Rep. Hakeem Jeffries was prepared to fight back at Capitol: ‘If it’s on, it’s on’

EXCLUSIVE: The Brooklyn, New York congressman describes to theGrio's April Ryan the moment he decided to take off his suit jacket and tie to protect himself

The human spirit and will to survive was evident last Wednesday among lawmakers as deadly violence on Capitol Hill left six dead after an angry crowd of a majority of white men stormed the Capitol buildings.

The mob went with the intention of ensuring President Donald Trump would remain in office after believing the lie Trump and his enablers told of fraudulent elections that declared Joe Biden the winner in the 2020 presidential election. 

Several stories are rising from the debris and carnage of last week, including that of Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman. Goodman, armed with a small baton, led an angry white group through the hallways of the Capitol building up some steps away from the Senate floor into a hallway with more Capitol police. He led the rioters away into the capture of law enforcement.  

Read More: Black Capitol officer stops rioters from entering senate chambers

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Another one of those stories is from Brooklyn, New York native U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

He and several others around him in the House chamber were prepared to physically fight back if they were met with the fury of the domestic terrorists. At the time, those in the House chambers could hear the crowd and understood the Senate chambers had been breached. 

Congressman Jeffries recounts how he was prepared to battle the best way he knew how while clad in his business suit and tie working with other congressional leaders trying to certify the most recent presidential election.   

Rep. Jeffries remembers those moments saying it was “an extraordinary moment.”

Read More: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says security at Capitol riots was a ‘failure operationally’

“We could tell that there was some commotion and movement within the chamber and we were in the midst of debating the so-called objections to Arizona and its Electoral College votes going to Joe Biden. Because Arizona is at the very top of the alphabet … it was one of the first swing states that they objected to that Joe Biden won,” Jeffries recalled.

Jeffries described the moments leading up to the very dangerous threat potentially coming their way in the House chambers. “And in the midst of that debate, the speaker was expeditiously removed by her security officials,” he said.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

“And then the majority leader and majority whip were in very close proximity to where I was seated on the floor of the House and I saw their security detail come expeditiously, remove them, which is probably part, of course, of the protocol that happens whenever the Capitol has been breached at that point.

“There was an announcement, I believe, by the sergeant at arms who said there are protesters endeavoring to penetrate the building, suggesting that we think we have it under control but be prepared and stay ready.

He added, “Shortly after that, he came back, interrupted the proceedings and said they’ve reached the building they’re on the second floor. They may be as close to statutory hall, which is, you know, several feet removed from the House chamber.”

Read More: Officials eye security for Inauguration Day, scramble to ID Capitol rioters

Jeffries said lawmakers were told to hit the ground and secure a gas mask underneath their seats. The congressman admits, “that’s the first time in my eight years in the United States Congress that I’ve ever been told to secure a gas mask.”

The New York congressman and some others were compelled to stand up and fight back. He and Rep. Colin Allred, another Black member of the House, prepared themselves for the worst case scenario.

Then-Rep.-elect Colin Allred (D-TX) registers as present with help from U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“[Allred] is [a former] civil rights lawyer who worked for the Obama administration, but before that, was a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, played in the NFL for five years and before that grew up on our side of the tracks. So Colin was sitting behind me — I knew that I was in a good situation because Colin had my back,” Jeffries said.

“If they reach this chamber, I’m not hiding,” Allred said to Jeffries.

The congressmen in that area of the chambers started taking off their jackets. “I took my jacket off and my tie. Because I said, you know what, if it’s on, it’s on. We are not going to be overrun by these seditious Trump supporters, and it’s just going to be what is going to be,” Jeffries recalled.

He added, “We could hear banging on the door. There were a handful of security officers who were positioning themselves by the doors that were attempting to be breached. But they could have easily been overrun by the mob. We had no idea the volume at that point.”

Jeffries said he meant business and intended to fight for his life and that of the others barricaded in the House Chambers saying, “I’ll put it like this, I knew that I had a better shot if I took my slim-fit jacket off and whatever might have gone down.”

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