Protesters gathered outside the Bel Air district office of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris verbally tore into the Maryland congressman Thursday afternoon, taking him to task for objecting to Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes and accusing him of helping to lay the groundwork for the previous day’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
People stood on the sidewalk along both sides of the busy Churchville Road near the Terlyn Square shopping center, where Harris’ office is located. They waved American flags, chanted and hurled epithets about Harris, calling him a “fraud,” a “traitor,” a “gutless coward” and a “seditionist.”
The protest was coordinated by the community group Together We Will — Harford County/Upper Chesapeake, which has worked with other local activist groups to stage protests in front of Harris’ office or other parts of downtown Bel Air to speak out on a myriad of national political issues and actions by the Trump administration.
“We’re here today to send a message, that we have been sending all four years and will continue to send, that we do not accept Andy Harris,” DeLane Lewis, of Together We Will, said as protesters cheered and motorists honked their horns in support.
“We do not accept his lies, and his lies have come home now to roost with the violence in the Capitol yesterday, and he is part of the problem,” Lewis added.
Harris had announced he would object to the Electoral College results in battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden when those results were tabulated during a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
That session was disrupted partway through a debate over objections lodged on Arizona’s tally when a mass of Trump supporters overwhelmed police and smashed their way into the U.S. Capitol, forcing legislators, congressional staff and journalists to shelter in place.
Congress reconvened after the building was cleared and continued the process of tallying electoral votes, completing the certification in the wee hours of Thursday morning and making Biden’s 306-232 electoral college victory over Trump official.
The Maryland Democratic Party on Thursday called on Harris to immediately resign, saying that he is a “disgrace” to the state and that he and other Republican members of Congress were complicit in the violent occupation of the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead.
Harris, a sixth-term conservative and anesthesiologist, was among the those who voted to contest the presidential election results in two states after Congress reconvened late Wednesday to certify Biden’s victory.
Harris voted in favor of two objections to Biden’s victory — one related to results in Pennsylvania and another tied to the count in Arizona. Maryland’s other seven representatives — all Democrats — voted against the challenges.
In a statement Thursday, Harris said that he “routinely and consistently rejected violent protests,” referring to the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday and the protests in multiple U.S. cities in late May and early June following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police May 25.
“Today, some Marylanders are even calling for my resignation, which I will not do,” Harris stated. “My colleagues and I held legitimate Constitutional concerns about how the November election was conducted in certain states and felt compelled to highlight those concerns during the formal vote count.”
There were a number of violent clashes between protesters and police during those events, and some of those who protested in front of Harris’ office questioned whether there would have been an even harsher police and National Guard response at the Capitol had the protest involved Black Lives Matter supporters.
Abingdon resident Alison Elliott held an American flag and wore a blue sweatshirt bearing the phrase “GA is a blue state,” celebrating Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who unseated Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a runoff election in Georgia Tuesday. Those victories give Democrats control over the Senate.
Elliott said she was “outraged” by the “insurrection” in the Capitol and “the fact that my representative is part of the insurrection, that backs the lies that have been told by this [Trump] administration about extensive voter fraud.”
The congressman stressed that he and his colleagues “did not call for the overthrowing of an election” and that Biden “will be President” when he is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
“Congress is afforded the right to count, and object, to electoral votes, which we utilized yesterday to highlight concerns we had regarding the November election,” he said.
Alison Kinney, 20, decried members of Congress who objected to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in favor of Biden, including Harris. She described the objection as a personal affront since she is registered to vote in Pennsylvania, as well as an affront to the votes of her friends and others Pennsylvania who chose Biden.
“These aren’t just numbers, these are real people behind these votes,” said Kinney, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania who had been living on campus but had to move back to Cecil County, where she grew up, because of the pandemic.
“Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and Andy Harris was complicit, actively complicit, in undermining that last night, and supporting the violence that occurred to undermine it,” she added.
Kinney said later that she had been living on her college campus until it was closed in mid-March and students were sent home. She has been learning remotely since then but plans to return to campus once the pandemic is brought under control.
She traveled to Pennsylvania to vote in person on Election Day, noting she felt more comfortable doing that instead of voting by mail, as the state’s voting system includes a “paper trail,” plus she had concerns about mail-in ballots being challenged.
Kinney’s younger sister, 17-year-old Amalie, joined her during the protest. Amalie, who is a high school junior and is home schooled, said she was “appalled” by the storming of the U.S. Capitol. She noted that the activity in the House and Senate chambers until that point was happening “according to our democratic values.“
”That was just blatantly trampled on, and that really saddens me,” she said.
Inge Hobbs, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, attended the protest with her daughter-in-law, Fallston resident Tina Hobbs.
“What happened yesterday could have been calmed down by our sitting president and Andy Harris, who supported opposing a legal election,” said Inge, a Bel Air resident who was was a young child when World War II ended.
She recalled questioning, after reading about the rise of the Nazis, “why people did not speak up when these atrocities were beginning to happen.”
“Instead of letting the peaceful process play out and abiding to it, [like] what every other president has done in the past, this was an attempted coup against our government and it borders on treason,” she said of the takeover of the Capitol.
Tina Hobbs, a registered Republican, said that if Harris wanted to see changes happen in how individual states conduct their elections, he should have done so through Congress “well before” Election Day.
She described the storming of Congress as reflective of “every [anti-]bullying campaign that’s ever been introduced in any public school across our country.”
“We have the biggest bully sitting in the White House, and we have Andy Harrises, 130-some of them yesterday in the House, [who] still, after what happened, did not back down off of the objections,” Hobbs said. “Thank God we had some sense come over the majority of those in the Senate.”
She said she listened to every senator speak after their chamber reconvened Wednesday night and that “I have gained a lot of respect for” senators for whom she had no respect in the past.
”Andy Harris absolutely needs to go,” Hobbs said.
During the mob violence Wednesday afternoon, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman tweeted, “Put this rebellion down!” and quoted President Abraham Lincoln from 1864.
“‘We cannot have free government without elections and if the rebellion could force us to postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already ruined us,’” Glassman, a Republican wrote, citing Lincoln.
In an email, he added: “I am embarrassed that our Congressman Harris was part of such a(n) act of sedition.”