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January 24, 2021

Local leaders denounce unprecedented attack on Capitol Building

Tweeting that the “shameful attack” would not prevent Congress from carrying out its duties, Jimmy Panetta and his peers were back on the floor of the House of Representatives late Wednesday, following an unprecedented onslaught on the Capitol Building from a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump that left a woman dead.

Panetta’s tweet came roughly two hours after a previous post to the social media website in which he said he was sheltering-in-place in his D.C. office because of the “devastation and destruction that this mob has caused.”

“That destruction and that devastation and that damage will not stop us from doing our job in this democracy,” said Panetta, the Representative for California’s 20th Congressional District, which covers most of Santa Cruz County and all of Monterey and San Benito counties. “I firmly believe and am willing to and I hope that we stay here as long as it takes to continue doing our job in this democracy by certifying the electoral college vote count so that we can properly and peacefully remove this president come Jan. 20.”

Congress certified the Electoral College result early Thursday but not before hundreds of pro-Trump supporters in a futile last stand to overturn the 2020 election stormed the Capitol Building, pushing their way through an overwhelmed police barricade and smashing through windows and other entryways. Lawmakers scurried away as the mob overtook hallowed rooms and hallways of United States democracy. Some of the MAGA-hatted rioters took to the Senate floor and others looted and vandalized lawmakers’ offices. A female rioter was reportedly shot and killed before heavily armed officers at last regained control of the building.

On Thursday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a press conference joined new Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer in calling for the 25th amendment to be invoked against President Trump to remove him from office before Jan. 20.

“The president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people,” she said.

The rioters also went after media outlets covering the event, verbally threatening and chasing away crews, smashing and stealing Associated Press cameras and other equipment. The phrase “murder the media” was scratched into a door of the Capitol, where other journalists were sheltering along with lawmakers and staff. Buzzfeed News reporter Paul McLeod shared a photo on social media of a noose the mob fashioned from a camera chord and hung from a tree.

Thus far 52 arrests have been made, according to multiple news outlets, with some officials saying that number will most likely go up.

The attack sent shockwaves through the country, as political leaders near and far quickly denounced the riot and called for order to be restored.

Recently sworn-in Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra over Facebook said he was “disgusted” by the images of the Capitol Building being breached. And Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker said on his Facebook that President Trump “fanned the flames of unfounded conspiracy theories and threatened to undermine the foundations of our democracy.”

“The storming of our nation’s Capitol is heartbreaking,” he said. “Praying for the safety of our Capitol officers, elected leaders, and public servants today.”

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend also weighed in on Thursday morning, saying that Wednesday showed “the fragility of the system when we retreat to our echo chambers and forget how to lead with decency.” 

“Unfortunately, there has been an erosion of common purpose and community focus when it comes to our political discourse—even at the local level,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be this way and as we’ve seen with how communities across the country have supported each other during the pandemic and in other times of crisis we have the ability, and the responsibility to reset and restore decency and common purpose.”

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said that the actions that unfolded in Washington D.C. “were the result of the President’s final temper tantrum.”

“Sadly, his outburst led to four deaths, many injuries and a loss of confidence in our democracy across our country and around the world,” Hart said in a prepared statement. “I hope our federal officials can move forward and govern in a responsible manner that places our country ahead of personal grievances. This event proves, once again, that preparedness and planning are the key to managing critical incidents.”

Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills wondered why law enforcement officials were prepared to respond en masse for Black Lives Matter protests during the summer, but seemed to be unprepared for the mob of largely white conservative rioters.

Mills called the riots “a sad day in American history.”

“One of our most sacred institutions was vandalized, and elected officials had to run for cover,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable in a democracy. It’s tragic in every way.”

Mills added that the riots, and the people that carried out Trump’s dictate to storm the Capitol Building, were the result of conspiracy theories gone unchallenged at the national level.

It was ironic, Mills said, that the crowd that carried out the invasion and destruction support Trump, who has long claimed to support law enforcement. One of the rioters, he said, was carrying a flag that showed support for police.

“Don’t bring a Blue Lives Matter flag in an act of sedition,” Mills said. “Don’t dirty that flag, or the American flag more importantly. That doesn’t mean you’re some patriot because you carry a flag. Patriotism is in our actions and how we treat each other.”

Former Watsonville Mayor and current Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo called for President-elect Joe Biden to hold Trump accountable.

“For the sake of our democracy, you must hold Donald J. Trump accountable for ALL his corrupt, criminal actions, including the terrorism he incited today!” he wrote over social media. “NO PARDONS, no looking the other way! He must be held to account! He is responsible for this!!!”

Since losing reelection in November President Trump has without evidence protested the results claiming that there was widespread voter fraud in multiple states. On Wednesday morning in front of a crowd of his loyal supporters, Trump continued that fallacy and urged them to march to the Capitol and that if they didn’t “fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

“Let the weak ones get out,” he said. “It’s time for strength.”

President Trump in a video on Twitter walked back those comments late Wednesday, urging his supporters to “go home in peace.” That video has since been deleted by the social media giant because it “violated the Twitter rules.” NPR reported that Twitter has ‘locked’ the President out of his account and that it was mulling a permanent ban from the website. Facebook, too, muzzled the President’s social media presence, reportedly banning his page for at least 24 hours at first and then barring him indefinitely.

Pajaronian reporters Johanna Miller and Tarmo Hannula also contributed to this story.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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