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New Mexico evacuated Statehouse amid pro-Trump protests

January 7, 2021 GMT
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Supporters of President Donald Trump gather at the Statehouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, to protest President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
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Supporters of President Donald Trump gather at the Statehouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, to protest President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Statehouse was largely evacuated on Wednesday as hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered peacefully outside the building and violence broke out in the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Democratic Speaker Brian Egolf said state police ordered the evacuation of the building that includes the governor´s office and secretary of state´s office, though some officials remained inside. He highlighted concerns about the violence in Washington.

A spokesman for the governor´s office, Tripp Stelnicki, said he wasn’t aware of any violence or threats at the Statehouse, while working remotely.

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Caravans of Donald Trump supporters arrived at the building in cars, trucks and on horseback at midday at the same time that Congress convened a joint session to count electoral votes in the presidential election.

In Washington, D.C., angry supporters of President Donald Trump quickly stormed the U.S. Capitol in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power. They have forced lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupted challenges to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

State officials, including the Legislature’s lead attorney, chose to remain the Statehouse to continue with a videoconference to decide on pandemic-related procedures for the start of a Jan. 19 legislative session. Legislative Council director Raúl Burciaga noted that state police were on site and that leaving the building would mean walking through a throng of about 500 protesters.

¨It´s the first time in the history of the United States that the peaceful transfer of power has been slowed by an act of violence,¨ Egolf said. “It is a shameful moment and I hope that the Congress can recover soon.”

Members of New Mexico´s congressional delegation in Washington indicated through social media that they were safe.

Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a staunch Trump ally who flipped the state’s southern 2nd Congressional District in the November election, condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol. She has vowed to challenge Biden’s election victory in Congress to “help ensure all Americans have confidence in the integrity and fairness of elections.”

“I urge those in Washington today to allow Congress to continue its business as the Constitution requires,” she said in a Twitter post after the Capitol was breached by the mob.

New Mexico’s top elections official has asked a federal court to dismiss a challenge by President Donald Trump of absentee voting procedures involving ballot drop boxes, in court filings Tuesday. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also wants Trump’s campaign to be sanctioned for pursuing meritless litigation.

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Toulouse Oliver said the mid-December lawsuit by Trump’s reelection campaign is among the most outrageous in a “raft of meritless election challenges across the country.” President-elect Joe Biden won the vote in New Mexico by about 11 percentage points.

Trump’s reelection campaign says New Mexico election regulators went beyond the Legislature’s emergency pandemic-related election reforms in issuing guidelines for ballot drop boxes.

The Trump campaign later added allegations of inaccuracies involving vote-counting equipment sold by Dominion Voting Systems — allegations that have been rejected as without evidence by the federal agency overseeing election security.

Newly elected U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol as a “siege on the U.S. Capitol by rioters ... and a direct attack on our nation’s democracy.”

Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad announced Wednesday in a statement that she will introduce a bill to decertify the New Mexico electoral vote for Joe Biden. New Mexico’s Legislature convenes on Jan. 19, the day before the scheduled presidential inauguration.

Brown could not be reached directly for comment.

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Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed from Albuquerque.