University of Virginia officials denounced the actions of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as a “coup d’etat,” with one supporting President Donald Trump’s removal from office.
The UVa Center for Politics planned the first of its Democracy Dialogues for Wednesday. It was supposed to feature U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., but Kaine was taken to a secure location as rioters supporting Trump stormed the building. Kaine was unable to attend the event.
UVa President Jim Ryan called the riot an “attack on our democracy” and a “painful reminder of just how fragile our system of government can be.” He called for those with different political views to “turn down the temperature” and “try to find some common ground.”
“Our form of government has never been guaranteed,” he said. “It only works if we work to preserve and protect it.”
Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, said Wednesday was a “tumultuous, chaotic, disastrous day.” He called the actions of rioters an “invasion” and it “was kind of a coup d’etat.”
The riots were the culmination of a massive rally supported by Trump seeking to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. The U.S. Senate was meeting Wednesday to ceremoniously certify the vote of the Electoral College.
One woman was killed in the rioting. It’s unclear how many people were arrested or injured. Rioters broke windows and doors and could be seen in some videos storming a group of Associated Press reporters and destroying their camera equipment.
Margaret Brennan, Host of CBS’ Face the Nation and a 2002 UVa graduate, said the violence was directly tied to Trump’s rhetoric. She raised the alarm at the ease protestors appeared able to breach the U.S. Capitol.
“This is a severe and really concerning security breach,” she said.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was part of Wednesday’s UVa event, but his interview was conducted before the riot. His comments focused on Senate elections in Georgia, bipartisanship and centrism. Meanwhile, calls were growing on both sides of the aisle that Trump incited the riot and should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“If ever there was an opportunity to use the 25th amendment it would be now,” Sabato said in a later interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. “But we don’t have people courageous enough in the cabinet and the Congress to do that.”
The 25th Amendment allows the vice president, with support of a majority of the cabinet, to remove the president for office upon a finding the president is unable to fulfill their duties.
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell, tweeted that “violence is never the answer.” He thanked Capitol Police and called for peaceful protests.
Good, who represents Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, including Charlottesville and Albemarle County, has backed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was fraudulent. His predecessor, Denver Riggleman, has actively fought such claims and responded to Good, saying “YOU escalated the intellectually vacant and dangerous STOP THE STEAL movement. Your rhetoric is cheap and spineless. … Nice job starting your term out by inciting a riot in the Nation’s Capitol.”
Trump’s claim have been widely shot down in court cases throughout the country.
U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico, told NBC News that “The scene that we saw on Capitol Hill – the banging, the yelling, the screaming, the demands to enter the chambers of the United States Congress – those are the sorts of things that happen in third-world nations. The sorts of places where our diplomats and intelligence officers write home to the United States and say this is a dangerous scenario, this is an endangered democracy.”
Spanberger later tweeted about the riot, calling the rioters “domestic terrorists.”
In a break during Charlottesville City Council’s closed session on Wednesday, Councilor Sena Magill commented on the riot, saying “I wish I was more surprised. I’m just kind of devastated right now.”