WASHINGTON — After a crowd of Donald Trump supporters marched through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, some reached the doors of the House chamber, and Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Richmond, sprang into action. The former sheriff and veteran, who was on his third day on the job, helped barricade the gates as rioters pounded on the entrance and tried to break in.
“One of the plainclothes officers [came] until I said, ‘You have to go, sorry, you have to go.’ I refused to leave. I told them that. I will stay here with my brothers and sisters in blue. Moments later, the glass shattered,” the freshman lawmaker told Capital Tonight. “It was my job (to) take this law enforcement experience that I had for almost 30 years at that time in the military in combat zones and do whatever I could to defuse, defuse the situation.”
In the gallery, lawmakers, including Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, temporarily went into hiding before they could evacuate. She said she was among the last groups to come out of the bedroom that day.
“I stand here in front of you today because the Capitol Police saved my life. They saved our lives. They saved our democracy,” Escobar said during the testimony event for members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday “As terrifying as the attack on our Capitol was, what should be even more terrifying for all of us is how fragile our democracy is.”
Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, texted his wife, “No matter what, I love you.” The former NFL linebacker said he believed he had to stand up for his colleagues.
“It is important that we talk about the human side of our democracy. Our government isn’t just made up of people who, you know, are far away or you… you’ll never come into contact with. They are real people,” Allred said. “I went to Congress that day to ratify the results of a US election with record turnout, and we were attacked. But we came back and we did our job.
This week, it was revealed that Capitol Police feared comments Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, made in the run-up to Jan. 6 could encourage violence by people attending former President Donald’s rally. Trump in Washington that morning. Trump was encouraging then-Vice President Mike Pence and Republicans to vote against certifying Joe Biden’s election. After Trump lost re-election, Gohmert filed a lawsuit to try to force Pence to oppose Joe Biden’s victory.
“We must follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — that the best results come from doing these things peacefully,” Gohmert said in a recent interview with Capital Tonight.
“I don’t regret those words. I think we should follow Dr. King’s lead and organize peaceful protests. I just regret that so many people took this out of context,” he continued.
Most Republicans in Texas ended up voting against certifying Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden. Due to the attack, which was fueled by Trump’s repeated inaccuracies on the election, the House voted to impeach Trump. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, served as impeachment lead for the Senate trial.
“It’s a real test for our country and for our Congress, whether we’re going to have the will to hold accountable the people who perpetrated this act,” Castro said. “I can only hope that through the Jan. 6 (committee) and the work of the Department of Justice, we will do everything we can to hold accountable those who terrorized the Capitol that day.”
The anniversary comes as the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack prepares to hold public hearings. Republicans accuse Democrats of conducting the survey for partisan purposes and say it only deepened divisions.
Nehls said if he thought anyone who committed violence in and around the building should be prosecuted, he remembered Jan. 6 for the division.
“I’ve been here 12 months and there’s no bipartisanship in Washington, DC,” Nehls said.
But Democrats have said a threat to democracy should upset everyone, regardless of party.
“We need people of all political persuasions to say that American democracy is much more important than who is in power at any given time,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.
And the Texans who were there said the most important thing is that an attack on the Capitol never happens again.