Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s experiences as a soldier and wheelchair person formed her response to the Capitol riots


When rioters egged on by President Trump stormed the Capitol every week in the past, Sen. Tammy Duckworth wasn’t within the Senate chamber along with her colleagues. She was within the advanced’s underground tunnels, en path to the Senate ground, the place she deliberate to talk in favor of certifying the Electoral School ballots within the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

However that speech was to not be. Earlier than Duckworth might board the prepare to the ground, Capitol Police advised her that rioters have been urgent in opposition to the constructing doorways and requested that she discover a safe location to shelter in place. With the constructing on lockdown, the Illinois senator confronted additional security issues in contrast with a few of her colleagues; as a wheelchair person, it’s not as easy for her to evacuate.

Duckworth’s army coaching kicked in, and she or he remained calm whereas additionally maintaining in contact along with her colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to study what was occurring exterior her lockdown location.

“As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different individuals battle for democracy,” Duckworth says. “And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second.”

In an interview with Fortune, Duckworth mirrored on what was going by her thoughts on Jan. 6—and what must occur subsequent. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Fortune: The place have been you through the assault on the Capitol? What was going by your thoughts?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: I used to be on my strategy to the ground—I used to be within the tunnels. I used to be supposed to talk at 2:50 p.m., and so they breached the Capitol proper round that very same time. Within the tunnels to catch the prepare, the Capitol Police stated I might proceed ahead if I needed to, however they would favor if I might take myself to a safe location. As an alternative of constant on to the ground, I went to a safe place with my employees members.

I used to be fairly calm. I used to be speaking with Senator Klobuchar; I couldn’t consider the Capitol had been breached, that the Capitol Police might be overwhelmed. It was unbelievable to me that people who name themselves patriots would really be making an attempt to overthrow the federal government and cease us from doing our constitutional responsibility to certify the ballots.

I used to be simply ready, ensuring management knew I used to be high-quality—to not fear about me. I all the time carry provisions in my backpack—water, aspirin, Tylenol, energy bars. I used to be okay to hunker down for somewhat bit.

Lawmakers with army backgrounds appeared to stay calm all through the state of affairs. Did that coaching and expertise kick in for you?

Positively. I knew precisely what the Capitol Police have been going through and what wanted to be achieved. I knew the perfect factor we might do was to remain out of their method—to be one much less issue for them to fret about.

I all the time know the place the again method out of a room is. I all the time say, outdated habits die exhausting. And I knew that I might deal with myself.

As soon as I knew that the ballots had been secured—that was one of many worries I had.

Had been you frightened in regards to the accessibility of the Capitol advanced as somebody who makes use of a wheelchair?

Sure, that’s why I didn’t proceed on to the ground. I used to be given the choice, however I knew that if the Capitol was breached there’s just one method out and in for me. There are a number of doorways into the ground of the Senate chambers, however I can solely actually go out and in of the doorways behind the dais. I can solely use the elevators. I knew that placing myself in that state of affairs was going to make issues tougher for everybody throughout in the event that they needed to evacuate us, in order that’s why I selected as a substitute to shelter in place.

The general public has lately discovered extra about among the risks—like Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s panic buttons being ripped out. Has anything come to gentle for you?

They didn’t make it to my primary places of work, though they did try to realize entry to my hideaway [private offices located near the Senate floor], as a result of it has a window to the surface. That window was shattered. Thank goodness it held in order that they by no means breached my hideaway. Had I been in there I might have been in actual jeopardy. It’s fairly badly cracked, and the within of my hideaway is crammed with shattered glass.

What does it really feel like so that you can see that harm?

For me, it’s frustration. As a result of I couldn’t do something about it. As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different individuals battle for democracy. And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second. And so it was actually irritating to me to see individuals carrying the American flag—the identical flag I wore on my uniform once I went into fight—however they have been carrying the flag to assault our Capitol and to attempt to mainly overthrow the Structure. And that imagery was much more hurtful than damaged glass in my hideaway. Glass may be changed, furnishings may be fastened.

There was a decided group inside that crowd that that have been systematic in how they reached the Capitol and have been effectively coordinated.

What must occur subsequent?

We have to monitor down everybody who was concerned, and there should be penalties for these actions. After which we have to evaluation the safety plans. The Capitol Police labored very, very exhausting. They usually reacted the perfect they might, however they have been overwhelmed and mainly let down by their management. We have to take a look at the leadership of the Capitol Police, after which we have to take a look at the agreements—the truth that [D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser] didn’t have the power to call up the D.C. National Guard, for instance.

And as for President Trump?

We’re about to go to impeachment. I believe he must face the implications for his actions as effectively. He must be barred from ever holding workplace once more.

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