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Pro-Trump protestors storm U.S. Capitol Building- U.S. Senate & House evacuated Capitol on lockdown

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Editor’s Note: The following reporting was compiled and published in real time as the events unfolded on this historic day:

WASHINGTON – Protestors stormed the United States Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon disrupting the formal certification of the Electoral College vote results in a joint session of Congress.

Protestors had gained entrance to the building, after rushing the Capitol steps and as U.S. Capitol Police withdrew. Several dozen managed to gather in the lobby just outside the House chamber.

The Sergeant at Arms of both bodies have locked down their respective chambers and the Blade has learned that the Senators are being evacuated. Vice-President Mike Pence and Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley have been taken to a secure area by the U.S. Secret Service and Capitol Police.

House members and staff are sheltering in place near the House Chamber, the Blade was told by a senior law enforcement source that Federal Protective Service, Secret Service are being deployed to the US Capitol to assist the Capitol Police. Lawmakers have also been given gas masks indicating potential deployment of chemical deterrents within the building.

Protesters breached inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” A source tells the Blade that House members have been evacuated and security around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line to the succession of the presidency, has tripled.

Televised footage from inside the House Chamber showed uniform and plainclothes Capitol Police officers with guns drawn pointing at the entrance to the House Chambers which was barricaded.

Screenshot via Dawn Ennis, Editor, Outsports Magazine

Shortly before gaining entrance to the Senate Chambers protestors displaying Confederate flags and U.S. flags were briefly confronted by Capitol Police officers.

Screenshot via Twitter

NBC News reported that a spokesperson for the D.C. Fire and EMS says there have been multiple injuries sustained as a result of the protests at the U.S. Capitol and there is an unconfirmed, at this time, report of one a gunshot victim. A source has confirmed to NBC News that two improvised explosive devices on the Capitol grounds were seized by police and have been safely disarmed.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sent a tweet out regarding the situation in Washington:

My team and I are working closely with @MayorBowser, @SpeakerPelosi, and @SenSchumer to respond to the situation in Washington, D.C. Per the Mayor’s request, I am sending members of the Virginia National Guard along with 200 Virginia State Troopers.

The White House has released a statement that President Trump has now deployed the National Guard to assist Capitol Police and federal law enforcement. Numerous confirmed reports from journalists, members of Congress, Hill staff, and multiple sources are telling the Blade that several protestors are in fact armed.

Multiple local and Federal law enforcement agencies across the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area are now responding, a Metropolitan Police (DC) source tells the Blade. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered a 6pm curfew for the city.

In Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday evening, President-Elect Joe Biden addressing reporters is calling the assault on the Capitol “an assault on our democracy.” He then calls on the situation to “end now.” Biden says Trump must go on national television to address what he termed an insurrection.

President-elect Joe Biden calls on Trump to end the Capitol building takeover.

“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the constitution and demand an end to this siege.” Biden said.

The press pool reported that Biden spoke briefly about the events on Capitol Hill, quoting Lincoln and telling Donald Trump to appear on national television and call for an end to the chaos inside the Capitol. 

He walked off from the podium, ignoring shouted questions about whether he was concerned about the inauguration, then turned around and returned to stage to say:

“I am not concerned about my safety, security, or the inauguration. I’m not concerned. The American people are going to stand up, stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”

(1:22 pm Pacific) President Trump has delivered a ‘taped’ message a few minutes ago that has been posted to his Twitter account saying “it is now time to go home.” Trump again calls it a ‘fraudulent’ election and says the election was stolen.

Protestors inside the Capitol Rotunda via Twitter

California Governor Gavin Newsom cancelled his COVID-19 press briefing and update today out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of Governor’s Office staff and issued the following statement in response to the events transpiring at the U.S. Capitol:

“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions. 

“The people of California have spoken, and our congressional delegation should never have to fear for their lives to represent Californians. We are concerned for the safety of California’s congressional delegation and U.S. Capitol staff, and are reaching out to offer support in every way possible. President Trump must call for an end to this escalating situation, acknowledge the will of the people to bring President-Elect Biden to the White House and move immediately to a peaceful transition of power.”

