The typically-tame electoral vote certification process devolved into chaos on Wednesday as pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol.
Protesters managed to make their way past barriers set up by police, tussling with officers and labeling them as “traitors”. Soon afterward protesters managed to enter the Capitol building itself, clashing with more officers within and destroying windows.
Soon after the breach, congress members were evacuated. An armed standoff ensued as officers drew their guns to prevent protesters from further breaching the interior; however, at least one protester made his way to the Senate dais.
At least one other protester was shot; reports indicate one woman was in critical condition following a gunshot wound to the chest. The woman was later pronounced dead.
President Trump did not immediately condemn the actions of his supporters, although he did post the following on Twitter: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Trump further tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
Trump had earlier condemned his Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to stop the vote certification, saying, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
Ted Cruz, a supporter of Trump’s attempt to block certification, criticized the outbreak of violence, urging protesters to “STOP NOW.” Several lawmakers labeled the protests as a “coup attempt.”
Senate Majority Leader and Republican stalwart Mitch McConnell also defied Trump in the Capitol before protests halted proceedings. He had said that he had supported Trump’s legal attempts in the courts, but that ultimately the President’s claims of fraud widespread enough to overturn the entire election lacked evidence. He further added that failing to certify Biden’s victory would “damage our Republic forever.”
Officers suspected the presence of several suspect devices throughout Washington DC, including potential pipe bombs. Officers deployed flash bangs and pepper spray, and reports indicate tear gas was also deployed, although it is unclear if by law enforcement or protesters.
Multiple officers were injured in the tumult. In response to the shocking extent of the violence, the National Guard was summoned to lend aid to overwhelmed officers.
One protesters found his way into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s personal office, leaving the following message in red: “WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN.”
In response to the chaos, DC Mayor Bowser issued a 6 PM curfew.
In a speech amidst the protests, President-elect Biden condemned the rioting and violence, saying it highlights the “fragility of democracy” before urging President Trump to “step up” and make his supporters stand down. The White House then released a statement from President Trump. Although Trump asked protesters to “go home,” he continued to claim the election was “stolen” and called rioters “very special.” Trump then went on to Tweet, rather controversially, “Remember this day forever!”