Mayor Barrett Remembers Lockdowns From His Time in Congress

Milwaukee’s mayor says today’s events at the U.S. Capitol brought back memories of a pair of lockdowns he experienced when he was a U.S. Representative.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by extremist supporters of President Donald Trump gave Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett flashbacks of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

“That came to mind because that was a day in the Capitol where there was a lot of strife and a lot of anxiety,” said Barrett, who served as a Democrat in Congress from 1993 to 2003. “The building was cleared, and it was cleared again several days later when there was an anthrax scare.”

Barrett reflected on how politicians from both sides of the aisle banded together in the aftermath of the attacks.

“I remember at that time thinking how great it was that the leadership in our country came together in a bipartisan basis because we knew we had a common enemy and how we worked together as patriots for America. That’s what I thought nearly 20 years ago.”

While watching the harrowing situation at the U.S. Capitol unfold on television on Wednesday afternoon, Barrett said he struggled with an array of emotions.

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“Watching the events today, it’s much more angering and sad because I have the same feeling that an attack is going on against our country, and more specifically an attack on our democracy,” he said.

Barrett, who has served as Milwaukee’s mayor since 2004, blamed Trump for what he deemed an “insurrection.”

“We can’t play around anymore,” he said. “We’ve seen our sacred building trampled on. We’ve seen people marching around the United States Senate and we’ve seen pictures of people in Congressional offices as they attempt this coup. It is time to stop playing games. It is time to stop playing politics. It is time to move on with what we need to do in this country and that’s come together as people and to honor our institutions and democracy.”

Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee who was inside the Capitol on Wednesday, tweeted that the storming of the building “is an incredibly disturbing and shameful moment for our country.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, issued a statement claiming that the breaching of the Capitol by demonstrators “is not what America is about.”

“This should be a day of celebration as we witness the peaceful transition of power in our country – something that makes American exceptional in the eyes of the world. Instead, we are facing a lawless assault on our democracy.”

Wisconsin Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher of De Pere, who sought shelter in his Capitol office, released a video on Twitter in which he called the actions of demonstrators “banana republic crap.”

“This is the cost of countenancing an effort by Congress to overturn the election and telling thousands of people that there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election, even though you know that is not true.”

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.