Under Siege: Indian-American lawmakers recount experiences during mob attack on Capitol

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An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

“My staff and I are safe. The storming of the U.S. Capitol is dangerous and disgusting and needs to stop, immediately,” tweeted Congressman Ami Bera, D-California, at 3:25 pm on Jan. 6, 2021, adding, “a fateful day for America, the leader of the world and beacon of democracy.”

“I was watching the debate on the Arizona objection that the other side filed when all of a sudden – US capitol police came to my office – knocked on my door extremely loudly shouting – ‘Get Out! Get Out! Get Out!’” Congress Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, one of the four Indian-American lawmakers in the House of Representatives recounted to CBS Chicago after an evening of mayhem when large numbers of Trump supporters overran the Capitol Building smashing windows and destroying furniture.

“It turned out that it appeared there was a bomb in the building. I withdrew from there to a secure location with a couple of my staff,” Krishnamoorthi said.

History was made and in an infamous way, on Jan. 6, 2021, as the U.S. Senate was affirming the Electoral College vote to officially recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the next occupant of the White House, and Indian-American Kamala Harris as Vice President, come Jan. 20, 2021.

Four people died, three from health issues, and a policeman succumbed to his injuries the next day. Dozens were injured including many officers and at last count more than 80 people have been arrested.

On Jan. 6, a curfew was imposed on Washington, D.C., as lawmakers came out of their “secure” locations to resume voting, finishing what is traditionally a routine task at 3:45 am in the morning of January 7, a day after it was supposed to be.

Leaders on both sides of the aisle called the mobs “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists” including President-elect Biden.

“Sheltering in Cannon: Trump was rejected in courts by people his party appointed, rejected by states where his party was in power & now by his party’s Senate leader & VP,” tweeted Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California from his secure location in the Canon House Office Building.

Khanna optimistically added, “Democracy is still sacred for Americans. That spirit will overcome today’s violence. Prayers for the injured.”

“I am safe and sheltering in place,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, recently elected chair of the House Progressive Caucus, tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence enters the House chamber, after the Congress reconvened to certify the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election, in Washington, U.S. January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

She later told Seattle Times it was a “very scary” experience when the crowds invaded Capitol Hill. She was among a dozen other lawmakers stuck in the upper gallery of the House floor, the newspaper reported.

Jayapal and others were told to use gas masks as tear gas would be used. She heard shots fired outside the House chamber.

“From where I was sitting, I could see the Capitol police with their guns drawn, barricades in front of the main door to the chamber,” Jayapal told Seattle Times.

Near her, another House member began praying loudly.

“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.

She was among the first lawmakers to call for President Trump to be removed immediately. “I’m calling on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to put this country first and uphold their constitutional duty to invoke the 25th Amendment,” the Seattle Times reported Jayapal writing.

She was joined by other leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling for the same despite just two weeks left for the Trump presidency.

Indian-American elected officials in state legislatures also spoke out against the violence on Capitol Hill.

State Senator of Virginia Ghazala Hashmi, in a statement on Facebook, said, she watched with a sense of “disbelief and sorrow” the “violent mob” seeking to overturn a Presidential election “and thereby disrupt the very foundations of our democratic institutions.”

State Delegate Suhas Subramanyam, also of Virginia, said, “I absolutely condemn the violence that occurred today at the Capitol, and it saddens me that things we’re used to seeing in nations with weak democracies and authoritarian states happened here in our country.”

Urging President Trump to condemn the violence on Capitol Hill, the Hindu American Foundation called it a “sad day” for America and for democracy at large.

“The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) unequivocally condemns the violence, chaos, and anarchy that unfolded today at the US Capitol building, as a mob stormed in and broke into the House and Senate chambers during a joint session of Congress. This is absolutely unacceptable, shameful, and wrong,” the HAF said in a long statement pointing the finger at President Trump and his allies for putting out “wild conspiracy theories” about the 2020 election.

Warning that “Those who cast doubt on the legitimacy of America’s elections are charting a dangerous and unprecedented path that we believe represents a clear and present threat to American democracy as we know,” the HAF went on to say that “Hindu Americans are uniquely attune to the foundations of and threats to democracy, as many of us trace our heritage to the Republic of India, the world’s largest democracy.”

According to HAF, “Hindu values and ideals are American values and ideals and the bonds between our people, our commitment to freedom, equality, and representative democracy remain unshaken.”

The world watched in astonishment as events unfolded on Capitol Hill. Leaders from around the world responded including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a tweet, Modi said, “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington, DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”

Meanwhile, an Indian flag was spotted among the social media footage of protesters who stormed Capitol Hill. It went viral.

“Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in…,” tweeted Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi on his Twitter feed Jan. 7, 2021.

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