‘I don’t recognize our country today’: Members under siege in Congress give their accounts

By Ron Kampeas, JTA

(JTA) — Armed protesters marching through the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers under lock and key. At least one person shot and critically injured.

Protesters attempting to stop the congressional certification Wednesday of President-elect Joe Biden stormed the Capitol. There were reports of shots fired, and media said Capitol Police critically injured a woman among the rioters.

Capitol police evacuated lawmakers going through the ceremonial function of counting the electoral votes. President Donald Trump, still refusing to accept his loss, urged protesters to march to the Capitol.

There are at least 33 Jewish members of the new Congress, in the House and in the Senate, among those who would have been present today. There also are hundreds of Jewish staffers, although because of the pandemic many are working remotely.

Here are some snapshots, gathered from social media postings by Jewish lawmakers and in interviews.

“Just had to evacuate my office because of a bomb reported outside, while the President’s anarchists are trying to force their way into the Capitol,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat re-elected to her sophomore term. “I heard what sounds like multiple gunshots.”

Luria, like virtually every other lawmaker — a handful of leaders are the exception — are housed in buildings adjacent to the Capitol. She is a retired Naval commander. “I don’t recognize our country today and the members of Congress who have supported this anarchy do not deserve to represent their fellow Americans,” she said.

Two other Jewish Democratic sophomores from Michigan were taking shelter together. “I am remaining safely in my office, as are my staff who were directed to stay home,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a onetime CIA analyst. “Rep. Andy Levin is with me since his office building was evacuated.”

Levin, Michigan Jewish royalty whose father is retired longtime Rep. Sander Levin, posted video to social media to say he was safe, and smiled at first: He was still steeped in the good news for his party, that Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff had won Senate races in Georgia, handing the Senate to Democratic control.

“The joy of that is washed to the side at the moment as we are going through an assault on our democracy right here in the Capitol complex,” he said. “The president of the united states has encouraged his supporters to overrun the U.S. Capitol.”

Levin recalled seeing affronts to popular protests as a longtime human rights campaigner, interviewing dissidents in hiding in Haiti and China.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this here as a member of Congress,” he said.