In 1963 Martin Luther King had a “Dream” in Washington. Fifty-seven years later near the same location at the nation’s Capitol, people witnessed a “nightmare.”
Pro-Donald Trump rioters overwhelmed the Capitol Police and stormed Congress on Wednesday afternoon, interrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and throwing the U.S. Capitol into a chaotic scene of violence and death. Trump — who lost the popular and electoral college vote — encouraged his supporters to attend rallies earlier in the day and took the stage about noon to roaring crowds, falsely claiming he had won the election.
“This is definitely not in a dream. This is ridiculous,” said Shaana Keller on the Times-Herald’s Facebook page.
Inside the Capitol, the Senate’s counting of electoral votes came to a standstill. Soon after, the building went into a lockdown as rioters roamed the building and took pictures of themselves carrying the Confederate Flag or posing in offices like that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Army later deployed the National Guard to the Capitol, while the FBI mobilized numerous agents to the scene.
“I understand people are angry, but are we on the verge of Civil War?” outgoing Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan told the Times-Herald on Wednesday. “Because that scares me. In the 1960s we had the Weathermen and other groups, but we never took over the Capitol Building. I’m considering this a riot. This goes beyond freedom of speech. There is no doubt the police were overwhelmed, but in preparation for today’s election count I thought the police control was at least going to be adequate and it was not.”
As the headlines were written and the images of destruction were shown on television and social media, many Vallejoans like Keller and Sampayan looked on with disgust. Many called for the 25th amendment — and the removal of a sitting United States President.
“I am torn. I never thought I would see protesters breach the U.S. Capitol building, especially with such ease,” said Vallejoan Alex McCart on the Times-Herald Facebook page. “On the other hand, I am not very surprised the great length the ill-informed and unhinged will go to in the name of someone who cares very little about them. This is not patriotic. It is idiotic.”
Longtime Vallejo activist and historian Sharon McGriff-Payne agreed.
“And these are the same phony ‘patriots’ who love to wave the American flag and call out people of color,” McGriff-Payne said. “Trump has ended his presidency in pure disgrace and failure.”
Many people were not surprised at the violent actions, saying they could tell something was going to happen months and years ago.
“I knew when I was listening to Trump’s speech this morning,” Joy Phillips said on Facebook. “He totally revved ’em up and cut ’em loose. It wasn’t until Biden’s message did Trump even attempt to call them down. Shameful and a disgrace.”
“Not surprised at all,” said Jon Brown. “Trump invited his followers to show up and “stop the steal.’”
“I fully expected these terrorists to try to breach the Capitol, just as in Michigan,” Catherine Burke Carrington said.on Facebook. “I didn’t think the preparations would be so inadequate. How did they let this happen?”
Sampayan felt the same way.
“I wasn’t surprised, sadly. Based on what I had seen lately I had extreme concerns that we would see unrest,” Sampayan said. “I hoped and prayed there wouldn’t be, but you could see the extreme right and extreme left both trying to make a point in the previous weeks. I’m appalled that as a nation we can’t come together and say this was a fair election. There wasn’t any voter fraud and this was stated by everyone including the Senate Majority Leader and all of the states. Everyone needed to put down their hatchets.”
State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, issued a statement on the violent takeover of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives by supporters of Trump.
“This chaos at the U.S. Capitol is a result of Donald Trump’s unconscionable rhetoric and efforts to undermine our democracy,” said Sen. Dodd. “It is an unprecedented attack on American values, our representatives and our fair election process. It simply cannot be allowed to stand.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday called the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Trump “an outright assault on our democracy.”
“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions,” Newsom said.
Some Vallejoans on the Times-Herald Facebook page said the riots were the result of Antifa or Biden stealing the election from Trump.
However, most questioned the violence as well as the lack of action from the police. Many wondered what would have happened to the rioters if they happened to be people of color. As of 3 p.m, only 13 arrests had been reported. Images also surfaced of some police officers taking selfies with the rioters as well as opening the gates to lead the rioters inside. Some even were seen leading the rioters down the stairs carefully when leaving the Capitol building.
Louis Michael, who ran for District 3 City Council in the fall but also organized many Black Lives Matter protests and rallies over the summer in Vallejo and the Bay Area, was appalled.
“Everything that we’re seeing in the Capitol right now is not a surprise,” Michael told the Times-Herald. “It’s because of the president’s rhetoric that people think it’s OK to protest in this manner. The way the police have handled this is completely the opposite of what we seen during the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer. This is a perfect example of what white privilege looks like. This is what a country divided looks like when POC are dehumanized and terrorized for peacefully protesting while white Trump supporters are able to storm these buildings with no police presence and president whose basically cheering them on.”
Vallejoan Joe Silva agreed on the Times-Herald Facebook page.
“And if it was any other protest, like a Cesar Chavez protest, or a Black Lives Matter protest, they would’ve been shot,” Silva said.
Michael said despite the surreal day, he still has high hopes for 2021.
“Despite how crazy this is and how furious it makes me somehow it is motivation to keep on fighting the fight,” Michael said. “It’s going to be nice when Biden is sworn in and we can focus on moving forward.”
“A lot of the issues that happened today are because of other issues Trump created that are obliviously illegal,” Sampayan said. “I believe justice will come to him and when he’s out of the White House we will see the law of the land applied to him.”
— Paul Rogers of Bay Area News Group contributed to this report. For more on the protests, check out timesheraldonline.com.