Mariannette Miller-Meeks

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks speaks from the U.S. Capitol, where protesters diverged on Wednesday disrupting a joint session of Congress.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, just like her colleagues, was trying to do "the work of the people."

That work was indefinitely halted by chaos inside and outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.

Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa Republican who was provisionally sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives Sunday as a freshman congresswoman, was ushered into a safe place as protestors stormed the Capitol during Congress' joint session of reading the Electoral College votes.

"This is a sad day for all of us," Miller-Meeks said in a Zoom call with media. "We're trying to do the work and business of the people, and answer important constitutional questions.

"Our message to people would be, just like the social unrest over the summer, I strongly support the constitutional right to protest and protest peacefully. We should not be breaching buildings. It's been frightening for our members, but people have remained calm."

Protests against President Donald Trump's loss to Joe Biden erupted early Wednesday afternoon, and protestors overran Capitol police to get inside the building and reach both the House and Senate chambers.

When the protests began, Miller-Meeks was on the House floor debating the electoral votes for Arizona, which is expected to be one of a handful of states Republicans are contesting. The process is normally benign, with Vice President Mike Pence reading the results from each state.

"When we began today, it was very civil on both sides," an emotional Miller-Meeks said. "I think the mood will be very somber. Many of us see this as a sad day in our democracy."

Miller-Meeks said both Trump and Pence need to take a larger role in the matter. The Republican has been a supporter of Trump throughout the election but said more needs to be done.

"It's incumbent on the president and vice president to denounce and decry any violent activity on Capitol grounds," she said. "There is a way to do this peacefully. My understanding is they've sent messages, and those messages need to be encouraged.

"People are angry, frustrated and disappointed, and that's understandable," she said. "But there are ways to do that. It also protects the liberties of all of us going forward. This is a great country. We have a great republic and a great democracy, and we want to maintain that not only for 2021, but for generations to come."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was a part of the electoral count in that chamber, also decried the violence in and around the Capitol.

"Today's violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself. This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights," the Republican said in a statement. "These were un-American acts worthy only of condemnation."

Grassley also encouraged a peaceful transfer of leadership.

"We must uphold these principles," he said. "Our nation has been through highs and lows. Through it all, our shared values have held strong. We must not lose grip of those shared values today.

"This is a sad day for America. As a nation, we must be better than this."

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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