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Residents reflect on the significance and underpinnings of the U.S. Capitol siege

SCREENSHOT - Screenshot from CBS News of rioters at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.

Wilsonville community members, who watched from afar as insurrectionists sieged the U.S. Capitol building on the day Congress was scheduled to certify electoral votes, felt shocked, "sick to their stomach" and saddened by what they had witnessed.

The proceedings are a hallmark of the democratic process and the attempt to circumvent them was a threat to the constitutional tenets America was founded on, Wilsonville lobbyist Greg Leo said.

"This is a shocking development. It's historically unprecedented. And to happen at a time when they're counting the Electoral College votes is very sad. This challenges one of the basic pillars of our democracy," Leo said. "It's a very shocking situation that's happened in Washington, D.C."

Newly sworn-in Wilsonville Mayor Julie Fitzgerald said the events, which included extremists overtaking police, breaking into the Capitol building and taking selfies near the legislative dais and in the offices of congressional representatives, the planting of pipe bombs and several deaths, were disturbing on a personal level but that she had faith in democracy prevailing.

"One thing that we can do today is to be sure to take care of each other, and by that I mean remaining calm and showing compassion, leadership and good citizenship in our relationships with family, friends and neighbors," she said.

The attempted insurrection came after President Donald Trump repeatedly promoted unsubstantiated claims that November's presidential election was stolen from him. And Trump did little to discourage the extremists' actions.

Though he said he voted for Trump, former Wilsonville mayor John Ludlow was unhappy with the president's tepid response to the insurrection.

"A real leader would have said days ago, even after the election, no matter what happens we need to let the process go through the Electoral College," he said.

However, Ludlow compared the siege to the riots that took place in Portland last year and felt that, in some ways, the riots were worse.

"They (the insurrectionists) didn't shoot anyone. They didn't start any fires. They were wrong. However in our own backyard in Portland they've done a hell of a lot worse and no one called out the National Guard on that," he said.

Federal agents were sent to Portland during the protests last summer, and Trump also threatened to send in the National Guard. Ultimately he did not.

Republican House Minority Leader and Charbonneau representative Christine Drazan condemned the violence and destruction of public property in a news release.

"I am heartbroken at today's events in our Nation's capital. It is a sad day for our country and federal government. We are a country of laws and they must be upheld. The Constitution protects peaceful protests, not the chaos we are witnessing at the Capitol building," she wrote.

For her part, Wilsonville resident Debi Laue said Trump supporters should at some point accept defeat graciously and that she was disappointed in the events.

"There's certain people who are fueled by anger and whatever their reason is they're just continuing beyond the cause. They're not even making a point anymore. It's violence for violence's sake," she said.

However, Laue, who described herself as an optimist, is hopeful for better days ahead and that healing will begin soon.

Leo worked in the nation's capital for six years as the congressional liaison for the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service in D.C. He recalls there not being much security and felt that public access was a great way for citizens to witness the democratic process.

"Now you can't as a citizen walk into the Capitol, which is really sad. The more things like this happen, the harder it is for people to participate, go to the Capitol and see their government at work," he said.

Wilsonville resident and state Rep. Courtney Neron described the events as domestic terrorism and said they were in part fueled by racism.

"The racism we see pervasive in our system must go. Whether it is inflammatory language, unjust policies, or acts of violence, we must address it effectively and lean in to our duty to serve all," she wrote via text message.

Fitzgerald mentioned the role that social media plays in fostering extremism and providing people skewed and sensational content.

"I do think that there is a lot about the negative aspects of social media that help make this kind of thing even possible. And I think people should really be sensitive to the negative powers of social media," she said.

As a step toward progress, Neron hoped people would feel motivated by the events and take action to protect and improve American democracy.

"Stay determined. There is still work to do. Democracy is an everyday commitment, and the courage it takes doesn't always feel emotionally or physically safe," she said. "We have had numerous attempts to erode our democracy on the national and statewide level. Keep working. Keep spreading truth and kindness and calling out injustice. Our collective goal must be to build a better democracy. "

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