By Jeff Gill, Kelsey Podo and Nick Watson
Scenes of protesters storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday may be “scary” to viewers but they shouldn’t be too surprising, said Charles Bullock, University of Georgia political science professor.
“This is the reaction you could almost anticipate ultimately from (President Trump) deceiving the public, by lying to them about what has happened,” he said.
Five people died as a result of the riots. One woman was fatally shot by police, an officer died after being injured responding to the scene and three people died after separate medical emergencies.
“The president has encouraged this. He has inflamed this. He has called upon people to come to D.C. He’s put forth this misinformation that this election was stolen.”
Trump’s claims “have been heard in dozens and dozens of courts and none of them have found them to be accurate,” he said.
Gov. Brian Kemp called reporters to a heavily guarded state Capitol Wednesday to denounce the violent seige in Washington.
Kemp, who Trump demanded resign for not doing enough to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's victory in Georgia in the Nov. 3 general election, called the rioters' actions "a disgrace and, quite honestly, un-American."
Kemp rebuked state Republican lawmakers who had been calling for a special legislative session to try to change Georgia's 16 electoral votes to Trump or change Georgia's election procedures.
"For those of you that have been calling on a special session, you can now see what that would look like," Kemp said.
Earlier Wednesday, Georgia's secretary of state and his staff evacuated their offices at the state Capitol as armed protesters gathered outside.
Many local and state leaders were reluctant to back off from supporting the electoral college challenge in the joint session of Congress, but many condemned the violence, including newly elected 9th District Rep. Andrew Clyde, who said he still intended to speak out against certifying Georgia’s electors.
“I fully support the right to peacefully protest and I will always defend that right,” Clyde said in a statement. “I also share and understand the frustration of the millions of Americans that feel cheated out of a fair election. That is why I remain steadfast in my decision to object to the certification of electoral votes, and I am prepared to speak on the House floor against certification when the process resumes.”
Clyde went on to say: “I want to be very clear that I do not support violence as a form of protest. I have seen first-hand that the vast majority of protesters were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights, but some were not, and that is not acceptable.”
Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, who represents part of South Hall, also supports the elector challenge.
In a letter to Congress, he said, “The integrity of our elections is paramount to our system of government and I swore to protect it. This should not be controversial, nor should it be partisan.
“Congress has the power to reject electoral votes that are not regularly given or lawfully certified. Out of my great concern for the process and to ensure every legal vote is counted properly and with accuracy, I urge you to object to the Electoral College votes received from the great state of Georgia during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Concerning the protests, he said in a statement, “Americans can disagree on politics, but violently storming our nation’s Capital (sic) is completely unacceptable. This is third world style un-American anarchy. Even when passions run high, the end does not justify the means.
“Folks engaged in violence against law enforcement should be prosecuted.”
Georgia state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, a local dentist, said he was seeing patients all day and had not heard of the news happening at the Capitol when contacted by The Times around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday.
"There's no place in our society, and especially with our democracy, that people can resort to violence rather than peaceful protest,” Hawkins said. “I think that we all can agree, whether we're red or blue, Democrat or Republican, that this has no place in our society."
Hawkins announced in a Facebook post Monday, Jan. 4, his support of the planned challenge to the Electoral College vote. Speaking with The Times Wednesday, Hawkins said he felt the state has not adequately addressed the concerns espoused by some about election integrity.
“I can assure you that during this legislative session, we will address legislation on (elections),” Hawkins said.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he believed the “rule of law should be followed by all those elected and not elected.”
"I am completely and totally embarrassed by what is going on in our nation, and that lawlessness should not be condoned, much less tolerated,” Miller said.
Georgia Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, said while he is in full support of peaceful protests, he does not back those who broke into the Capitol, forcing the evacuation of senators.
“Standing outside the Capitol, they have the right,” he said. “They cannot enter the caucus area of the Congress and certain rooms because they have meetings there. That has to be treated with respect.”
Dunahoo said Trump should address the protesters by telling them to leave the Capitol and continue a legal protest in the designated areas outside the building.
“I think he (Trump) needs to come in and say, ‘Listen guys you’ve proven your point,’” he added. “‘You’ve extended the boundaries of what that freedom gives us in the First Amendment.’”
Moments after Dunahoo spoke with The Times, Trump made an announcement, urging protesters to go home but continued to claim without evidence that the presidential election was “fraudulent.”
Like other area Republicans, Georgia Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, said he did support the challenge of the Electoral College. However, Dubnik said he “would never support violence against any elected official for any reason” or “anything similar to storming the Capitol.”
“It’s a sad day in America when politics leads to violence, for any reason,” he said. “I pray for our leaders and those staff members who are in harm's way inside the Capitol, and in Washington, at this moment. May peace and cooler heads prevail.”
In a statement from the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus, Majority Leader Mike Dugan also said there is “no place” for the scene playing out at the US Capitol.
“There is no place in civil society, particularly ours, for actions such as this. We hope such efforts are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The statement continued, saying “we have regressed as a society when differences in opinion turn into ill will towards each other.”
About 100 protesters gathered at the Georgia Capitol on Wednesday to protest Trump's election loss. Some were armed with guns.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who has publicly defended the integrity of the election that awarded Georgia's 16 electoral votes to Biden, called for Trump to speak more forcefully.
"I call on Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, to speak with all the clarity in the world as to exactly what Americans should do at this point in Washington, D.C.," Duncan said. "They should exit the Capitol peacefully. They should allow democracy to once again shine. I want to speak directly to Georgians, every Georgian that can hear my voice, put down your differences, put down your partisanship and pick up your freedom."
House Speaker David Ralston called the violence "shocking" and "heartbreaking."
"I ... condemn in the strongest possible terms these acts of lawlessness, acts which are despicable and for which there is no possible justification," Ralston said. "Whether your candidate wins or loses an election is no reason to jeopardize the safety of your fellow citizens."
Democracy “requires that there be a peaceful transfer of power,” Bullock said. “In a democracy, one party doesn’t get to rule all the time. The parties compete … but if you lose, then you’re supposed to hand over the keys, walk out and get ready for the next election.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.