MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday “anarchists” and said they “should be treated as such by law enforcement.”
Four people, including an Alabama man, died during the Capitol riots and dozens of others have been arrested so far after chaos broke out. Those in Congress had to flee after halting their work on the Electoral College vote certification process.
Thursday, Merrill spoke with WSFA 12 News saying “anybody that is destroying property or disrupting the process, especially the legislative process as it’s ongoing, needs to be dealt with harshly because we are a nation of laws and those laws have to be followed.”
Merrill said he hasn’t spoken with any of Alabama’s seven representatives or two senators, as of Thursday morning, though each has taken to social media to condemn the violence.
Asked what he’s looking for in members of Congress to restore faith in the election process, Merrill said “first and foremost,” Congress needs to understand they have a role to play, “but their role is not to define what should be done in elections in the 50 states. We do not have national elections. We have 50 state elections for a national office.”
Merrill said it’s Congress’ job to give guidelines and pass laws “that will allow the state to do what the state needs to do to make sure the state is consistently administering the election in their jurisdiction. Currently, that’s not ongoing.”
Merrill said it starts with each state’s legislature.
“We don’t need to see election officials going outside the scope and boundary of their responsibilities,” Merrill said.
Alabama’s secretary of state said even after seeing what happened Wednesday, he won’t change how he approaches elections.
“If you don’t like the laws, you need to change the laws,” Merrill said. “And you change the laws through the electoral process. If you don’t like the people who are making the laws, you need to change those people at the ballot box through the elections process.”
Secretary of State John Merrill’s full statement, given Jan. 6, 2021, reads:
“Today, Members of Congress gathered in our Nation’s Capitol to certify the state’s electoral votes and offer rejections, comments, and speculations.
“As members of the Senate and House of Representatives began debating the legitimacy of certain votes, protestors violently stormed the Capitol and attempted to overthrow our country’s democratic process.
“Although protestors have the constitutional right to have their voice heard, they do not have the right to be disruptive during the certification process that was put in place by our Founding Fathers in 1789 and has since survived the history of our Republic.
“We are fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world – a nation that allows for a difference of opinion. With this freedom comes the responsibility to follow the systematic process to have your opinion voiced, heard, and understood, without disrespecting others or putting lives at risk.
“We are a nation of laws. These laws must be strictly followed and enforced. It is time for America to support the law enforcement officers who serve to protect our personal freedoms – including that to protest.
“There is an appropriate time and method to express one’s displeasure with the outcome of an election, whether that is through voting in the next election or through introducing information during the legislative process. The answer, however, is never physical violence.
“The people who are currently occupying the Capitol are anarchists and should be treated as such by law enforcement. “The type of behavior witnessed today in Washington, D.C. should never be encouraged or allowed.
“Human life is far more important than pandering to any politician or political group. President Trump should call on his supporters, who claim to support ‘law and order’, to stand down, follow the law, and unite behind our democratic process.
“Now is the time for Congress, not violent protestors, to either certify or reject the state’s electoral votes as required by our Constitution.
“Full faith and confidence in our elections must be restored. In order for that to happen, our Nation’s leaders must promote unity, understanding, and the willingness to work with those who may see things differently. This process begins with the actions of our Commander in Chief.”