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Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell on Capitol riot: ‘They were attacking what is the symbol of our country and our democracy’

‘It was more important than ever that we go back in there’

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell speaks to NBC's Today Show on Jan. 7, 2021
Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell speaks to NBC's Today Show on Jan. 7, 2021 (NBC)

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) has offered a description of what is was like to be in the U.S. House chambers on Wednesday when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building.

Dingell spoke Thursday morning on NBC’s Today Show, describing a very tense situation that included gunshots and tear gas while lawmakers were rushed to safety.

“It was ... I think when you were in the middle of it, and watching these clips now, you didn’t realize quite how serious it was. You saw law enforcement obviously engaged on the floor. I was asked if I would be ready to speak and keep people calm,” said Dingell. “Now, I didn’t understand what calm meant. You saw law enforcement then -- their protection detail -- take leadership very quickly off of the floor. They were still asking me to speak, and then law enforcement came in and told us to sit in our seats, to pull out our gas masks. Pounding began on the doors, we heard gunshots, you could smell tear gas. There was obviously a sense that something was going on. And then we were told that we were going to have to evacuate. I mean, the woman was shot very near where we were, and we were taken out another way.”

Dingell said she and other lawmakers were taken down steps and through tunnels to a safe location.

The Capitol was under siege Wednesday by a large, violent group of President Trump supporters as lawmakers were working to certify the Nov. 3 General Election’s electoral votes. As Dingell noted, a woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol. The woman who was killed was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police said. She was shot in the chest by Capitol Police and taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. City police said three other people died from medical emergencies during the long protest on and around the Capitol grounds.

After the building was cleared and secured, Congress confirmed Democrat Joe Biden as the presidential election winner early Thursday.

“When we returned to the Capitol we saw the holes in the glass and the main door into the House chamber ... bullet holes ... but you know what I see? I see an attack on our democracy. It was more important than ever that we go back in there,” said Dingell. “They were attacking what is the symbol of our country and our democracy, and we have to fight for it, all of us ... I mean, I’m horrified when I see these pictures, and we didn’t have access to television yesterday, and then we were back on the floor so I am seeing most of these pictures for the first time. But, I’m fighting for my country and I’m going to keep fighting for my country.”

Dingell was re-elected to Michigan’s U.S. House District 12 in November.

She released this statement Thursday morning after Biden’s win was certified:

“Yesterday, our democracy bent, but it did not break. Though these Republican-led efforts to overturn our election were unsuccessful in this moment, the cracks they caused in the foundation of our democracy gave domestic terrorists license to invade the United States Capitol. Now, as we move towards the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, we must begin the difficult work of restoring faith in our government, uniting this nation, and holding those responsible for yesterday’s attacks accountable.”

Related: Michigan GOP Rep. Lisa McClain describes situation inside U.S. Capitol


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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.