Plus: Protests in L.A., Sacramento, and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ turns 46
Wow … it’s been quite a day here in California and around the country. I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, bringing you the latest headlines.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
Pro-Trump rioters breach Capitol, forcing lockdown; California politicians weigh in
Fueled by months of conspiracy theories and untruths about voter fraud spouted by President Donald Trump and other top Republicans, Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, where Congress was counting the electoral college votes. Windows were broken, and protestors got into violent clashes with police officers, prompting Vice President Mike Pence to be taken to a secure location and the Senate chamber to be evacuated. A woman was shot and killed in the melee.
California politicians were quick to weigh on the situation. Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman, a former member of the California State Assembly, who wasn’t in the House chambers, said, as quoted by The Sacramento Bee: “It’s absolutely bat**** crazy. I never would have imagined I would be locked down in my Capitol office riding out a violent coup, incited by an American president, but that is exactly what’s happening right now.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, condemned the protestors, telling Fox News that “This is so un-American … I could not be sadder or more disappointed at the way our country looks at this very moment … People are getting hurt.”
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, blamed the violence on the president. “Donald Trump [has] proven once again that he wants to be a dictator, that he doesn’t believe in democracy, doesn’t believe in the normal processes that have made America great as the longest-standing democracy in the world and the strongest country in the world, because of the nature of our government,” he told The Sacramento Bee. “He’s never believed in that. And he is carrying out one of his diabolical schemes right now, using his supporters as his shock troops.”
California Assemblymember Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, who represents the Coachella Valley and who made waves when he publicly left and denounced the Republican Party before the 2020 election, took to social media Wednesday, tweeting: “On a day like today… it feels so good to have left the Republican party. Best. Decision. Ever.”
Among those taking cover within the building were Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., who described his experience via phone from inside the Capitol at around 2 p.m. He said earlier in the day — as the debate was beginning over Republicans’ challenge to electoral college votes — he “noticed that the Capitol police started speaking into their walkie-talkies. They started moving. Then things started escalating.”
Ruiz said that he and other members of Congress were now ready to move forward with the ratification of the Electoral College results, although delays remained due to ongoing security concerns. “I am going to vote if a vote is being called, come hell or high water, because I am a firm believer in defending our Constitution,” Ruiz said.
The Electoral College proceedings resumed Wednesday evening after the Capitol was secured.
Angelenos protest in support of Trump
The U.S. Capitol wasn’t the only site of protest Wednesday; the Los Angeles Times reports that several people were arrested in downtown L.A. in a melee between protestors supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, counterprotesters and police.
Approximately 200 people, many maskless, showed up near LAPD headquarters armed with American flags and chanting “Do your job.” As one Trump supporter was escorted off the steps of City Hall, she yelled, “Remember there are thousands upon thousands of patriots willing to die for our freedoms.”
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted that “President Trump must condemn what has happened today, stop illegally contesting the will of the American public, and support the institutions and elected leaders who comprise our democracy.”
No serious injuries were reported, though some photos posted on social media showed people with blood on their clothing and faces.
Another gathering took place in nearby Huntington Beach along Pacific Coast Highway, where around 100 people waved Trump signs and American flags at passersby.
Elsewhere in SoCal, a statement was issued via email by the Hon. Fred M. Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, who said:
“Legal, peaceful protests and member challenges in the Congress to the Electoral College are a part of our system. But breaking the law, taking over the Capitol, assaulting law enforcement officers, instigating violence, and preventing the Constitutional process from taking place is not Conservative, not Republican and not American.
“We condemned Antifa and BLM this spring and summer for doing things like this, and we fully condemn those that took this action today. Law enforcement officers were injured and a civilian lost her life. These actions are unacceptable. They work to destroy the legacy of the Trump Administration, and hurt all of our efforts for election integrity. Our Republic is bigger than any one person or election. We stand for America and the Constitution. The Republican Party of Orange County will never stand for Mob Rule.”
Newsom: Riots are ‘outright assault to our democracy’
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who canceled a scheduled briefing on the coronavirus in Sacramento Wednesday due to the events in Washington, said in a statement: “Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions,” reports Politico.
At the same time in the state’s capital, several hundred Trump supporters, few of whom wore masks, gathered in protest outside the Capitol building as the chaos raged in Washington, reports The Sacramento Bee. A group of opponents were also present, but Sacramento police were able to separate the groups and retain order, according to The Bee. A few people were arrested on suspicion of possessing pepper spray.
Members of the state Senate and their staffers had been advised in advance of plans for protests and were asked to stay away.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said: “In Sacramento, we are continually coordinating with law enforcement to make sure the situation here in California’s Capitol remains under control. Our democracy and the rule of law will prevail.”
Trump: We had an election stolen from us; social media disagrees
As for President Trump’s reaction to the chaos, the Commander in Chief released a video calling for protestors to disperse, according to wqow.com. “You have to go home now, we have to have peace,” he said. “We don’t want anybody hurt. It is a very tough period of time … I know your pain, I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.”
As a result, CNBC reports that both Facebook and Twitter removed the video and locked the president’s accounts for the next 12 hours for violating policies regarding disseminating “disputed” information. The accounts will remain locked longer if he doesn’t comply with instructions to delete additional posts with disputed content.
Let’s end this day on a good note
In more upbeat news, a big happy birthday to “Wheel of Fortune.” Did you know that “Wheel” is the longest-running syndicated game show in American television? It premiered Jan. 6, 1975, on NBC and is still turning heads (OK, letters) after 46 years. Though originally hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford, current hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White joined the show in 1981 and 1982, respectively. As reported by history.com, “Wheel” producers say more than 1 million people have auditioned to be contestants, and the show has paid out more than $200 million in prize money.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: CNBC, Fox News, history.com, Los Angeles Times, The Sacramento Bee, wqow.com.
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.