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Pennsylvania, Local Officials React After Violence Erupts at the U.S. Capitol

Update: Congress certified Joe Biden’s Electoral College win early Thursday morning. As expected, objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes failed. Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. 

What has usually been a little-discussed formality following most elections became a violent riot as a large mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to disrupt the final certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

The rioters, who Trump addressed earlier in the day and encouraged to march to the Capitol, breached security and began to occupy the the building shortly after a joint session of Congress had begun the Constitutional process of counting the electoral votes.

Lawmakers were evacuated and the city enacted a 6 p.m. curfew. At least one explosive device was found near the Capitol. One person was shot inside the Capitol and died, the Associated Press reported. The National Guard also was deployed. By 7:30 p.m. police had gradually quelled what Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush called ‘an insurrection.’ 

Congress began resuming counting the electoral votes after 8 p.m. on Wednesday once the Capitol was cleared.

Trump, eventually, told those rioting on his behalf to be peaceful and go home while also continuing his unfounded claims that the election was ‘stolen’ from him. He has not yet condemned any of the supporters’ actions.

Pennsylvania and Centre County officials roundly condemned the riots.

“Today, President Trump’s supporters attempted a coup,’ Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. ‘This was the direct result of a deliberate disinformation campaign by Republicans from the President down to legislators in Pennsylvania. They lied about the results of the election. They lied about voter fraud. They lied about my administration and other governors. They lied about the administration of the election here in Pennsylvania and across the country. On November 3, we had a remarkably well-run election despite historic challenges.’

Eight Republican Pennsylvania congressmen who pledged to object to the certification of Biden’s victory in the commonwealth ‘lied about our election in an attempt to pledge fealty to President Trump,’ Wolf said, while GOP ‘legislators held show trials to gin up President Trump’s supporters.’

“The actions of Republicans in Pennsylvania and across the country have led to violence,’ Wolf said. ‘It is their fault. There should be no equivocation.’

Both of the congressmen representing Centre County — Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township — previously said they would object to certifying Biden’s win.

In a statement on Twitter, Keller condemned the violence.

‘The violence happening at the U.S. Capitol is shameful, completely unacceptable, and un-American,’ Keller wrote. ‘This is not how our Republic should operate and the rioters must be fully prosecuted. God bless our Capitol police and first responders.’


Thompson called the events ‘a sad day for our nation.’

‘I unequivocally support the right to peacefully assemble, but what occurred today at the U.S. Capitol was senseless, violent and destructive—and counter to American values,’ Thompson said in a statement. ‘My staff and I are safe, thanks to the efforts of the Capitol Police, who have been working tirelessly to reinstate the peace. This was a sad day for our nation and totally unacceptable.’

Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who will vote to certify Biden’s win and has been critical of his colleagues who planned to object, called the events on Wednesday ‘an absolute disgrace.’


Staff for Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said he was ‘safe and taking direction from the United States Capitol Police.’


State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, along with three colleagues, wrote a letter to Congress this week asking for the electoral certification to be delayed because of what they claimed were ‘inconsistent and questionable activities,’ by a ‘rogue state Supreme Court,’ Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

Corman, too, lamented the violence at the Capitol.

‘It cannot be said often enough – we are a nation of laws,’ Corman wrote on Twitter. ‘This is not our America. Violence is not the American way. When our rules and laws are not followed, chaos takes over. What is going on in DC should never happen.’


State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, and Speaker Brian Cutler, R-Peach Bottom, both of whom wrote a letter to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation in December urging them to dispute the commonwealth’s electors, said they ‘strongly condemn,’ the violence and destruction.

‘Peaceful transitions of power are something our country has responsibly proceeded with since our founding and should serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world,’ they wrote. ‘An objection to the electoral process is within the rights of members of Congress and has been exercised by members from both sides of the aisle at different times in our nation’s history. However, that process leads to debate and dialogue, not violence and mayhem.’


Like Wolf, state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, placed blame on the spread of disinformation about the election.

‘My heart is broken as I watch the scenes unfold in Washington DC,’ Conklin wrote on Twitter. ‘ Unfortunately, today’s disgraceful assault on the Capitol is a result of elected officials engaging in the spreading of lies to further their selfish ambitions. We are now all reaping what they have sowed… As we watch through tearful eyes let us all commit ourselves to restoring America.  Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to preserve our nation for them.’


‘The words of the President and his enablers encouraged the riotous behaviour you saw on the Capitol steps today,’ Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wrote on Twitter. ‘Despite efforts to derail our democratic process, Congress will return to the floor tonight and the will of the people will stand.’


Centre County Board of Commissioners Chair Michael Pipe said Trump needs to call on his supporters to stop the violence.

‘A nightmare. A disgrace. An insurrection. An attempted coup in the United States of America,’ Pipe wrote on Twitter. ‘Only President Trump can stop this and if he doesn’t it will only get worse. Deep sadness for our country. Let us pray for the safety of all of those in Washington.’


The Centre County GOP organized a bus trip to the planned protest in Washington, though has not yet been able to verify how many local residents went or if any were involved in the riots.

‘Our President needs us!  He has been there for us!  Now it is our turn to show we aren’t going to let the MAGA movement end!’ a December Facebook post advertising the trip said. ‘Too much is at stake to sit at home and do nothing.  And look at how he put so much on the line to help get people elected!  Where are they now?  Folks, it’s our job to get it done.’