‘An Absolutely Incredible Occurrence’: Rep. Maxine Waters Speaks Amid Today’s Attack on the Capitol

As supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building today, the Southern California congresswoman spoke with Los Angeles magazine about what she wants her constituents to know

Several hours ago, a violent mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, breaking windows, vandalizing federal property, and threatening the safety of members of congress representing both parties.

At just after 1 p.m. this afternoon, as she sheltered in place in an undisclosed location, California Rep. Maxine Waters spoke to Los Angeles.

Where are you calling from at the moment? 

I’m here at the Capitol where we started the procedures today to count the electoral ballots. That’s what we were supposed to be doing today. We had gotten as far as the first state that was being objected to—that was Arizona—and we had to break up and each house had to go into a debate. And it was during this time that the protesters mounted the insurrection that is an attempt to take over the Capitol. And they’re doing a damn good job of it.

At what point did it dawn on you that something was amiss inside the chambers? 

Well, let me tell you, I suspected that something like this would take place, and I talked with the chief of police here at the Capitol about what the security plans were. And the chief of police assured me that they would not even get on the plaza, let alone get in the Capitol. And I must have asked him 30 or 40 questions about how he was going to secure the Capitol and how would he know which of these organizations would be here. I mentioned to him that the Proud Boys were in town and the Oath Keepers were in town and white supremacists were in town, and he assured me that not only did they have it under control they were working in cooperation with the Metropolitan police of DC. And all of that has turned out to be untrue that they really had it taken care of.

This is an absolutely incredible occurrence here in the United States Capitol where these anarchists are basically taking over our chamber and our statuary hall and the Senate floor. They’re all over the place, breaking the windows, and I saw one scene where they were trying to bring down the American flag and trying to hoist the Trump flag on top of the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office has been targeted by the disruptors. You yourself maintain a similarly high political profile among the most ardent supporters of President Trump. Have you been targeted today? 

I am in an undisclosed and secure place. I know that I could be a target. It was only a few days ago that another threat came in to kill me. And this happens from time to time. And so I know that I should be careful as much as I possibly can. That I’m a target. As a Black controversial woman I have the white supremacists and others who are constantly after me threatening me, saying terrible things about me, and lying about my stance on issues. I live with this and so I’m not surprised that we have protesters. But I am surprised that they have the support of the President of the United States of America.

Did you take personal precautions knowing so many of these people were coming to town for today’s vote? 

I depended on the Capitol Police and I came in early, long before I thought the protesters would get organized, at 7 a.m. this morning trying to make sure that I was here before they got here. I did get here early and I saw some of them on the streets organizing. But we got in without any problems. That’s all I could do and depend on the Capitol Police to have a security plan to take care not only of the members but everybody. I’m just concerned about people on the street, I’m concerned about this country and where this is going and whether or not this could lead to a coup d’etat or civil war. I’m concerned about America.

Are there any provisions in place to continue the vote that is legally mandated to occur today? 

We don’t know when the count of the electoral votes that we started today is going to resume. Because of this disruption I don’t know exactly when we get reorganized, when they’re going to clear the place out and when we can go on with making sure that the electoral votes are received as they’re supposed to be received to support President Biden and Kamala Harris.

Can you say more about the scene that unfolded before your eyes today inside the Capitol? 

I can tell you what I’m seeing on television. I’ve seen the crashing in of windows. I’ve seen protesters in statuary hall with flags and posters. I’ve seen them on the floor of the chamber shouting Trump won. And I’ve seen scenes of them on the Senate floor and I saw them chasing a Capitol police officer, and I’ve seen a woman being carried out on a gurney with blood on her face and shoulders and I don’t know what that was about. I’m watching as they decided to maintain their presence on the Capitol steps on the balcony, the steps where we would normally go up to get into the chamber. They have decided to occupy the Capitol and are still trying to break in windows.

What are you feeling right now at this unprecedented situation unfolding in the nation’s capital? 

I want to tell you that I am overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness and worry about whether or not we’re going to be confronted with this kind of an insurrection as long as the President of the United States is unhappy about the fact that he did not win and they feel they have the support of the president. I’m worried about the direction this country is going to take, whether or not the white supremacists and the domestic terrorists are going to feel emboldened by the fact that they’ve been able to basically violate the Capitol and they feel stronger now that this can be done. I’m just very sad to see this taking place.

Do you get the sense that the police are gathering reinforcements to clear the Capitol? What is the situation inside the building right now? 

We’ve gotten reports on our cell phones of protesters heard in the hall trying to get into the rooms where they are. And they barricaded the doors and even used their bodies against the doors to make sure that they could not push in on them in any way. We are all as safe as we can be, locked down wherever we can be, and we understand that the Governor of Virginia is sending in National Guard. We understand the initial turndown from the Department of Defense of a request to call in the National Guard made by the mayor of DC has been changed and there may be National Guards coming from two sources or so. So I’m just waiting and watching to see how these people are going to be cleared out and how it’s going to be done and who’s going to do it. I don’t think they plan on leaving, I think they plan on being disruptive and not allowing the electoral count to go in the way the Constitution mandates. And so I want to know and see if the National Guard will clear them out and they’ll not be occupying the Capitol the way they’re doing.

Are members of your staff safe at the moment? 

Nobody is safe as long as you have these anarchists and these terrorists who are occupying the Capitol and on our grounds. We don’t know what these people have in mind. I’m told there has been one bomb that was apprehended and was evidently dealt with in some way. I believe some of them have guns and many of them come from carry states where they carry guns all the time. We do know there have been several arrests of people with guns. So nobody is safe.

It is not only about the safety of the Capitol and the workers. As chair of the Financial Services Committee I can tell you the markets cannot take uncertainty, they cannot take this kind of disruption. This is not good for our economy. This is not good for our relationships with other countries. This is not good for the stability of the dollar. Everybody is at risk.

“This is not good for our economy. This is not good for our relationships with other countries. This is not good for the stability of the dollar. Everybody is at risk.”

How important is it that both houses of Congress move forward with the vote scheduled for today? 

We have to move forward with this vote even if our lives depend on it. We cannot allow it to be interrupted so that it never happens. If we do that, we’re giving in to these domestic terrorists. We’re going to take this vote one way or the other. We want the security, we want the police, we want the National Guard to do what they’re gonna do. But we’ve got to get back into our chambers and we’ve got to accept the electoral vote counts from all the states the way the Constitution would have us do. And we cannot back down from that.

Any message to the people of Los Angeles? 

I want people to pay attention and I want them to stay in front of the television and listen to the news. Americans have got to know what is happening to their country, and everybody’s got to take some responsibility that we’re going to have a democracy, and this is not going to happen and we’re not going to support these kind of dangerous protesters, we’re not going to support the idea that if you disagree with the opposite political party that somehow you can take over the government and that you can undermine the constitution. I want to tell you, I have not seen a Black face out there. All of these are white faces. And the question for me is what are the white people of this country going to do to help make this country safe and secure our democracy. What role are they going to play in helping to bring about safety and security and a future that we can all be proud of. I want people to get in tune with what is happening. I want them to know that this is their country where this is taking place. This is not a third world country. I want them to know that the respect is being drained away from us now as we’re being watched as the leaders of the world who are often talking about how we can be involved in helping others to build democracy. I want you to know that our democracy has been undermined for four years now with this president and his alignment with Putin and the oligarchs of Russia. Something is happening in American that is very dangerous, and I do believe that [President-elect Joe] Biden and the new administration will do everything that they can to make people feel that this is their country and that they have to be involved in making sure the democracy isn’t undermined and torn apart just because someone is unhappy they didn’t win.

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