Amid Capitol riot, Michigan officials wonder: This is America?

Members of Congress sheltered in place as extremists loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, broke windows and entered offices. One person was shot. (Shutterstock photo by Michael Slavin)

LANSING — As he huddled in a colleague's staff room Wednesday while President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to contest his election loss, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin thought back to 1989, when he witnessed democracy under attack in Chengdu, China.

Levin had been overseas conducting research as a student at the University of Michigan when he witnessed Chinese military troops beat and attack pro-democracy demonstrators. 

"I've experienced a lot of tear gas," Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, recalled Wednesday after Trump supporters clashed with police and delayed Congress’ Electoral College vote count that will officially make Democrat Joe Biden the next president of the United States.


"But I did not expect as a member of Congress to have people try to violently interrupt the workings of our democracy,” he said. "It's a super sad day.”

The second-term lawmaker spoke with Bridge Michigan from a staff room in an office of U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, where he was sheltering in place after his office was evacuated following an apparent pipe bomb threat and rioting in and around the Capitol. 

“What's happening right now is literally an assault on democracy itself,” Levin said. “The president of the United States has encouraged his supporters to overrun the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the counting of the Electoral College votes. 

We're not going to let it happen. We're going to stand here and do our jobs.”

Hours earlier, Trump had rallied a massive crowd of supporters, encouraging them to march to the Capitol and “show strength” by demanding lawmakers vote to overturn elections in states including Michigan, which Biden won by 154,188 votes. 

By late Wednesday afternoon, after reports of gunfire inside the Capitol and one fatal shooting prompted local officials to impose an evening curfew, Trump finally encouraged his supporters to “go home.” 

But as he did so in a video message, the president again falsely claimed the election was “stolen” from him, repeating a conspiracy theory that critics say emboldened his supporters to violence. 

“Unacceptable,” tweeted freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, who had been in the House when mayhem broke out.

“Enough. Acknowledge Biden as President-Elect and end this madness. Violent rioters laid siege to the nation’s Capitol in an act of insurrection unparalleled in modern times. This is not leadership.”

Tony Daunt, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund,  denounced Trump’s continued claims of election theft.

“Today’s assault on our institutions of government – and on ordered liberty – is an outgrowth of the rhetoric, lies, and conspiracies spread by the President and other elected Republicans who’ve falsely and feverishly claimed November’s election was stolen,” Daunt said in a statement. “Their actions over the last two months have today produced disastrous and violent consequences.”

Outside of Michigan, other prominent Republicans including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged Trump to do more to stop his supporters.

"The president incited this, and only he can stop it,” Christie told ABC News. 

Three Michigan Democrats — U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield — were in the Capitol when protesters clashed with police and broke windows to gain entry, according to Levin, who was not  in the building because of COVID-19 precautions.

“They’re safe,” Levin said of his colleagues, who were eventually evacuated after police locked down the building. “They're in another location that's not being disclosed. And we are going to try to re-establish a security perimeter and restart these proceedings.”

Kildee tweeted from the House chambers earlier Wednesday, saying he and colleagues had been instructed to lie down on the floor and put on gas masks as police drew their weapons and demonstrators banged on the chamber door. 

"This is not a protest," Kildee wrote. "This is an attack on America."

The chaos came on what is typically a ceremonial day marking the United State’s tradition of peaceful transfer of power, as Congress accepts and formalizes the results of the Electoral College.

Michigan was expected to be one of six states whose results will be challenged in a long-shot, futile effort to keep Trump in power.

At least two Michigan Republicans — Rep. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet and Tim Walberg of Tipton — were expected to formally object to the election results, but it was not clear if they would be joined by a senator, which would trigger floor votes. The process was interrupted during debate on Arizona electors. 

“Today, the symbolic foundation of our country was attacked by violent and destructive actions,” Walberg said in a Wednesday evening statement. 

“I strongly condemn this reprehensible behavior and call for all violence to cease immediately.”