CBS White House reporter Kathryn Watson tweeted referring to Trump’s video message:

The president does not condemn the violence once in this entire video. He does call the rioters “special” and says “we love you.”

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser in a press conference said that she has ordered a city-wide curfew starting at 6pm Eastern. The mayor said that regional mutual-aid law enforcement agencies that will be assisting the Metropolitan and Capitol Police in restoring order to the Capitol building and grounds includes troopers from the Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and troopers from the New Jersey State Police.

DC Police Chief Robert Contee confirms that his officers will be vigorously enforcing the curfew and also assisting in clearing and securing the Capitol. The Chief also confirmed that there was a female gunshot victim inside the building who was transported to hospital. Contee said no further details were available. The Chief pointed out that the protests has crossed over from a protest to a riot which was declared once Capitol security was breeched. Contee tells reporters that these “are rioters.”

Pro-Trump rioter inside Capitol via Twitter

Capitol Police in riot gear have cleared the Capitol’s East Front stairs as the rioters begin to slowly disperse. The FBI’s SWAT & sniper teams were also deployed earlier to assist. As it grows dark in the early evening in Washington, multiple law enforcement agencies have now started to arrive.

The Blade was told by a law enforcement source at 5:20pm Eastern that police are retaking the Capitol initiating a room by room search and arresting any rioters still occupying rooms and spaces within the building.

NBC News reports Wednesday evening that law enforcement is actively deploying flash bang grenades and chemical riot control deices to clear the Capitol grounds.

The woman who was shot inside the Capitol near the U.S. House Chamber has died at a local hospital according to multiple sources. D.C. police chief Contee told the Associated Press that “three other people” died of medical complications at the U.S. Capitol grounds aside from the woman who was shot.

The New York Times reported that Vice President Mike Pence, not President Trump, approved the order to deploy the D.C. National Guard on Wednesday, defense and administration officials said. It was unclear why the president, who is still the commander in chief, did not give the order.

“Chairman [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley] Milley and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation. We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities. Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly.” Statement by Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on Full Activation of D.C. National Guard

Screenshot National Guard Troops arriving at the U.S. Capitol Building

Variety is reporting that social media platforms have taken action removing Trump’s video:

Facebook, in an unprecedented action, removed President Trump’s video post to D.C. rioters telling them to “go home” — while also fanning the conspiracy flames that the U.S. election was fraudulent.

“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Facebook VP of integrity Guy Rosen wrote in a tweet. “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

Twitter, meanwhile, disabled the ability for users to retweet, comment on or like Trump’s video, but left the video accessible on the service. Trump posted it Wednesday at about 4:17 p.m. ET after a mob of pro-Trump rioters took over the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the tally of electoral votes in Congress.

Twitter said the president’s personal Twitter account would be locked for 12 hours – but only if he deleted the three posts that it had already removed from public view. If he refuses to delete those posts himself, his account will remain locked indefinitely, the company added.

On Facebook, Trump will be blocked from posting for 24 hours.

 In response to the violent disruption by supporters of President Trump as Congress was counting the electoral college votes, Lambda Legal’s CEO, Kevin Jennings issued the following statement: 

“At the core of our work at Lambda Legal is the belief that the United States is a nation committed to the rule of law.  Today’s unprecedented events are a betrayal of that fundamental American commitment, and any pretense to “patriotism” on the part of those who committed today’s acts of desecration of the temple of democracy that is our Capitol building are blasphemous. Our democratic processes must be defended, and we call upon our leaders to utilize any and all processes available to them, including the 25th Amendment, to ensure an orderly transition of power in accordance with the will of the American people as expressed freely at the ballot box in November.”

National Guard troops have now taken up positions around the Capitol complex as Congress prepares to return to work on the certification of the Electoral College Vote. In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress will continue once the Capitol and surrounding areas are secured.

The House will pick its work back up and the Senate will reconvene at 8 p.m., a source told the Blade.

“Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” Pelosi said.

Reaction from world leaders was that of shock and dismay at the scenes that emanated from Washington today. Nearly all condemned the actions of President Trump for not taking immediate responsibility and action to stop the chaos. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted and called it “disgraceful,” and Germany’s foreign minister called on Trump to “stop trampling on democracy.”

Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said in a statement, “Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld – and it will be.”

First Minister of Scotland’s response to chaos in Washington Wednesday

At approximately 7pm Eastern, CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta speaking with CNN anchor Jake Tapper reported: “I will tell you, Jake, I talked to a source, a GOP source close to the president who speaks with him regularly, and I take no pleasure in reporting this, but this source tells me that he believes the president is out of his mind.”

Twitter has now locked President Trump out of his account for 12 hours following the tweeted video and several tweets that supported and emboldened the violent mob that stormed the Capitol.

The Senate reconvenes in its chamber at just after 8pm Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence condemning the violence. Pence praises the response of law enforcement particularly the Capitol Police. His speech is met with a standing ovation by all Senators. McConnell calls the events of earlier in the day an “insurrection.” He adds that criminal behaviour will not dominate nor intimidate the Congress from doings its job.

Senate Democratic Minority leader Chuck Schumer called today’s riots and take-over of the Capitol a “stain on the heart of democracy.” He also labeled the people who invaded the Capitol extremists and rioters. He then thanked the U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police, and others who kept lawmakers safe. He took aim at President Trump who he labels as bearing a good deal of the blame for the rioter’s actions Schumer said was incited by Trump’s lies and his penchant for allowing violence.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House back into session at 9pm Eastern Wednesday night as lawmakers resume debate over the certification of the Electoral College Vote.

U.S. House reconvenes after rioters disrupt a Joint Session of the Congress earlier Wednesday.

In a late night statement posted on Twitter, the ⁦@washingtonpost⁩ Editorial Board, echoing, what is now a growing call for action after the events of the day wrote; “The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security.”

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Florida

Florida prohibits Medicaid reimbursement for trans healthcare

Lambda Legal tells the LA Blade its “exploring all possible avenues for challenging this discriminatory rulemaking”

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Photo Credit: Equality Florida

TALLAHASSEE – On Thursday, Florida officially joined the roster of conservative states whose Medicaid programs carve out coverage exemptions for transgender related healthcare, including gender-affirming therapies for young people. 

Against the guidance of mainstream medical opinion, the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) ratified new rules prohibiting taxpayer reimbursement for puberty blockers, hormone therapies, or surgical procedures to treat gender dysphoria. 

“We are exploring all possible avenues for challenging this discriminatory rulemaking,” wrote Carl Charles, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, in an emailed statement to The Los Angeles Blade. “Lambda Legal has secured victories on this issue in other states such as Alaska (Being v. Crum), and just this month in our case, Fain v. Crouch, in West Virginia.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its Florida Chapter (FCAAP) wrote in an emailed statement to The Blade that they were “disheartened” by AHCA’s finalization of rules blocking Medicaid coverage for gender affirming care: 

“The state’s interference with the physician-patient relationship and its prohibition of this vital care will negatively impact Floridians who are trying to live their lives as their true, healthiest selves. As pediatricians, our only goal is to work with families and provide our patients with the best evidence-based care possible. When necessary and appropriate, that includes gender-affirming care. The AAP and FCAAP will continue to stand up in support of all young people, including those who are transgender.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not return a request for comment in time for publication. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Also on Thursday, Florida’s AHCA inaccurately accused HHS and the AAP of misleading the public about the safety of transgender related healthcare, though it was not the first time the state’s health agency has butted up against its federal counterparts and associations of medical practitioners. 

AHCA previously issued a bulletin in April that prompted rebukes from groups including the Endocrine Society, which accused AHCA of spreading misinformation about healthcare treatments for transgender people, including youth. The bulletin’s contents also conflicted with official positions on these matters held by HHS. 

A coalition of legal advocacy organizations including Lambda Legal immediately condemned the AHCA’s latest move in a joint statement Thursday, writing: “Ignoring thousands of public comments and expert testimony, Florida’s AHCA has finalized a rule that will deny Medicaid coverage for all medically necessary gender-affirming care for both youth and adults. This discriminatory and medically unsound rule will take effect on August 21, 2022, putting transgender people in jeopardy of losing access to critical gender-affirming health care services.”

