Rep. Andy Kim on Why He Helped Clean Up Debris After U.S. Capitol Riot: 'What Else Could I Do?'

Sean Neumann
·3 min read

Feeling emotional as he surveyed the damage in the U.S. Capitol overnight on Wednesday, a New Jersey congressman decided to help clean up.

Rep. Andy Kim told the Associated Press this week that his reaction came as a result of feeling a “heightened, kind of supercharged kind of patriotism,” while he watched police officers cleaning up debris from the halls of Congress.

“When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. I‘m honored to be there,” Kim, 38, said. “This building is extraordinary and the rotunda in particular is just awe-inspiring. How many countless generations have been inspired in that room?”

The damage — and five deaths, as of Friday, including one police officer — were a result of pro-Donald Trump protesters who stormed the building after they were egged on by the president. The shocking images in the aftermath showed garbage, blood, Trump flags, U.S. flags, and more strewed across the building’s marble floors.

On social media, videos of Capitol building workers — many of whom were people of color — sweeping and vacuuming up the damage left by the mostly white mob. After voting to ratify the Electoral College vote around 1 a.m. Thursday morning, the AP reported Kim, himself, was spotted by a colleague quietly cleaning up some of the debris.

“What else could I do?” said Kim, a Democratic lawmaker from New Jersey. The scene, he added, “really broke my heart.”

Kim’s parents are Korean immigrants and in 2018, the former Obama administration official became the first Asian-American from New Jersey ever to be elected to Congress.

The recently re-elected lawmaker told the AP he wasn’t thinking about the striking racial disparity of the moment after the mostly white rioters — some carrying Confederate flags and other white supremacist iconography — made their way past police and bombarded the Capitol building.

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“It’s so hard because we don’t look at each other and see each other as Americans first, whether it’s race or ethnicity or religion or political party that’s getting in the way of us being able to have that shared identity that forged our country and is necessary for us to be able to continue,” Kim told the outlet.

Congress members have expressed shock in recent days over the police’s preparation and response to the riots. U.S. Capitol Police chief Steven Sund announced Thursday that he would resign amid the backlash.

Some lawmakers called for immediate investigations, while Trump, who incited the riot moments beforehand, is facing more and more calls for his removal during his final days in office.

During the riot, Kim told the AP he was "frightened." Afterward, the lawmaker said he "just became very sad."

“I was just very sad for our nation," Kim added. "That we had gotten to this point where we had seen one of the greatest buildings in the world desecrated and see this insurrection that had infiltrated such sacred land in our country.”