But Levin, a Democrat, argued that the pending Republican objection to the Michigan election was arguably worse than the “mob” response at the Capitol. 

“Elected representatives trying to overturn democracy is the most seditious,” he said. “It’s the worst.”

Hundreds of Trump supporters also rallied for the president at the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday in what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration. 

“Today’s riot at the [U.S.] Capitol is not what anyone wants for our country or our children,” Michigan House Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said in a statement, urging Trump to “use his voice” to restore order and peace. 

“America is a beautiful and special place, but this is a tragic moment in our history that obscures our legacy,” Wentworth added. 

In his address to supporters earlier Wednesday, Trump had repeated a series of demonstrably false and unproven claims about the Michigan election. He again suggested that "Detroit had more votes than it had voters," alleging 139 percent turnout in Michigan's largest city, where voter turnout was actually around 50 percent. 

And the president again mischaracterized a human error by the GOP clerk in Antrim County to suggest Dominion Voting Systems equipment flipped votes in swing states around the country, repeating a conspiracy that Michigan Republicans investigated but found no merit in. 

“Make no mistake: this election was stolen from you, from me and from the country," Trump said.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who has joined with local GOP clerks to refute numerous fraud claims from the president and his supporters, appeared to blame Trump and his enablers for Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol. 

“This is happening because of lies,” Benson tweeted. “Because of a choice leaders made to spread and repeat lies about our democracy. They spread and repeated those lies in court, to the media, in the halls of our state legislatures. That is why this is happening.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who has successfully defended the president’s fraud claims in court, tweeted that Wednesday’s “shameful display” in the U.S. Capitol will be Trump’s legacy. 

“Is now a good time to renew discussions about banning guns at the Michigan Capitol?” Nessel added, referencing a months-long debate sparked by armed protesters who demonstrated in Lansing over coronavirus restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the target of a foiled kidnapping plot. 

“Now is the time to put this election behind us once and for all,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We must unify as one nation to defeat our real enemy, which is the pandemic that has taken far too many of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.”

She was joined by former Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, who urged prayer for peace, calm and healing.

“While we come from different backgrounds and political parties, Governor Whitmer and I share a deep love for our country,” Snyder said in a statement. “We must always remember that we are Americans first, and we are not one another’s enemy.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Wed, 01/06/2021 - 9:45pm

After 4+ years of Democrats refusing to accept the results of an election, of obstruction, of false narratives and impeachments for election tampering purposes. After a fraudulent election and 4 years of conspiracy with the media to over throw a duly elected President Democrats are upset by reaping what they've sown?

Four years of "Not my President" of "resistance" and people holding the severed bloody head of the President in effigy, of tearing up State of the Union addresses and false sexual assault accusations against people Trump nominates.

Four years of a full out frontal assault on democracy, now Democrats want to whine about Americans standing up for their rights, for this country?

Yes, the peaceful protesters (who have done far less damage than the "peaceful" BLM "protests") could have chosen a better way to get their message across. I watched the live footage, I saw people standing around waving flags, or wandering through the Capitol building within the ropes set out and staff standing there watching them . I saw a couple of people going through desks or carrying a statue (as opposed to toppling them).

What I didn't see were buildings burning, people running out of broken store windows with TV's and other merchandise, no rapes, no assaults on random people, no roving gangs of people looking for victims.

I saw far less violence and crime than I saw in the "peaceful protests" from the summer of 2020, which I'm still waiting for Biden and other Democrats, as well as the media, to condemn. Though I'm not holding my breath

David Werner
Sat, 01/09/2021 - 8:46am

This is the same kind of rhetoric that maintains the American divide. If you carefully read this article you note the author walks on both sides of the issue. Things complained about one side doing the author does as well.

middle of the mit
Wed, 01/06/2021 - 11:17pm

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who has successfully defended the president’s fraud claims in court, .
Has the AG defended the Presidents fraud claims?

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat appeared to blame Trump and his enablers for Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Who do you think is responsible?

