Michigan lawmaker questions how rioters were able to enter U.S. Capitol

A Michigan state senator whose home legislature was stormed by armed men last year is among those questioning how a group of pro-Trump rioters were able cause chaos in Washington on Wednesday.

Siege had 'same vibe' as April incident at Michigan legislature, says Dayna Polehanki

Police officers stand guard as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

A Michigan politician whose state legislature was occupied by armed protesters last year is among those questioning how a group of pro-Trump rioters were able cause chaos in Washington on Wednesday.

"I have questions about how the breaching of the U.S. Capitol was allowed to take place," said Dayna Polehanki, a Democratic state senator.

"It seemed to be allowed. I watched the coverage ... and I didn't see much active defence on the part of law enforcement."

Polehanki, who spoke with Chris dela Torre, host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive, said she was "shell shocked" and disgusted by Wednesday's events.

"I know a lot of damage was done to artifacts and things, and just the degradation of things that we hold dear, and people sitting at lawmakers' desks," she said. 

Michigan State Sen. Dayna Polehanki is seen in a photo from her website. (Dayna Polehanki)

The rampage began shortly after President Donald Trump repeated his unfounded claims of election fraud to thousands of rallying demonstrators he'd invited to Washington.

Many then surged to the Capitol after he incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

A woman was fatally shot, windows were bashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.

Professor Saeed Khan, director of global studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, also called for scrutiny of the "abject failure" of Capitol Police to prevent the breach.

"I know I couldn't enter the Capitol Building with even a nail clipper, the level of security is so tight, and especially since 9/11 they have made mechanisms where one simply cannot go up to the door."

Police chief defends response

In a statement issued on Thursday, the chief of Capitol police defended his agency's response from criticism that officers did not do enough to stop the incursion. He says his agency "had a robust plan" for what he anticipated would be peaceful protests but that what occurred Wednesday was "criminal, riotous behaviour."

"These individuals actively attacked United States Capitol Police Officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers. They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage," said Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.

Comparison to Michigan legislature incident

For Polehanki, Wednesday's events shared the "same vibe" as the occupation of the Michigan state legislature by an armed militia in the spring over COVID-19 restrictions. 

"When I say the same vibe, it was the Trump flags, the nooses, the Confederate flags, white men, it had all that in common with what I experienced on April 30," she said.

FILE PHOTO: An armed militia group stands in front of the Governors office after protesters occupied the state capitol building during a vote to approve the extension of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's emergency declaration/stay-at-home order due, at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Seth Herald/File Photo (Seth Herald/Reuters)

U.S. Congress formally validated Joe Biden's presidential election victory overnight on Thursday, with proceedings resuming more than six hours after the violence erupted.

In a statement posted to an aide's Twitter account, Trump committed to a transfer of power but continued to attack the credibility of the election.

"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on Jan. 20," the statement said.

Polehanki said until Republicans in power uniformly acknowledge the election was lost, not stolen, as some have insisted without evidence, "this is not going to end."

"I go to work next week in our Capitol. I have a bulletproof vest under my desk, and you better believe I'm going to be wearing it," she said.

Listen to the full interview below:

With files from the Associated Press, Afternoon Drive and Windsor Morning