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‘We sat in the dark. We had the TV on. It was muted.' Kansas Rep. Davids recounts riot

Brian Lowry, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Capitol was overtaken by a deadly mob with men wearing symbols of white nationalism, the first two Native American women to serve in Congress barricaded themselves inside an office and prepared for the worst.

Kansas Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids took refuge in her office with New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland— who will be the first Native American to lead a federal agency if confirmed secretary of the Interior— and Washington Democratic Rep. Kim Schrirer.

“We sat in the dark. We had the TV on. It was muted,” Davids recalled.

The three didn’t wait for the official lockdown order to secure themselves after seeing videos of the chaos on Twitter, she said.

Davids, 40, a former mixed martial artist, had been quipping in recent days that she was “body man” for Haaland, her friend and soon-to-be member of President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet. Now they had to prepare for the possibility that rioters would find their way to the building where Davids offices, which is connected to the Capitol by a tunnel.

If the barricade didn’t hold, they’d be forced to fight them off. The rioters did not make it to the congressional office buildings.

Davids was not on the House floor at the time of the siege, but mistakenly believed that Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was. She began dialing Cleaver and other lawmakers to make sure they were OK.

Cleaver told The Star last week in an interview as he sheltered in place that he missed Davids’ call because he was on with his daughter, letting her know he was safe. Davids also asked her staff, who she had instructed to work from home that day, to check in on reporters to confirm their safety.

The riot at the Capitol was “a direct attack on our democracy,” Davids said. She finds pleas for unity from Republican colleagues to be hollow until they hold President Donald Trump accountable for inciting violence and acknowledge how their own misrepresentations about the election fed the rage.

“I think right now in this moment one of the things that my Republican colleagues have the opportunity to do is put our country, our democracy, and our safety and security first, and help get the clear and present danger that is in the White House out,” Davids said Tuesday, ahead of a series of House votes aimed at removing Trump from office with just days left in his presidency.

Davids’ strongly-worded call for accountability comes as a slew of House Republicans, including those who voted to overturn the election after the riot, released statements arguing that impeaching Trump will further divide the nation.

In the name of national unity, Davids called on her GOP colleagues— particularly the four from Kansas who voted to overturn Biden’s victory— to acknowledge that their “objections were not made in good faith” and that Trump’s baseless claims had already been rejected by the courts.

“They have the opportunity right now— they being my Republican colleagues— to acknowledge there was no voter fraud and that the outcome of this election was valid,” Davids said.

“And when we look at the states that were challenged… the numbers are clear. There were efforts to disenfranchise and in a lot cases that’s aimed at marginalized communities.”

 

The four Kansas Republicans to vote to overturn Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania were Sen. Roger Marshall, Davids’ former House colleague, and Reps. Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner and Tracey Mann. Sen. Jerry Moran was the only Republican from the state who opposed the measure.

In addition to her call for Trump’s removal, the Kansas congresswoman was adamant that Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who championed the effort to contest the election, must leave office.

“He’s not fit to serve as a United States senator. I still believe it would be in the country’s best interest if he were to resign. That would be an example of him putting the country before anything else,” Davids.

“I can’t speculate on what the Senate’s going to do, but I do think whether he resigns or not… he’ll be held accountable for his role in inciting this violence.”

Multiple Democratic lawmakers have called for Hawley’s resignation or expulsion. Republicans have expressed their openness to censuring Hawley and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a more symbolic reprimand. But neither GOP senator has showed any sign that they’ll willingly step down.

The mob that attacked the Capitol— after Trump encouraged his supporters to converge on the building— killed one police officer, smashed windows, ransacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and wrote “Murder the Media” in graffiti on the walls of the world’s greatest deliberative body as they sought to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

“We know that a free press is also a pillar of our democracy— attacks on the free press, attacks on the legislative branch, this is why I say that Donald Trump being in the White House is a clear and president danger,” Davids said.

“Rarely things are black and white. Here things are black and white. There need to be consequences,” Davids said.

Davids said the attack will define the congressional session. She said the moment should be used to rally around passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act, two pieces of legislation aimed at ensuring ballot access for communities of color.

“Get them signed by the president in this next administration—it cuts to the heart of democracy,” she said.

She also said that Congress will need to take steps ensure the safety and mental health care of everyone who works in the Capitol building — not just lawmakers but their staffs, custodians, cafeteria workers, police, administrative staffer and reporters— in the wake of the attack.

“It’s important for us to also acknowledge how traumatizing this experience is… for the folks who spend the days walking the halls of the Capitol,” she said. “We have to make sure that everyone is taken care of in terms of their health and well-being.”

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©2021 The Kansas City Star. Visit at kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.