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Newton County congressmen recall terror at the U.S. Capitol
Hank Johnson riots
Members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6. - photo by The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson was in the House Chamber when he and other congressmen found themselves potentially facing a mob of rioters that broke through police lines into the U.S. Capitol.

“I’ve been through some harrowing moments in my life before, and this was another one,” Johnson said Thursday. 

“I think I’m processing it well. I worry about some of my other colleagues who — their nerves may be frayed at this point, post-traumatic stress.”

Johnson, D-Lithonia, who represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, who represents the 10th Congressional District, each have roughly half of Newton County in their districts.

Johnson spoke in an interview with Atlanta radio station WABE-FM after the mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, as Congress debated certification of the results of the Electoral College vote that secured Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

A total of five people died in the melee and afterward as the pro-Trump group vandalized the center of American government and assaulted police officers.

Those who died included a Maryland Air Force veteran who police shot as she and others attempted to push their way into the House chambers.

A Capitol police officer died Thursday from injuries sustained while scuffling with rioters, and four other people — including a woman from Cobb County — died Wednesday of apparent medical emergencies, CNN reported.

An Associated Press photo showed the reactions of Johnson and some other House members inside the House chambers when Capitol Police officers had drawn guns as the mob tried to break through locked doors to gain entrance.

Johnson said he was thinking at that moment, “How are we going to get out of here? We need to get the h--- out of here.”

“It was probably 10 minutes, I would say, from the time we were first told to grab gas masks from under the chair and get ready to put on,” he said. 

“We then almost had to crawl from one side of the House floor to the other and then huddle there for quite some time before finally finding a secure exit and being led out at that secure exit.”

Supporters of Trump say a small group within the hundreds of protestors — not his speech to protestors before the attack — incited the riots seeking to halt approval of the electoral vote.

Hice said during a “Telephone Town Hall” Thursday, Jan. 7, that he had left the House floor and had been in his office with staff members only five minutes before he began to hear explosions of tear gas canisters within the building.

He said he “felt safe” as Capitol police evacuated him and his staff twice from his office in the Cannon House Office Building.

“It was every bit as chaotic as what you saw on TV,” Hice said.

He said he “had no idea of what was going on” as the rioters forced their way into the building.

“I was oblivious,” he said. “I knew there was a rally but there are a lot of rallies that go on in D.C.”

He said he supported attempts to halt the ratification of Georgia’s electoral votes that he said were based on vote tallies from an election in which alleged voter fraud was rampant during casting of absentee ballots throughout 2020.

Hice attempted to get a House debate and a vote on Georgia’s electoral votes but lost his Senate sponsor. 

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., chose to end her planned objection to ratification of the votes after Wednesday’s chaotic scene.

“What took place on Capitol Hill is shameful. It’s tragic,” Hice said.

Hice, who has been a vocal supporter of Trump, said he “consistently called out” violence by left-wing groups in U.S. cities in the summer that were reactions to the police shootings of unarmed Black people earlier in 2020.

“I feel the same about what happened (Wednesday),” he said. “I strongly condemn all political violence.”

Hice said he now wants to know who organized the rioting and how Capitol police officers appeared so unprepared to face a large group motivated to commit violence.

Johnson said he and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Roswell, are working to convince Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump immediately from office.

He said the decision to seek to remove Trump “was driven home” Wednesday after Trump spoke to the group of protestors before they marched to the Capitol.

“The 25th Amendment had always been a remedy available but it did not look as plausible as it does now, until yesterday,” Johnson said.

“Once the events occurred yesterday, I think they crystallized the fact that the president is unstable in his mental capacity.”

He said invoking the amendment is becoming more feasible as more of his cabinet members “jump ship.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced their resignations soon after Wednesday’s events.

“Calmer heads have to prevail and have to rise to what’s best for national security and what’s best for national interests,” Johnson said.

“We need to remove this president from office before he causes any more damage.”