The Capitol building in Washington DC was put on lockdown Wednesday afternoon, after a flood of angry President Trump supporters entered the building to interrupt what in previous election cycles would have been an uncontroversial formality: Congress’ counting of electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.
Lawmakers were told to shelter in their offices as police clashed with protestors who had forced their way past barricades to enter the building’s legislative chamber. As the events unfolded, Brooklyn lawmakers, activists and residents reacted in real time on Twitter. Many, including Democratic Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke, cast blame on President Trump as they did so.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who represents parts of north Brooklyn as well as sections of Manhattan and Queens, streamed a two-minute video from her DC office in which she described the unrest as “something that I read about and watch in foreign countries, but not in the great, democratic, election-respecting United States of America.”
Newly-elected Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, who in November defeated Max Rose in a conservative-leaning district that includes parts of southern Brooklyn as well as Staten Island, called the unrest “absolutely unacceptable and un-American.” Malliotakis is the sole Republican elected official in the borough.
But she faced criticism for having earlier joined a faction of Republican lawmakers who had sought to challenge the election results under the pretext of concerns about voter fraud. New York City Council Member Justin Brannan, a Democrat whose district overlaps with Malliotakis’, called the Congresswoman “complicit” in the violence.
Meanwhile, Brooklynites from across the borough reacted to the events unfolding in DC with frustration, confusion and fear.
“I’m worried about the safety of our lawmakers and future president,” said Annie Carmichael, a Bushwick resident. “I’m worried about the many people who share the same feelings of those who went to the protest in DC today and what they might do as well. I’m scared to ride the subway home tonight.”
State and local elected officials from around the borough, including Democratic State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Council Member Brad Lander, also reacted on Twitter, often with raw partisan anger.
Reactions from elected officials in southern Brooklyn, where support for Trump is more common, were more mixed. Council Member Chaim Deutsch, a Democrat that represents neighborhoods including Sheepshead Bay and Midwood, where the president won many election districts in November, made a more measured statement.
As of 5:00pm on Wednesday, multiple hours after the unrest in DC began, several southern Brooklyn lawmakers who are Democrats but represent more conservative districts, including Council Members Kalman Yeger, Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel, Assembly Members Peter Abbate, William Colton, Steven Cymbrowitz, Helene Weinstein, Simcha Eichenstein and State Senator Simcha Felder, had not spoken or issued statements.
There were exceptions to that rule, however; Democratic State Senator Andrew Gounardes was unequivocal in his criticism of the protests. And State Senator Diane Savino, also a Democrat, said President Trump was “gaslighting us after he poured the gasoline on the fire” after the president called for peaceful protests while simultaneously repeating his unfounded claim that “the election was stolen.”
The Brooklyn Republican Party had not issued a statement as of early evening Wednesday. But a breakaway group of young members known as the Brooklyn Young Republicans Club, which was de-chartered by its parent party in August amidst disagreements over support for Trump, called the protests “terroristic and seditious acts.”
The Brooklyn Republican Youth Initiative, which the county party created after de-chartering its original youth arm, retweeted a statement from state GOP chairman Nick Langworthy that described the protests as “violent, lawless and disgraceful behavior.”
But some GOP operatives felt differently. Bob Capano, a Republican commentator and former City Council candidate, retweeted a conspiracy theory that the protesters were actually disguised members of the left-wing movement Antifa. The pro-Trump City Council candidate Heshy Tischler, who over the summer instigated protests against coronavirus mask mandates in Borough Park, also dismissed criticism of the protesters in DC.
Still other elected officials, including newly-elected Democratic Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, called for counter-protests in the borough’s public spaces.