West Virginia delegate records himself storming U.S. Capitol
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia lawmaker recorded video of himself and fellow supporters of President Donald Trump storming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, triggering calls for his resignation.
In the video by Republican Del. Derrick Evans, later deleted from his social media page, he is shown wearing a helmet and clamoring at the door to breach in after Congress met for an expected vote to affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
“We’re in! Keep it moving, baby!” he said in a packed doorway amid Trump followers holding flags and complaining of being pepper sprayed. Once inside, Evans could be seen on video milling around the Capitol Rotunda, where historical paintings depict the republic’s founding, and yelled “no vandalizing.”
Lawmakers from other states also traveled to the nation’s capital to protest the results of the Electoral College on Wednesday. It’s unclear if any other elected official forced their way into the U.S. Capitol. Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano helped organize a bus ride to protest in Washington, D.C., and said he left the Capitol area after the eruption of violence, which he called “unacceptable.” A Democratic colleague called for his resignation nonetheless.
Republican Alaska state Rep. David Eastman said he went to Washington, D.C., to see Trump speak but told the Anchorage Daily News that the storming of the building was “pretty terrible.”
Tennessee state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver on Wednesday night said it had been an “epic and historic day.” She told The Tennessean that she was “in the thick of it” but hadn’t seen any violence.
Hundreds of people gathered in state capitals nationwide to oppose Biden’s win in mostly peaceful gatherings. But New Mexico police evacuated the statehouse building as a precaution and scuffles broke out in Ohio and California. Some demonstrators carried guns in a handful of states.
In West Virginia, Democratic party leaders said Evans should resign and “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” About 10,000 people have signed an online petition calling for him to be removed from office, a month after being sworn into a first term.
The speaker of the state House of Delegates, Roger Hanshaw, said Evans will need to “answer to his constituents and colleagues regarding his involvement in what has occurred today.”
A House spokesman, Jared Hunt, told The Associated Press that Hanshaw is still “gathering as much information possible about what has happened, and will evaluate all the potential consequences once the totality of the situation is understood.” Hanshaw had said in his statement he hadn’t spoken to Evans yet.
“While free speech and peaceful protests are a core value of American society, storming government buildings and participating in a violent intentional disruption of one of our nation’s most fundamental political institutions is a crime that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Hanshaw said.
Democratic House Minority Leader Doug Skaff called on Hanshaw to suspend Evans’ access to the statehouse and launch an investigation. “Delegate Derrick Evans not only participated in this violent, intentional disruption of government; he helped lead a group that he organized to travel to Washington, D.C., to cause this chaos,” he said in a statement.
Evans was elected in November to represent Wayne County. On Tuesday evening he posted a photo on Facebook of a busload of maskless people, writing that two full buses from West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio were heading to D.C.
On Wednesday night he said in a statement on social media that he was returning to West Virginia and “was simply there as an independent member of the media to film history.” Video shows him chanting Trump’s name before entering the Capitol building. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Evans was among thousands of Trump supporters, their anger over baseless claims of fraud in the presidential race leading a mob to occupy the Capitol building, interrupting the expected vote to certify Biden’s victory.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin called it an insurrection. “These thugs cannot and will not run us off,” he said in a statement.
Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also lamented the protest. “This is the United States of America,” she said in a statement. “We don’t do this. It’s not who we are.”
In a video posted on Twitter during the Capitol’s occupation, Trump urged his “very special” supporters to go home, but also repeated baseless claims the election was stolen.
Associated Press writers John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; and Mark Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania contributed to this report.