The Fargo Forum: Rep. Kelly Armstrong recounts events at the Capitol on January 6
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., was in the balcony of the House chamber when rioters started trying to break down the doors after Capitol police had locked them.
He said he was right above where officers had their guns drawn as the rioters pushed on the door.
"People were scared," he said.
He said he has nothing but the highest praise for the officers who evacuated House members and staff and moved them from one safe room to another.
"It's sad. It's the first time since 1812 that the Capitol has been breached," said the second-term congressman from Dickinson.
Armstrong said he has seen on social media that people thought the assault on the Capitol was staged.
"I seriously think it's important for people to know that it wasn't. I was in the room," he said. "I had some really good friends in the Capitol police force that were injured today trying to protect members of Congress, staff and the building."
He said the police were simply overwhelmed and overrun by rioters who broke windows on the Capitol and found ways to enter the building.
"Some people were hurt pretty bad, and tragically a woman was killed," Armstrong said.
He said all summer he was condemning rioting across the nation, and he puts this situation right up there with those events.
"Every one of these people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
"What might be the saddest part of this is that the openness and security of the Capitol will change forever. Once you lose that you never get it back," Armstrong said.
He said in the early evening police were still making sure the building was cleared of all rioters. To show the "resiliency" of the democracy, he added, both houses of Congress were going back into session to certify the Electoral College results.
He said he wanted to make sure that people know that what was happening with objections in Congress Wednesday was only "symbolic in nature" and that the new president was going to be certified.
Attempts to reach North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven by phone to discuss their experiences went unanswered. But both senators strongly condemned the violence in statements.
"Violence is never okay, and what is happening is abhorrent," Cramer said. He added Wednesday night in a press release that "the violence at our nation’s Capitol is disgusting. It should never have happened, and we all need to make sure it never happens again. What we saw today does not reflect the feelings or actions of the patriotic Americans I know and serve.
"Thankfully, our nation is better than our worst moments, and we will not be bullied by a few anarchist thugs trying to prevent us from following the Constitution and doing the job we are required to do," he said.
Hoeven said in a statement late Wednesday night that with America being the beacon of freedom and democracy in the world it was "very important we have returned to the Senate and House chambers to finish our work."
"We are a nation of laws and we must enforce our laws. We condemn those who occupied the capitol and the acts of violence and destruction," he said.
The Capitol chaos came after pro-Trump protesters from a rally he held marched more than a mile to the Capitol after the president spoke saying the election was "stolen and a fraudulent election." He repeated those comments in a later address when he urged protesters that they should go home.
It came as Congress was beginning to discuss the Electoral College results and within minutes rioters were seen moving around the Senate floor and even entering Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's office. The steps to the Capitol were also filled with Trump supporters.
Several North Dakotans were at the Trump rally and the march to the Capitol, including a busload from the region, whom Cramer met with on Tuesday.
Retired Fargo man Kevin Register, who traveled on his own to the rally, said the violence at the Capitol was just a small "moment" of the day involving "about 50 idiots," while most of the day was peaceful.
He attended the Trump rally at The Ellipse park starting about 8 a.m. on Wednesday, which also featured Trump family members, Attorney Rudy Giuliani and then Trump himself.
He said there were "probably 200,000 people" at the rally. His purpose in attending, he said, was to have Congress "at least check on the alleged fraud in the election to see if there's anything there."
As he joined the march to the Capitol, he walked around the building and after experiencing tear gas and seeing some rubber bullets he kept on the move.
"People were riled up," he said.
As the law enforcement presence grew and the door wore on, he said he decided it was time to head back to his hotel.
The North Dakota delegation said before Wednesday's events they were going to stick with the results of the Electoral College and not seek to change any results. The three all said they didn't think North Dakotans would want someone objecting to their voting results so why should they question those of other states.
However, Cramer and Hoeven announced Wednesday that they support federal legislation that would create an 18-member bipartisan commission to examine the 2020 election and make recommendations to state legislatures on how to improve the security and integrity of federal elections.
Safety concerns even came down to the local level as the Fargo Police Department was monitoring for credible threats and suspicious behavior in relation to the violent actions at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Mayor Tim Mahoney and Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski have been in regular communication throughout this event to ensure readiness. Zibolski has also been in contact with the FBI in a proactive measure to ensure local law enforcement has been provided with critical information from federal authorities.
The Fargo Police Department said it respects every person’s right to peacefully assemble and protest but is prepared to work collaboratively with the community to keep residents safe.