The statement also took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “AHCA’s actions, at the behest of Governor DeSantis and his political appointees, are morally and legally wrong as well as medically and scientifically unsound. This rule represents a dangerous escalation in Governor DeSantis’s political zeal to persecute LGBTQ+ people in Florida, and particularly transgender youth.”

The Movement Advancement Project publishes a chart tracking state-by-state Medicaid coverage for transgender-related care, which is a patchwork of different exemptions and carveouts that generally maps onto the extent to which each leans conservative. 

Much like with other public health insurance programs like state employee health plans, discriminatory state Medicaid programs have often been the subject of litigation challenging them, in lawsuits that are often successful.

Nikole Parker, Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Equality in an emailed statement said:

“Just over one week from today, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, at the behest of Governor DeSantis, plans to strip thousands of vulnerable Floridians of their health care. Transgender people have been accessing gender-affirming care through Medicaid for years. That care is now being shut off by a state agency that has been corrupted, weaponized, and stacked with extremists by a governor desperate to fuel his own political ambitions.

Today, more than 9,000 transgender Floridians access care through Medicaid. On August 21, the state government will put  that care on the chopping block. As further evidence for his complete disregard for the health and well being of transgender Floridians, the DeSantis Administration has done nothing to quantify or assess the terrible impact this rule would have on the thousands of transgender people who rely on Medicaid for their care. The transgender community, like all people, shouldn’t have necessary, life-saving care stripped away by extremist politicians working overtime to stoke right-wing fervor. This brazen, politically-motivated attack is cruel, dangerous and puts the health of thousands at risk.”

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Virginia

Virginia’s Gov. Youngkin will force teachers to out their LGBTQ+ students

“I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed”

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Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

RICHMOND – Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin affirmed his support on Tuesday for measures that would require teachers to notify parents of their children’s sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of the students’ consent. 

The move was justified under the pretext of protecting “parental rights,” a specious argument that has given cover to policies enacted by conservative legislatures across the country that target LGBTQ+ people, including students, in public schools. 

“With regards to informing parents with most important decisions about their children…Parents should be at the forefront of all of these discussions,” Youngkin told WJLA News. “And I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed about what’s happening in their kids’ lives.”

Critics, however, charge that coming out is an intensely personal act, that taking away a student’s ability to do so on their own terms can be psychologically damaging, intrusive, and hurtful. In some cases, for students whose parents or guardians might harbor anti-LGBTQ+ views, it can be dangerous. 

Lambda Legal reports between 20 and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and are “frequently rejected by their families or fleeing abusive long-term placements.” Forcibly outing young LGBTQ+ people can mean they will be forced to live on the streets. 

Notwithstanding Youngkin’s efforts to portray himself as a moderate when campaigning for governor, Tuesday’s statement follows a series of extreme rightward moves he has made with respect to education policies in the state that concern LGBTQ+ youth and subject matter. 

Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which critics termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was similarly premised on the right of parents to control the material to which their children will have access in school. 

In reality, the overbroad legislation prohibits any classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity for students in certain grades, which could potentially lead to disciplinary action against a teacher who mentions their same-sex spouse. 

Youngkin has similarly taken aim at educational materials in public schools, such as by signing into law SB656, which requires parental notification of nebulously defined “sexually explicit content.” 

Just after taking office in January, he set up a “tip line” to solicit comments from Virginia parents on “divisive practices” or the inclusion of curricula and materials they may consider objectionable. 

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Monday, accuse Youngkin of violating public records laws by his refusal to share “tip line” emails with news media organizations.

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Vermont

Out Vermont state senator wins Democratic primary in U.S. House race

Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress

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Screenshot via Becca Balint for Congress

MONTPELIER – The Green Mountain State’s state Senate president pro tempore has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Becca Balin is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress if elected in November. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.

The VTDigger, a statewide news website, reported; “Balint, 53, is the first openly gay woman elected to the Vermont Senate and the first woman to serve as its president. The former middle school teacher and stay-at-home mother won her first political contest in a race for her southeastern Vermont Senate seat in 2014

She rose quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled chamber, becoming majority leader in 2017, at the start of her second term. Four years later, in 2021, she was elected pro tem — the top position in the Senate.”

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