Pro-Trump rioters have engulfed the nation in chaos after forcefully breaching the U.S. Capitol, birthplace to the country’s laws and one of the government’s most sacred establishments. On Jan. 6, hundreds of agitators stormed the Capitol around 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) while waving Trump banners and American flags. They broke through the Capitol’s perimeter, clashed briefly with law enforcement, and found their way into the building shortly before the House floor was evacuated. This dissent comes during President Trump’s repeated urging to resist the electoral votes’ ceremonial counting, an abruptly-paused procedure that would certify Joe Biden’s win as President-elect.
President Trump had spoken to his supporters that morning on the Ellipse behind the White House, proclaiming Democrats stole the election and that he would never concede. The president encouraged his protesters to march on Capitol Hill. He also called on Vice President Mike Pence, who later evacuated the Hill, to reject Biden’s win. Pence refused, pronouncing that it was his “considered judgment that [his] oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains [him] from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
Developments played out on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. As the mob scaled walls, looted buildings, shoved fences, and smashed windows, violence erupted within the Capitol. More than seven people’s injuries sent them to the hospital, with three passing away from medical emergencies. It is confirmed that one woman died from a gunshot wound and that a police officer succumbed to his injuries. On the Senate side of the Capitol, police used smoke grenades and pepper spray to clear rioters, some of whom were armed. Tear gas filled the air—it is unclear whether rioters or police deployed it—and lawmakers in the House chamber sheltered beneath their seats as people attempted to force their way inside. Officials evacuated wearing gas masks, calling family members to assure them they were safe. The National Guard was activated.
Amidst this frantic and surreal scene, rioters broke into offices, brandished Confederate flags, and postured in the Senate chamber. One photo showed a man kicking his legs up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, just before he left the congresswoman a threatening note. Another Trump supporter smiled as he walked around the Capitol, holding Pelosi’s pilfered Speaker podium and waving. Others posed for selfies, rifled through lawmakers’ private offices, and live-streamed the event. A man in red, white, and blue face paint screamed “Freedom!” as a lone noose swung outside Capitol Hill.
Currently, D.C. police have begun to investigate and identify individuals who were involved in the riot. They have also encouraged people to submit tips on their form to turn over information on anyone instigating violence during the storming.
Multiple pipe bombs were also located and detonated during the day, including ones placed in the Republican National Committee’s headquarters and throughout the Capitol Hill complex. The FBI has since offered a $50,000 reward for information of those behind the pipe bombs.
“We will not allow mob rule to undermine the rule of law,” said New York Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries as police were clearing the area.
By 3:30 p.m. ET, the Senate floor was cleared of demonstrators, as police had managed to force them towards the Rotunda (dozens were detained during this mayhem). Around 5:00 p.m. ET, authorities jostled rioters away from the east side of the building, and 20 minutes before Washington’s emergency 6:00 p.m. ET curfew, police managed to push them from the grounds entirely. The sergeant-at-arms declared the premises secure at roughly 5:40 p.m. ET, according to CNN.
The last time the U.S. Capitol was overrun was during the war of 1812 when British forces torched the building to the ground. To many, this shocking, dystopian exhibition of insurgency from citizens marked the deep divisions between Americans, some of whom looked to usurp the seat of our democracy. It also raised questions about how police forces in America treat different groups of protesters. While federal police gassed peaceful Black Lives Matter marchers last summer in Lafayette Square, pro-Trump rioters were able to overrun police and penetrate the Capitol, meeting much less strength with much more ease. But most of all, the assault on Capitol Hill speaks to the fires President Trump has fanned with his claims of election fraud, and the lengths his supporters would go to resist what he purports to be a Democratic steal.
Pressure mounted on the president throughout the day to speak out against the Capitol Hill violence, as those within his inner circle quickly denounced it. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, had already characterized the group of supporters as “wrong and not who we are.” Hours after the attack began, Trump spoke directly to his supporters in a now-removed video.
“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt,” the president said, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it. Especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”
He added further thoughts in a tweet, also deleted by Twitter: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” December 18 2020, 10:42 p.m. Tweet.
To some, what occurred on Capitol Hill was an attempt to both subvert the election and undermine American democracy. Lawmakers and former government members were still stunned by the seditious events on Capitol Hill. Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar stated that she was drafting articles of impeachment against the President; if convicted, he will not be able to run for office in 2024. His expulsion, Ms. Omar said, was crucial to preserving the republic and upholding the congressional oath of office.
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election,” former Republican President George W. Bush wrote. President Bush also blamed the attack on Trump supporters misled by election-related falsehoods. “Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety.”
The Electoral Vote Certification resumed on the evening of Jan. 6. Biden, whose presidential victory was verified by the joint debates, emotionally pleaded for the rioting to end.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Mr. Biden said in a televised responsive address aired minutes before President Trump broke his silence. He was previously scheduled to speak on the economy.
“To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, the floor of the United States Senate, rummaging through desks… threatening the safety of duly elected officials,” he added. “It’s not [a protest.] It’s [an] insurrection.”
In a speech delivered the evening of Jan. 7, President Trump at last acknowledged his defeat and admitted that there would be a transfer of power.
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