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Virginia Politicians React To Washington DC Insurrection

Amanda Chase at podium
Sen. Amanda Chase speaks at a pro-Trump rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday that turned violent. (Screenshot: Senator Amanda Chase Facebook page)

Virginia politicians reacted with dismay as armed rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Lawmakers from both parties condemned the violence, but Democrats placed blame on President Donald Trump and allies who they said encouraged his inflammatory and increasingly authoritarian rhetoric.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th), who served as an officer in the CIA, said it was “less than ideal” to find herself in a gas mask inside the U.S. Capitol -- “to watch Capitol Police officers barricade doors with cables and bookshelves because an angry mob is literally trying to break down the door.” 

Spanberger connected the rioters to an effort from some Republicans to challenge the certification of the November presidential election results.

"This is not a Democratic and Republican thing," Spanberger said in a phone interview from what she described as a secure location. "This is those who would support democracy and those who do not."

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-2nd), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th), Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) and Virginia's two U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, all noted on social media that they were safe and condemned the violent occupation of the Capitol.  Spanberger and Luria called the rioters "domestic terrorists"; Wexton went a step father, calling on Twitter for Trump's removal by his Cabinet or through impeachment.

Gov. Ralph Northam, meanwhile, said he was sending members of the Virginia National Guard along with 200 Virginia State Troopers to Washington D.C. in response to a request from the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser. A. A. "Cotton" Puryear, spokesman for the Virginia National Guard, declined to give details “for operational security reasons.”

Northam also called a curfew for 6PM to 6AM curfew for Alexandria and Arlington, mirroring a policy set by Bowser. 

One of the leading GOP contenders for governor, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian), attended the rally and offered remarks earlier in the day but said she left the city as the riot unfolded.

“We safely were able to head out of D.C. just in time,” Chase said in a video posted to Facebook shot from inside her car. Chase said she’d been told to leave the scene by her security team.

“I know there are a lot of unhappy people, including myself,” she said. “We’re very disappointed that Vice President Mike Pence went in a different direction with the electors.”

Chase has repeatedly floated conspiracy theories, mingled with militia groups, and at one point called for President Donald Trump to declare martial law to force a new election.

“We will not allow an oppressive government or governor,” Chase told supporters in her speech, hours before the violence. 

None of Virginia Republican Congressional delegation have recognized President-elect Joe Biden's victory in November. But they moved quickly to condemn the attacks by pro-Trump extremists. 

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Tweeted Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st). “This is not how we conduct the Nation's business. Please allow us to get the work of the people completed.”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-9th), a staunch Trump ally who’d also signed on to the challenge, also condemned the actions of the president’s supporters at the Capitol.

“Its occupiers must leave and face justice, and the business of the people must continue,” Griffith said in a Facebook post.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Cox said in a statement  that he was "heartbroken and angry" at the scene in D.C.

"The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our republic, key to the ongoing and sustainable success of a representative government,” Cox said.

Cox, a GOP delegate who represents Colonial Heights, has centered his run on a law and order reaction to this summer's Black Lives Matter protests.  Unlike Chase, Cox acknowledged Biden's win after the December 14 Electoral College vote. 

Republican Party of Virginia chair Rich Anderson, who said in November it was “ time to figuratively burn down” the Virginia Board of Elections, struck a somber note in a statement on Wednesday.

Rioters "neither represent nor speak for the Republican Party of Virginia, our fellow citizens, or any civilized people," Anderson said. "They do not reflect our views, our values, or the Republican Creed."

Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Grant Fox argued Virginia Republicans were responding too late.

"The Republican Party has made their disdain for democracy clear, and every elected GOP official has been complicit," Fox said.

Party chair Susan Swecker went farther, calling the Republican delegation "traitors" in a Tweet.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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