People across Wisconsin expressed disgust and shock Thursday after seeing images and video of a violent pro-Trump mob storming the U.S. Capitol a day earlier.
What started as a rally supporting President Donald Trump devolved into chaos and violence Wednesday after a group of pro-Trump extremists walked from the rally to the U.S. Capitol building. The mob clashed with Capitol police and tore down barricades, eventually breaking in and storming the U.S. Capitol building, leading to the evacuation of members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, who were participating in a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College win of President-Elect Joe Biden.
Hours of mayhem followed, with protesters roaming freely throughout the U.S. Capitol, breaking in to legislative offices and vandalizing the building. According to NPR, four people died and multiple police officers sustained injuries Wednesday as a result of the unrest.
Richard Odemoe of Onalaska said what unfolded was disgusting.
He added that peaceful protests are OK, but Wednesday’s actions crossed a line.
“A friendly protest is fine, but when you start destroying American property, that’s not right,” he said.
Luis Cortez, a Madison resident who moved to the U.S. from Nicaragua, called the riots a disgrace.
“That’s how dictatorship happens,” Cortez said. “That’s why I moved here, because in my country, (I) lived like that and I don’t want to live like that again.”
Wisconsin’s entire Congressional delegation condemned the violence, with U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, calling it “banana republic crap” and urging the president to call off his supporters. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, said in a tweet it was a “shameful moment for our country that was encouraged by the (President of the United States).”
But after reassembling Wednesday evening after the U.S. Capitol had been declared safe to return to, two Wisconsin members of Congress — U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau — joined more than one hundred house Republicans in objecting to Biden’s electors from Arizona.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who had previously said he would object to Biden’s electors in certain states, ultimately did not vote to overturn Biden’s electors. But Johnson did release a statement including the speech he was set to deliver before the violent scenes at the U.S. Capitol, describing the people who were mistrustful of the election as “patriots.”
Nicholas Silveus, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who described himself as a conservative but not a supporter of Trump, called Wednesday’s events the “culmination of dangerous rhetoric from President Trump.”
“You get what you get when you sell the line that you have a fraudulent election,” Silveus said. “I’m not surprised it’s happening, but it’s also very sad.”
Silveus said he supports Trump’s removal from office, either via the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
Ed Hansen, who is also a student at UW-Madison, said it feels to him like the country is falling apart. He added that he thought the unrest at the U.S. Capitol was “another step closer to anarchy.”
“I don’t think that there’s any way that we’re really going to stop the slide down,” Hansen said. “I think democracy is just going to keep slowly getting worse.”
In Eau Claire, outside the Acoustic Cafe, UW-Eau Claire students Abby Jochimsen and Megan Moskal said they watched the storming of the U.S. Capitol at home with their parents. Jochimsen said she was shocked but not surprised because tension has been building in the nation for months — or even years — and she said the president is to blame for it coming to a head on Wednesday.
“I felt like he asked them to do that. When he asked them to go home, he didn’t really make it known that they should be going home,” said Jochimsen. “You know, he almost brushed it off, said that the election was stolen and he didn’t really give them a reason to go home.”
Moskal said she wasn’t surprised either by the violence because of numerous videos posted on social media leading up to the mob rushing the Capitol.
“We’re just always on social media constantly and even days prior, like on Tik Tok, for example, I saw videos of Trump supporters saying like, ‘Just wait for Jan. 6, you’re not ready.'”
Editor’s note: Hope Kirwan, Rich Kremer and Rachael Vasquez contributed reporting to this story.