Star Tribune Washington reporter Jim Spencer was in the press gallery of the U.S. House chamber when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and shut down a congressional debate over certification of the election.
Spencer, who by later Wednesday afternoon was with a group of journalists in a secure location elsewhere in the U.S. Capitol, shared a few initial accounts of what went down.
Q: Where were you before this started to go down?
A: I was watching from the gallery, which is on a floor above the floor of the House.
Q: When did you realize that something was going down?
A: The first hint of trouble came about an hour into the debate. A guy from the House press staff started going quietly from person to person and telling us, get out of the gallery and back into the press room, make sure you have all your stuff because we are locking this room down.
Police informed the chamber that protesters had breached the Capitol, and just a few minutes later that they were near the rotunda, which is not far from the front of the chamber. When it really set in was when a policeman stood up and said, 'They've fired tear gas into the rotunda. You guys (members of the House) need to reach under your seats and put on gas masks.' From there it was pretty much downhill.
Q: How long did you stay in the House press room?
A: Police officers were running around the top of the gallery, looking under seats. They told us we had to go, but then I heard a loud whacking at one of the doors, like someone with a sledgehammer. Capitol police pushed up a large piece of furniture to the door, they were screaming out that no one could come in. They took up their arms.
They finally did get the upper floor cleared, and then they evacuated us. On the way out, on the floor below, they, security people, had several demonstrators face down on the ground with guns pointed at them. A lot of drawn guns. I heard a sound like gunfire but it may have been people with sledgehammers. The House members were moved to a committee room, which was guarded by a large contingent of policemen. Journalists were herded into a cafeteria in the basement, that's where I still am now.
Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413