“No one other than President Donald Trump himself is more responsible for Wednesday’s coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol than one Joshua David Hawley, the 41-year-old junior senator from Missouri, who put out a fundraising appeal while the siege was underway…”

“Among those Hawley got to emulate him was Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, whose very first act as a member of the world’s greatest deliberative body was to sell out his country by attempting to overturn the outcome of a legitimate election.”
We can blame the mob, thugs, patriots whatever you want to call them all we want, but someone puts these ideas into their heads. A lot of those someones are elected officials who know what they are doing is wrong. Those are the people who need to be called out. And we have a whole host of them in our State.

Why is anyone surprised by this? No one in MI should be. Our Republican elected officials condone, promote and attend these events. Then they play act that they are surprised.... appalled even. Aghast I say! when this is the outcome.

“Derrick Evans (R)One video shows him in the Capitol interior while surging through a door. He says, “We’re in! We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”

There was very little police presence today. From what I saw, those people were beating police up too.
Either way, did you see the response you saw in street protests?

I didn't.

What to make of the fact that the streets are protected better than the US Capital........(or any State Capital for that matter)......
And they are still claiming the vote is rigged in congress. Who is going to stand up to them? Or do we have to appease these people?

Think about it. They are complaining about courts changing rules right before an election, for purposes of a pandemic, but these people always change the rules just before the election if they are in office. They also purge the list just before the election. Oh don't forget they are trying to use the courts after the election to change the rules and the legislatures and congress to steal the election from the people.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 3:09am

As reported by CNN:

This was "whipped up by politicians... the President of the United States himself and some of my colleagues who know better," said Kildee, speaking on CNN this morning.

"Those members of Congress who supported this specious attack on the Electoral College vote will have their names permanently written in ink and everyone should know those names," said Kildee.

"I will never look at my colleagues who voted for these challenges, who fueled this insanity... the same, and that includes some of my Michigan colleagues who I could not look in the eye today when we were huddled in a safe place," he said.

"I hope we remember those names forever," he concluded.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 3:18am

A bid by Republicans to object to Michigan's electoral results, which certified President-elect Joe Biden's win, failed tonight in a joint session of Congress.

The objection was raised by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who confirmed that it was in writing but had not been signed by a senator.

Because the objection lacked the signature, Vice President Mike Pence rejected the action.

"In that case, the objection cannot be entertained," Pence said, drawing applause from members of Congress.

And as a result, the objection failed.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 8:16am

This is what trump , the republicans and the republican voters made America>>> a third world country!!!

Dave M
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 8:34am

What our president has done in continuing to spread allegations of fraud, trying to persuade people in power to overturn election results, and now incite insurrection is basically sedition. He needs to be held accountable for those actions. He should be immediately censured, if not impeached. The Congress of the United States, on behalf of its citizens, must let the president know that the people and congress are in charge, not him.

Almighty Dollar
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 8:40am

Trump has built the tomb that Republicans have sealed themselves in. They have enabled Trump’s racism, fascism and lunacy all so they could get judges appointed, tax cuts for billionaires, and extension if confederate white supremacy values.

This sad, unpatriotic, and violent episode was signed, sealed and delivered by Republicans, who have served as Trumps enablers for the past 4 years.

All supporters of these objections should never be re-elected again.

They have supported sedition and need to immediately resign.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 8:59am

The same government officials who are questioning "Is this America" are responsible for what is going on in America. They are all ready to jump at taking credit for the good that takes place but not for the bad things. They are ultimately responsible for it all. They "Represent" the people!

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 9:33am

Dear Bridge America, STOP talking to Democrats & RINOS. You will never get the truth from them. Why not try talking to Politicians & citizens that support President Trump for THEIR side of the story? OR is Bridge America just as Bias against the President & his supporters as the rest of the media!!! PROVE ME WRONG!!!

