Houston

‘National Disgrace’: Houston Reacts To Siege At The U.S. Capitol

Mayor Sylvester Turner, members of Houston’s Congressional Delegation and others condemned the actions in Washington on Wednesday, in which a mob of pro-Trump extremists broke into the Capitol.

An anti-Trump protest in downtown Houston on Jan. 7, 2021, in response to pro-Trump extremists storming the U.S. Capitol.

The Houston Police Department will provide an increased presence around city hall and other sensitive sites across the city, after an attack on the U.S. Capitol from an extremist mob of Trump supporters that local officials condemned as a “disgrace.”

City officials say while there are not credible threats in Houston, they are working with state and federal partners to ensure the safety of Houstonians due to yesterday's events.

"It was a national disgrace, and an international embarrassment," Mayor Sylvester Turner said Thursday.

Wednesday's violence stalled the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' Electoral College win, as proceedings were forced to pause to avoid the right-wing extremists who broke in to the building.

Congress reconvened later that night and certified the victory despite objections from U.S. Sen. Cruz and other Republicans looking to overturn the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Turner said the attack was not unforeseen, and criticized national leaders for being unprepared for the possibility of that scenario.

The mayor also noted what he saw as a hypocritical response from Republican politicians he said stoked the insurrection, some of whom previously condemned nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

"Yesterday, there were thousands of people who were in D.C. who stormed the nation's Capitol, knocking out windows, all in the hallways of Congress, taking over people's offices, taking pictures,” he said. “The way the situation was handled, it was as if this mob was entitled. What I called ‘privileged mobsters.’ It's a double standard.”

Turner made the remarks at a press conference alongside Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who said he supported peaceful protest, but condemned the violence in Washington — though during the George Floyd protests, HPD arrested hundreds of people, most of whom had their charges later dropped by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Acevedo had previously confronted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for what the chief saw as Cruz’s role in instigating the D.C. riots.

Throughout the day Thursday local officials on both sides of the political aisle condemned the violence, including members of Houston’s congressional delegation.

Democratic members blamed the president for telling his followers to march on the Capitol as Congress prepared to certify Biden's victory.

Congresmann Al Green told Houston Matters host Craig Cohen he was on his way to the Capitol to view the certification proceedings when an officer stopped him and told him to shelter in place.

He later saw the mayhem — and noted that the police response to the largely white crowd was markedly different than what he’s seen in crowds of Black protestors.

“As a son of the segregated South, had there been throngs of people of color behaving in a similar fashion, I do believe it would have been handled differently,” Green said. “I’m not saying we should hurt people unnecessarily. But I am saying it would have been handled differently, if I think that to a certain extent there was an expectation that they would have been treated the same as people of color would have been treated.”

Anti-Trump protestors on Jan. 7, 2021 in downtown Houston put up flyers calling U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a traitor, after the Texas Republican voted to reject the election results.

The congressman blamed President Trump’s comments about the election for stoking the violence, and is one of the members who signed on to articles of impeachment drafted by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

“It is a reminder that a word isn’t dead when it’s said,” Green said. “That it takes on a life, and that we have to sometimes be responsible for the actions of others when we are (inciting) with our language.”

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher was in the House gallery observing the certification process when Trump’s supporters stormed the building and police announced a lockdown, and called the D.C. riots “an assault on the people.”

“It was an assault on our democracy, it was an assault on our democratic system, and it was at the urging of the President of the United States,” Fletcher told Houston Matters Thursday.

Later in the evening Thursday, Fletcher released a statement in which she joined many of her Democratic colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for Trump’s immediate removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had earlier in the day called for President Trump to be removed from office via the 25th Amendment, a process to remove power from a sitting president, intended to be used if the president is unable to discharge the office due to some injury or incapacitation, short of death.

“It is now clear that the President of the United States represents a grave threat to our Constitution and to our country,” Fletcher said. “He has willfully incited violence against the Government of the United States. It is for these reasons that I support his removal from office as soon as possible, whether through the process set forth in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or through the constitutional process of impeachment.”

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who was also locked down in the capitol as the insurrection took place, told Meet The Press that she too would support impeachment.

Along with Cruz, Houston-area Republican members of Congress Randy Weber, Troy Nehls, Michael Cloud and Brian Babin voted to reject the election results.

Missing from that list was Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who declined an objection to the results.

But Crenshaw himself has flirted with the movement to overturn the election, including signing on to a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do just that.

In December, he also took part in an Avengers-style video for the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff called “Georgia Reloaded,” in which he jumped from a plane prepared for battle in support of the Republican incumbents. (Democrats flipped both seats this week, giving them control of the Senate.)

Once states certified their own results, with electors casting their ballots and making a Biden win clear, Crenshaw accepted the results, telling Fox News in December, “the Electoral College has spoken. That is the final say.” He has said his challenges were about investigating allegations of fraud and having courts rule on their validity, but has added that any invalid votes tossed would likely not lead to a Trump victory.

In a Wednesday Fox News interview, he criticized those who stormed the Capitol.

"So many hyped up this day as this day of reckoning, this big win would happen," Crenshaw said. “So many people said, ‘This would be the last stand.’... ‘It’s our 1776.’ When you use that kind of language, you should not be surprised when people tend to believe it.”

The Harris County GOP, meanwhile, released a statement on Twitter condemning the violence.

Even Houston Independent School District Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan spoke out Thursday, releasing a statement calling the riots “a tragic turn of events.”

“My heart is heavy after seeing the loss of life, destruction and riotous behavior that occurred,” Lathan said. “I know many of our students and staff are equally shaken by what we all witnessed.”

And in the early afternoon Thursday, a group of about a dozen frustrated protestors stood outside the Mickey Leland Federal Building in downtown Houston, carrying signs that said “Resist Trump” and “Fascism Get Out,” in response to the violence in Washington.

Diane Conkling, 66, was one of the protestors. She called Trump’s role in riling the crowd in Washington “unsurprising,” and was looking forward to Trump finally being out of office. But she was also angry about the violence she said he helped cause.

“After what happened yesterday, I would like to see Trump first impeached, and then indicted,” she said. “I want him in a prison cell.”

An anti-Trump protest in downtown Houston on Jan. 7, 2021, in response to pro-Trump extremists storming the Capitol.

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior digital producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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