeachment is the tool before us and warranted for his seditious acts. I will be voting yes on impeachment when brought to the House floor,” Schrader wrote.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, was one of the quickest Oregon elected officials to respond to the crisis. Within two hours, Merkley held a video call with journalists and deemed the riot a “coup.”
The day after the assault, Merkley was calling for Trump to be removed from power or face a second impeachment trial. He also noted the contrast in response by police when a group of mostly white people stormed the Capitol and other protests in which Black and Latinx figured more prominently.
“When Portland took to the streets to demand racial justice for Black & Brown communities, Trump sent secret police to sweep people off the streets & meet them with tear gas & rubber bullets. When our Capitol was under siege? The contrast could not be more revealing or disturbing,” Merkley wrote on Twitter.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, blamed other colleagues in the U.S. Congress for fanning the flames that keep unrest over a settled presidential election raging.
“There must be consequences for senators who would foment a violent mob for personal gain. I call on Senators [Josh] Hawley and [Ted] Cruz to resign and accept the responsibility which they so clearly bear,” Merkley said via Twitter.
He labeled Trump a “clear and present danger” to the country and called for the Senate to reconvene for impeachment proceedings.
An Article of Impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” was introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday, Jan. 11. A vote was expected pass press time Wednesday, Jan. 13.