Robert Snideman
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 9:42am

Hate to say it, but the inaction when the Jack Pine Savages stormed the Michigan Capitol
helped set the Stage for Yesterday's Riot in D.C. The no penalties occupation by the armed Fascist Populists was never called what it truly was - a Riot. Those Unwashed Thugs should have been Punished, and their Bang-Bang Toys confiscated, and destroyed. The Michigan Fiasco showed that there were No Consequences for these actions. The State missed the boat Big time when nothing happened. I blame the republicans for not acting with courage and authority on this one. True, they would have had to come down on their own Voters, but no cujones were even shone. Bad Dogs !! Yes, I am a Democrat, and a never tRUMPER.

Be honest
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 10:16am

While this is a little shocking, in all honesty, we can't say we didn't see this coming. You can't elect someone like Trump and expect otherwise. He puts gas on on embers and tiny sparks. He promotes lies and incites violence. Is it any wonder some of his followers will do his bidding? Hatred didn't start with Trump, but he is the first US president refusing to leave and encouraging the overthrow of our government. The shocking part is that so many elected Republican officials enable him, refuse to impeach him, refuse to condemn him.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 10:46am

It is sickening to listen to GOP politicians like Chris Christie rushing to get on the record to denounce yesterday’s sedition inciting rhetoric from the POTUS after trying to equivocate and hold on to Trump’s support and that of his cult-like base for the past four years. Listening to Rep. John Moolenaar’s remarks during media interviews without any mention of the role Trump played in directing the insurrection was maddening, especially knowing that he supported the suit from Texas to discount millions of votes from Michigan and several other States. They are cowardly opportunists, and they enabled Trump and ignored his corruption for years. Now they want us to believe they are outraged.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 11:40am

For We the People of Michigan these shocking events are not unfamiliar. are they?
We have seem similar mobs of armed political protestor-thugs roaming the halls and chambers of our own State Capitol and its grounds. Perhaps they were not incited and whipped up by their titular leadership as they were yesterday,
Perhaps the sheer numbers were not there to self-generate the escalation we saw yesterday.
But the forces at play were the very same the only difference was a matter of scale.

As we hear the hue and cry for proper legal process to be executed on the violators of the sanctity of our Nation's Capitol,
one must wonder why the same desire for justice has not been present for the violation of our own State's capitol?

25th Amendment
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 11:57am

Trump, Cruz, Hawley seditionists, traitors.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 12:06pm

Trump banned from social media, but still has the nuclear codes. Time to invoke 25th Amendment.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 12:10pm

What is the reason behind the Protest,,that is what we NEED to know,,how has DC failed so many citizens? Also,,it may become apparent that there were other groups,,such as Anti-fa and BLM hiding among the Protesters that carried out the violence,,not true Trump supporters. This is the Peoples House, and these people were mostly non-violent!

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 12:39pm

Michigan's 1st U.S. District Representative Jack Bergman’s failed attempt to disenfranchise Michigan’s voters and voters in five other states, by demanding that Congress reject these states’ Electoral College votes, was an attempted coup d'etat, an attempt to overthrow a legitimately elected civil authority. This is sedition, sedition that stoked violent insurrection at our nation’s capital.

Sedition is both a federal and State of Michigan crime. Michigan law states: Who, with the intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of a lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with another person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition.

Beverly Creswell
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 2:11pm

Let us not forget, Trump urged people to march to the Capitol saying he would join them; he did not - just another lie. Let us also remember he has the nuclear codes! Real danger in the next 13 days is possible.

Sonya Peterson
Thu, 01/07/2021 - 6:12pm

Can someone point me to more detail about what happened in the Capitol? I was trying to find out how many businesses or buildings were burned and how many people were assaulted by the supporters. I saw pictures on CNN showing fire but I have not been able to find any pictures or videos of the burning and looting and barely any of fighting, all I was able to find is a video of some kids smashing a window on one door. Thank you!

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 6:46pm

Well what did you think was going to happen after four years of trying to derail a sitting president? Don't much like it when we fight back huh?