When protesters breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal was one of about a dozen lawmakers stuck in the upper gallery of the House floor in what she called “a very scary moment.”
The U.S. Capitol campus is now secure after heavily armed police moved to end a nearly four-hour violent occupation by supporters of President Donald Trump. The riot interrupted Congress’ Electoral College count that will formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming inauguration on Jan. 20.
Jayapal, who represents the Seattle area, said when Capitol police realized there was a threat, they removed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and others from the House floor. However, they couldn’t get to the members who were watching proceedings from the upper gallery.
“So, we ended up essentially stuck in the gallery,” Jayapal said during a phone call with reporters.
Jayapal said lawmakers were told to take out gas masks, because tear gas was being dispensed. Although Jayapal said some people put their gas masks on, Jayapal didn’t as there wasn’t any tear gas in the chamber.
Then Jayapal heard shots fired from outside the chamber.
“From where I was sitting, I could see Capitol police with their guns drawn, barricades in front of the main door to the chamber,” Jayapal said.
In the midst of the chaos, another House member – Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware – began to pray “a very loud prayer,” Jayapal said.
“I was closing my eyes and praying to whoever was listening…that there would be peace, that there would be no violence, that nobody would be hurt,” Jayapal said.
Once it was safe for the group to leave, Jayapal said they quickly exited and made their way to a safe, undisclosed location.
“You find some strength in these moments, and I just wanted to make sure my colleagues were okay,” Jayapal said. “You know, there were people who really were terrified.”
Despite the experience, Jayapal told KING 5 she’s ready to get back to work.
“We're really clear about what our responsibility is, and I think that we're ready to go back and finish this work,” Jayapal said. “We're not going to let people who are seeking to overturn the election stop us from certifying the election.”
Later, Jayapal called for Pence and Trump's Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
"We must hold the man who incited today's dangerous assault on America fully accountable," Jayapal posted on Twitter.
Rep. Marilyn Strickland spoke about the storming of the U.S. Capitol, "People are being terrorized inside the seat of government, and people watching this are being terrorized."