WASHINGTON D.C. — As Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) emerged from his Washington, D.C. office, in the House of Representatives' Rayburn Building, on Wednesday afternoon, he saw something unusual.
"I thought they were an awful lot of people on the steps of the capitol," Higgins said.
For security reasons, groups of people are not normally allowed to gather on the marble steps that lead to the capitol's ceremonial entrance. Yet as Higgins walked toward the capitol he saw hundreds, maybe thousands, of supporters of President Donald Trump packing the steps.
"It was a lot of chaos and there was a lot of tension," Higgins said.
But before the Western New York congressman could reach the chambers of the House of Representatives, to take part in the tally of the electoral votes of the states that would certify the election of Joe Biden as the next U.S. president, he received an alert from the Capitol Police.
"It said the Capitol was being locked down and to shelter in place," Higgins said. "When they tell you to lock down, that's pretty serious."
For security reasons, the congressman did not discuss where he spent the next few hours as violent protestors broke into the Capitol and roamed its hallways. The horde broke into offices and destroyed property.
At one point, the rioters broke into the U.S. Senate and House chambers. One them was later photographed marching through the Capitol carrying a lectern taken from one of the chambers.
"Yesterday was a violent insurrection, premeditated by the president of the United States," Higgins said. "He needs to be removed before he can do more harm to the American people."
The congressman said another impeachment, or removal via the provisions of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, should be used to take Trump out of office before Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. Such a move would require support from congressional Republicans.
"I'm hearing from Republicans who are normally very pro-Trump that they are done (with him)," Higgins said.
Yet Higgins also said he had concerns that some pro-Trump members of the House and Senate may have provided aid to the rioters by telling them how to circumvent the Capitol's defenses.
This was a major, major security breach," Higgins said. "I don't know how it happened, but that needs to be investigated. Why did the National Guard not show up until two hours after this started?"
Despite a lack of arrests of rioters by Capitol police, Higgins also demanded that the members of the mob that invaded the Capitol be held accountable.
"This can not be tolerated," the congressman said. "These people need to be prosecuted."
In addition to the investigations underway in D.C., U.S. attorneys across the country are also probing the Capitol violence. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, announced Thursday that his office had “received a number of leads and tips regarding yesterday’s events at the Capitol Building."
"Working with our law enforcement partners, we are actively investigating the information we have obtained. Should we determine that there is a legal nexus between the crimes committed at the Capitol and our jurisdiction, we will not hesitate to charge those responsible," Kennedy said. "Violence is never an acceptable means of protest. We are one nation, and as such, the unity which comes from a shared respect for both the rule of law and one another represents our only hope for lasting solutions to the challenges we face. Escalating hostility and violence diminishes us all.”
Kennedy's probe may be centered on the actions of an estimated 110 Trump activists from the Western New York area, who traveled to D.C. to take part in a "Save America" rally led by the president.
One of the local organizers of the trip admitted to a reporter for the Buffalo News that "she attempted to climb a wall outside the historic edifice – even as police attempted to repel (protestors). She said 16 members of the group breached the wall."
In the aftermath of the violence, one rioter was shot and killed by Capitol police as she attempted to enter through a smashed window. A Capitol Police officer also died on Thursday from injuries he received during the confrontation with the rioters.
Late Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Stephen Sund resigned his post.
"Trump encouraged the protestors to be aggressive," Higgins said. "He's never cared about our country, from his failed response to the pandemic to attacking a pillar of our democracy."