One day after supporters of President Donald Trump rioted and invaded the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., as members of the House and Senate were in the process of counting the electoral votes that certified President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng recalled the day’s events during a conversation with QNS.
Speaking from her apartment in D.C. after leaving the Capitol around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, Meng said she feels “fine” now, but said she was “very nervous when everything was happening.”
“After the Capitol police rescued us, I felt much better,” Meng told QNS.
Meng, who represent Queens’ 6th Congressional District, had to barricade herself in a side office of the Capitol building when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters began to approach the entrance. At around 1:30 p.m., she said she received alerts about one of the Capitol’s three buildings being evacuated.
Meng said she was worried, as she knew “the public wasn’t supposed to be in the buildings.” She then got another warning to stay away from windows and doors, and to shelter in place.
Within minutes, she began to feel afraid.
“I heard a lot of thumping coming from outside … then I saw on TV that they were starting to march right outside our door,” said Meng, who added she could growing hear chants coming from outside the building. “I didn’t know if they had weapons or if they were peaceful.”
Meng immediately turned off the lights, turned the TV on mute and put her phone on silent.
“I was still afraid they’d find me or come in,” she said, so she decided to push chairs in front of the door, with a gas mask on her side.
Meng said she was just 20 feet from where a woman who was with the pro-Trump rioters breached the building was shot. It was later confirmed the woman died.
Throughout the ordeal, Meng said she was in contact with her family and friends via text messages as they saw the chaos unfold on the news, but wasn’t comfortable speaking on the phone because she didn’t want the rioters to hear her.
Meng said that after an hour and a half, none of the rioters broke into the office where she was sheltered, as Capitol police with, help from the National Guard and FBI, eventually secured the building.
She was relieved, as she didn’t know “how successful” her barricade would have been.
When asked whether she would have expected anything like what occurred on Wednesday to take place in what many people consider the safest place in the country, she said “not at all.”
“I had no training at all,” Meng nervously laughed.
But after hours of rioting delayed the certification of votes — a routine and ceremonial function after the Electoral College officially elected Biden — both the House and Senate returned to officially begin the transition of power.
Meng said she doesn’t believe Congress’ role is to overturn votes made by Americans.
“It’s important that we let Americans voice their decisions at the ballot box,” she said. “Last time Hilary [Clinton] lost, she was my candidate, and I didn’t like that she lost, but I accepted it. I represent Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe Congress has the right to overturn elections.”
However, one troubling aspect of the chaos that ensued on Wednesday was the response from Capitol police. On Twitter, Meng said she’d seen a much bigger police presence months prior during Black Lives Matter protests.
“I’ve never been scared for my life during BLM protests, I was terrified for my life today,” she wrote in a tweet. “I said ‘bye’ to family & friends & I’m still hiding.”
Meng arrived at the Capitol early in the morning in order to beat crowds and traffic, and was momentarily worried about the unusual police presence.
“But I left it up to maybe me being there so early in the morning, since no one was supposed to protest till later in the day,” she said. “From what I’ve seen on socials and TV, officers seemed to get overwhelmed and rioters were able to infiltrate.”
Meng, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which funds the Capitol Police, said they’re launching an investigation into the security breach as some of her fellow Congress members have asked for a full and transparent review of proceedings.
“I’ve been in Congress for a few years now. I’ve seen so many protests and large gatherings all the time, the most recent being the BLM protests” she said. “It seems that every other large gathering have had a strong showing of police officers with barricades up far away from the Capitol building’s entrance. They didn’t seem to have a strong presence yesterday.”
Meng joined several Queens lawmakers in calling for the immediate removal of Trump from office, stating he “incited yesterday’s chaos, violence, and destruction at the U.S. Capitol.”
This article first appeared on our sister site, qns.com