Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem and House Speaker Tina Kotek D-Portland speak during a joint-committee work session at a one-day special session at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, August 10. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem’s elected leaders condemned the violent unrest at the nation’s capital Wednesday as insurrectionists breached the building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election.

While Democrats specifically called out President Donald Trump for fomenting what they referred to as a coup, Republicans more broadly condemned political violence or were silent.

“It’s a sad day for America,” Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, in an interview. “But it’s also a wake-up call for us that we are going to have to decide whether or not we are going to tolerate this activity.”

The insurrection in Washington D.C. came weeks after a similar event took place at the Oregon Capitol when a group of protesters attempted to force their way into the building as lawmakers were meeting for a one-day session. Following the incident, Courtney said security measures would be reviewed and likely tightened.

Now, he said the openness previously seen at the Oregon Capital before the pandemic restricted the public’s access is over. He said the Capitol’s doors are barricaded, which he said “breaks my heart.” He’s also talked to Gov. Kate Brown about having enough security to ensure a similar breach doesn’t happen in Oregon.

While he said he was limited on what he could disclose, he described some measures as “extraordinary” and was saddened that the building wouldn’t be as open.

During a press call, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley described the chaos of what he called an attempted “coup” as Congress was in the middle of the typically staid process of certifying the election.

He laid the blame for the insurrection squarely on Trump and his supporters. Other Oregon Democrats echoed his view.

“What’s happening today in our nation’s Capitol is a direct assault on democracy, a riot by insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism,” Ron Wyden, Oregon’s other senator, said in a statement. “Every Republican lawmaker who supported his efforts to overturn a legitimate election shares responsibility for the violence at the heart of our democracy.”

Congressman Kurt Schrader, a Democrat who represents the Salem area, took to Twitter to also blame Trump for the unrest saying it was caused by his “lack of respect and dangerous rhetoric."

“I am witnessing something I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” said Schrader. “Looking out the window, I see Americans destroying their own Capitol. These are not ‘protestors’ they are a violent mob of terrorists hellbent on destroying our Republic.”

“We are witnessing an attempted coup in our nation’s capital incited by a selfish politician who lost an election fair and square,” said Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, on Twitter. “This is a disgraceful, tragic day for our country and our democracy. Let us stand together for peace and against violence and hate.”

The Democratic Party of Oregon in a statement called the event a “sad and shameful day in our nation’s history,” calling those that breached the capitol a “violent mob” and “extremists.”

Elected Republican leaders also condemned the unrest in the nation’s capital but didn’t condemn Trump or refer to the incident as a “coup.”

Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bill Currier condemned the political violence that he said derailed challenges mounted by congressional Republicans to the election’s certification. He also said there remain real concerns that the election was marred by voter fraud.

Numerous courts have rejected lawsuits intended to throw out votes and President Donald Trump’s attorney general has said there is no evidence that there were wide-scale irregularities.  

“Today was a day to follow the Constitution and address the very legitimate concerns of tens of millions of Americans with the fairness of the 2020 Presidential election,” said Currier. “The electoral college certification challenges and peaceful protests should have reminded us that we live under the rule of law, not the rule of the news media or big tech companies, and absolutely not under the rule of violent mobs.

Republican state Sen. Denyc Boles, who lost her race to keep her seat representing the Salem area in November, tweeted a sharply worded condemnation.

“I am sickened and grieved by what I’m watching in the US Capitol today,” she said. “This is not my country.”

A phone call and email to the Oregon Senate Republicans office was not returned.

House Republican leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, took to Twitter to call for order to be restored.

“Violence and destruction of public property is not peaceful protest,” she said on Twitter. “We are a country of laws and they must be upheld.”

State Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, in an email declined to answer questions about whether he agreed with Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and if he supported challenges to certifying the election. He instead pointed to one of his recent Twitter posts.

“Violence, no matter what the ‘cause’ is wrong,” Post tweeted on Jan. 1. “There is no ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’ violence, there is only violence. Period. God destroyed the Earth over violence, it grieves him. Protest your cause but stop the violence.”

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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