About one month after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, The 19th reached out to all 143 women in the 117th Congress to ask about their experiences on January 6. Twenty-three shared their points of view from that day. We are also publishing each lawmaker’s full account of that day. Here is what Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois told The 19th. The transcript has been lightly edited:
That day, I was ever so slightly anxious but not at all worried. After all, we are the United States of America, and the Capitol is a revered building and staffed. I was just nervous that it was going to be uncomfortable, not worrisome. As I walked up to the Capitol that day, it was clear that there were a lot more Capitol Police than I had ever seen there.
I went in and started my day. We were doing the certification of the election that day, kind of standard stuff. And then right around noon is when I was noting that the crowd — the Trump crowd — is getting much larger. And then they had shown Trump’s comments basically saying, “Go fight,” and I thought, “That’s not going to be good.”
My staff and I were having meetings that day. We had all of the news sources and C-SPAN on at my office. I was in a safe location. They tried to breach my location, but they weren’t able to. Other members said they had been locked in a room. I was in a relatively safe place.
I was with about five or six of my staff members that day in my office. We kept our door locked and the news playing on the TV, but I had no idea how serious the situation was until I started seeing rioters scale a wall around 1 or 2 p.m. It looked like a practiced military exercise; I saw some even had maps in their hands. I kept thinking the National Guard would show up in a jiffy, but they didn’t.
I was at that point getting hundreds of calls and text messages. My husband was outraged that the Capitol Police were underresourced. I wondered what’s going on. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep some people calm and keep working and also just making sure everybody’s safe. We’re all a family. I was checking in with folks that get worried about these things. Luckily, my staff was absolutely amazing and level-headed the entire time.
Then they started to ram the speaker’s lobby, and you were seeing lots of weapons and lots of beyond mob-like activity. It was really more like militia activity. So as the insurrection progressed, I was starting to actually look at these folks. I was looking at their disgusting, vile and heinous t-shirts that were hateful and evil to every religion, race and walk of life. I was horrified by the messages I saw, and then I was horrified that they had real weapons: stun guns and pipe guns.
What became clear in that minute, even before they ushered [Vice President Mike Pence] and [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] out, was that this is very organized, truly a network of domestic terrorists. I was so glad that people started calling them what they were: domestic terrorists. We’ve known this for 400 years, that we have racism in our country and there are horrible things that our country has done. This was a call that white supremacists and domestic terrorists are our number one problem.
As it progressed past 2:30 p.m., I found out there were around 30 people up in the gallery that had to get shuttled to different places. I didn’t realize how much danger they were in until the next day when they were recounting their experiences. They were all heroes that day and operated as a team. I couldn’t be more proud to know them. The Capitol Police fought like it was combat. They were holding 20-pound shields. They did that for hours. They saved all of our lives.
I think I was just stunned and shocked that this was happening. I kept saying, “They’re going to get in, and they’ve done some horrible things, but they’re not going to get into the chamber.” But they did. I want to be clear: This isn’t about vandals. They were not vandals or protesters; they were domestic terrorists and white supremacists. And they were very dangerous. They were screaming things like, “Kill all Democrats” and “Kill Pence.”
I’m forever a mom and wanted to make sure my staff was huddled. I don’t think it really sunk in until the next day when I heard recounts about other members huddled down with oxygen masks on their heads, calling their loved ones to say goodbye.
So I think around 7:30 p.m. we started to get some good news that they had taken control of the building again. In my head, it was very important that we continue the certification of the election even though it was a scary place to go back because we were in deep danger, and look, there’s a lot of PTSD going around. So when the members of Congress came back to vote around 8:30 p.m., I admired all of them.
A little after 3:30 a.m., I was back in my office and went home. My chief of staff and I were the last to leave. We locked up and went down to the parking garage. We were just on high alert throughout the night. I was going to and from votes in the chamber, and I was just thanking every single National Guardsman and police officer for saving our lives — because they did. Had they not come in when they did and battled when they did, I think [the rioters] would have achieved their purpose of killing us.
It wasn’t until the next day that I really started to process. I think I was on the phone with a Politico reporter that Friday night. It just struck me that that was very bad. What everyone forgets is the Capitol is run by all of these amazing facilitators, administrators and engineers. There’s hundreds, if not thousands of them, and they were all in danger. And all these Republicans don’t seem to care about that. My firm takeaway which grew throughout the day: These white supremacists are ruining our country and we have to take it back and take control.