A month later, Rio Grande Valley congressmen reflect on Capitol Riots

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Two Rio Grande Valley Congressmen reflect on the moments of fear they lived through on January 6, when the Capitol riot took place.

New videos from the historic event were released Wednesday during the second day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. 

The events angered Congressman Vicente Gonzalez then, and now more than a month later, they still do.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez. D-Texas

He didn’t mince words when talking about the events of that day with KVEO.

“What occurred on January 6 was shameful for America,” he said bluntly.

Congressman Gonzalez had gone to the Capitol Building for the certification of Electoral votes.

He said when he arrived there were only around 1,500 people gathered outside the Capitol. A far cry from the masses that would be there just hours later.

Even with only that relatively small amount of people, Congressman Gonzalez said the atmosphere at the capitol was unlike anything he had experienced previously.

“It did feel maybe a little insecure, and maybe we needed more security,” he said. “I took my tie off and my pin off to walk around Capitol grounds because I just felt like something was a little different this day.”

Congressman Gonzalez was inside the House of Representatives chambers when he heard the rioters had breached the Capitol.

“I was sitting at the highest level, so I thought ‘I should get down to the ledge where I can take cover’,” said Gonzalez. “I moved to a lower area on the ledge where we could take cover. It seemed like as soon as I got there we heard the pops. Pop, pop, pop.”

The pop he heard was the gunshot that killed Ashli Babbitt. For those inside the chamber, there was no way to tell exactly what that noise had been, or who had caused it.

“I asked the guard if the intruders who breached the Capitol were armed, and he said ‘we can’t confirm that’,” said Gonzalez. The uncertainty of what was happening outside caused those inside the chamber to fear for their safety.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. D-Texas

Outside the chamber, off the grounds of the Capitol, Congressman Filemon Vela was on his way to his office in the Cannon House office building.

“As I was leaving my house, we got the evacuation notice at that office building,” said Vela.

Between his home and his office, Congressman Vela had his staff call Capitol Police to figure out where he should go.

Capitol police didn’t know of a safe spot for him to go.

“They said ‘well, why don’t you tell him to go down to the parking lot on the plaza’,” Vela explained. “Which is right in front of the Capitol, and that seemed like a particularly really bad idea because it’s out in the open.”

“I looked at my phone and things were unraveling so quickly,” said Vela. He was unaware that at that moment thousands of people were swarming the Capitol grounds, some right where Capitol Police had suggested he wait.

“Sure enough, the next thing you know, hoards of people were on the plaza where they wanted me to go park,” said Vela.

For his own safety, he returned to his home and watched the events unfolding at the Capitol on TV with the rest of the world.

Later that evening he was able to return to the Capitol Building, where both houses of Congress finished counting the Electoral vote into early morning hours.

“That morning, I gave Congressman Gonzalez a ride home,” added Vela. A rather mundane ending to an eventful day.

Congressman Vela agreed with Congressman Gonzalez’s assessment of the day’s events as shameful, but he also noted they were historic as well. The Capitol Building had not been infiltrated since the War of 1812.

Historic events require historic consequences.

When asked how he felt that some people were suggesting that we move past the events of that day, Congressman Vela was steadfast in his demand for justice.

“It was a really bad day for democracy, so it’s not something we can just let slide by,” said Vela. “We can’t just brush off the Capitol riots. I mean, there were breaches on the Capitol that we didn’t even see during the Civil War.”

The second impeachment trial of former President Trump is expected to continue for another week.

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