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Oregon Senators condemn violent protests

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon condemned the assault on the nation’s capitol Wednesday by violent protesters who believe the election was stolen because of lies and conspiracy theories spewed by President Donald Trump.

Both Wyden and Merkley also blamed their Republican colleagues for encouraging the false belief that the election was rigged.

“This situation is the result of really what has been the failure to have a strong bipartisan pushback to the lies and the conspiracy theories promoted by the president of the United States since the Nov. 3 election,” Merkley said during a media call.

Trump has continued to support conspiracy theories that are “apart from reality,” he said.

“As a result, people across the nation came to the capital infuriated believing those false stories, those lies, those conspiracy theories,” he said.

Merkley said the melee began during a debate about whether the electoral votes from Arizona should be accepted, as Trump followers in the Senate mounted an attempt to overturn the election results.

Merkley said the actions by his Republican colleagues amounted to an attempted “coup.”

He said the strategy behind the effort to reject the Arizona electoral votes and the votes from other states that Trump lost was to make sure Biden didn’t have enough votes to win the presidency, forcing a congressional debate to get Trump reinstated for another four years.

“That is a coup,” he said. “This is not the vision of the Constitution.”

Merkley said the election process was effectively concluded, and the president and his allies were basically trying to undermine that process with aid from some Republicans in Congress.

He said there was a lot of confusion in the Senate Chamber when the protesting began, but he and others quickly concluded that protesters had made it inside the building. The chamber was locked down, Vice President Mike Pence was ushered out, and Merkley and others were told to sit tight until they could be safely moved to another location.

Merkley said he and other members of Congress were taken to an undisclosed location while police tried to restore order.

While the senators and representatives were locked in, violent protesters were outside the Senate and House chambers, Merkley said.

“Many of us are aware that protesters could be carrying arms,” he said. “It’s a strange feeling to be locked in a room that is not designed to be secure when there are angry people outside.”

Merkley didn’t hear any gunshots but later learned a woman had been shot in the chest. Later, police reported the woman had died.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden condemned the violent protest by “insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism.”

He said Republican lawmakers share the responsibility for this violence in their attempts to overturn a legitimate election.

“All Americans must be able to elect House and Senate members safe in the knowledge that their views will be represented in civil debate here in Congress without mob rule ever squelching that discussion,” he said.

At the same time, Wyden said he support the First Amendment and the right to peacefully protest.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

twitter photo Sen. Jeff Merkley Tweeted this photo with this caption, "Electoral college ballots rescued from the Senate floor. If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob."