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Political columnist's eyewitness account details mass fear, confusion from inside House chamber


'You can incite a mob, but we're going to go on'

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Political columnist Jamie Stiehm delivered disturbing remarks during an interview with the BBC, which detailed her time in the U.S. Capitol during Wednesday's siege.

What are the details?

In a Thursday morning article from the BBC, Stiehm told Jessica Lussenhop about her experience during Wednesday's events at the Capitol.

In an interview that was condensed and edited for clarity, Steihm — who was in the press gallery in the House of Representatives at the time of the raid — told Lussenhop, "I had told my sister earlier: 'Something bad is going to happen today. I don't know what, but something bad will happen.'"

She wasn't wrong.

Stiehm explained that before she entered the building, she witnessed a "group of very boisterous supporters of President Donald Trump, all waving flags and pledging their allegiance to him."

"There was a sense that trouble was brewing," the article continued, noting that when Stiehm arrived inside the press gallery, it appeared to be business as usual for House lawmakers.

"As we went into the second hour, all of a sudden we heard breaking glass," the article continued. "The air began getting fogged. An announcement from the Capitol Police said, 'An individual has breached the building.' ... [A]fter that, the announcements kept coming. And they were getting more and more urgent."

The article pointed out that the Capitol Police continued their announcements, and proclaimed that intruders breached the Capitol rotunda.

"The sacred house of democracy was under fire," the article continued. "[T]his was very unpredictable. The police didn't seem to know what was happening. They weren't coordinated. They locked the chamber doors but at the same time, they told us we would have to evacuate. So there was a sense of panic."

Stiehm, who admitted to being afraid, also said that she and other journalists felt that the situation was quickly spiraling out of control, and went on to compare the incident to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

"If you think back to the September 11 attacks in 2001, there was one plane that went down and didn't hit its target," the article continued. "That target was the Capitol. There were echoes of that. I made a call to my family, just to let them know that I was here and it was a dangerous situation."

What happened next?

Stiehm explained that conditions began to deteriorate further from there.

"There was a shot," the missive revealed. "We could see there was a standoff in our chamber. Five men were holding guns at the door. It was a frightening sight. Men were looking through a broken glass window and looked like they could shoot at any second."

"We had to crawl under railings to get out of the way. ... I sheltered in the House cafeteria alongside others. I'm still shaking now," the article said.

The article concluded, "I have seen a lot as a journalist, but this was something more. This was the collective public sphere being undermined, assaulted, degraded. And I think this was why [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi] wanted to return and hold the gavel again and go on. Afterwards I had to decide whether I was going to go back to the chamber too. I decided l probably would, because the message that is sending is: 'You can incite a mob, but we're going to go on.'"

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