We could hear people shaking the walls

Politico has a collection of on the scene reporting on what it was like inside the Capitol yesterday. (In one word: scary.)

Marianne LeVine, Senate reporter: Then there was an announcement the building wasn’t secure. Intercom, probably Capitol police. We decided to barricade the doors with couches and chairs. We turned off the lights and we hid behind the desks.

Marianne LeVine: We started hearing noise. We could hear they’d gone into the Capitol. We heard a lot of stampeding and cheers and people. We could hear chants of, “Four more years!” and all that.

Burgess Everett: We could hear people shaking the walls. At this point, people are on the Senate floor and all over the Capitol that shouldn’t be. We don’t even know this because we turned everything off because we’re trying to make it seem like nobody is in this room. We don’t know who the heck is in there. … I just heard banging and yelling, and police screaming and radio. I mean, it just sounded like bedlam.

Stephen Voss:On the north side of the Capitol is a security door. It was very chaotic there. About a dozen rioters had forced themselves through the door but then were pepper sprayed and pushed out; they fell on top of each other in a pile. The Capitol police tried to close the door, but a rioter had jammed a flagpole into the top of the door to keep it open. The police kept trying to close the door and eventually bent the flagpole. This went on for about 45 minutes. At one point the rioters used a metal barricade to try to ram the door. The door glass eventually broke but the police managed to keep the rioters out.

Olivia Beavers: That’s when you notice this sizable shift on the floor below, especially on the Democratic side, which I could see more clearly because I was closer, that, “Oh shit, something is going on.”

Sarah Ferris: Hundreds of lawmakers, who had been seated on the floor or in the upper galleries, began turning to whisper to each other, some raising their voice as they asked what was going on, others frantically checking their phones.

Olivia Beavers: What we could see was the looks on the faces of the members: “Is this really happening?”

The police distributed gas masks, then started evacuating people. The galleries are sectioned off so the reporters had to climb over railings to get out.

Sarah Ferris: I climbed over several rows of chairs, landing in the very front where I could duck behind a short railing. Above me, I saw Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who recently had hip surgery and has been walking with a cane, and I realized she couldn’t get down to the front, so I shuffled a bit and made room for her.

Thank you Sarah Ferris. That’s our Seattle Congresswoman.

Sarah Ferris: The chamber below us was now virtually empty. The remaining members and press were now lumped together in the upper gallery.

Melanie Zanona: There were members who were calling their loved ones. It was just a very scary few minutes there.

Sarah Ferris:Beside us, I heard a loud, desperate prayer from Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. She gripped hands with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who was nearly sprawled onto the floor between two seats, and Congresswoman Val Demings, who sat on the other side.

Melanie Zanona: And so police officers put a big wooden credenza in front of the door and created a barricade and they drew their guns. And we heard just like bang, bang, bang on the doors. We didn’t know what it was at that point.

Sarah Ferris: We heard bangs on the main chamber floor outside, then what sounded like gunshots.

Melanie Zanona: The other police officers where we were up in the balcony said everyone duck for cover. And so I had my hood up. Some people had their hoods on. Some didn’t. I had my hood on. I was just crouched behind a chair up in the balcony. Next to another reporter, just like holding each other’s hands and just crouched waiting there. And I heard what sounded like a gunshot.

Sarah Ferris: A hundred feet in front of us, a half-dozen police officers armed only with handguns stood in front of what looked like a large piece of furniture that had been pushed in front of the main chamber door. I cannot overstate how terrified we all were, not knowing what was coming next.

Olivia Beavers: I had this really clear shot of the police with their guns drawn pointed at these holes in the glass. I had a perfect view of the protesters trying to get in. You could tell there were people on the other side [of the door] but you couldn’t see them.

It went on for about an hour. There was a lot noise, shouting and banging, and they couldn’t tell what was going on. Nothing good, clearly, but no specifics.

Olivia Beavers: Congresswoman [Norma] Torres comforted me, and we told each other we were going to get through this.

Melanie Zanona: At one point, this one member, Rosa DeLauro, reached over and touched my back and said, “Are you OK?” And I said, “Yeah I’m fine—you know, holding it in.”

Then they were led away.

Olivia Beavers: Walking down the stairs, that’s when the shakes began to hit my body. We were a couple of flights down and my legs started to go. I was trying to ask members: “Were there gunshots?”

Sarah Ferris: Packed into a back staircase, descending deeper into the Capitol, I heard Congresswoman Terri Sewell ask, “Does anyone know where we are going?” Nearby, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger shouted down, “Is there a Capitol police officer leading us?”

Melanie Zanona: Mike Quigley, of Illinois, tried to bring a little levity to the situation, and he looked over at one of the new members. I don’t know who the freshman was, but kind of made a joke: Welcome to Congress. You know, just making note of how absolutely insane the situation was.

Olivia Beavers: We were ushered to a safe room. I got to the door and I was stopped by an officer. “No reporters allowed in.” Abigail Spanberger was next to me. She said, “What do you mean? They’re being evacuated with us.” But they wouldn’t let us in. That’s when a member stepped forward and said he’d take six of us to his office. He had experience in the military and he was very calm.

All in a day’s work.

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