Supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, breaking down barriers and overwhelming police in a violent attempt to stop Congress from certifying Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat.
Following a speech by the president in front of the White House touting baseless claims of election fraud, a mob surged into the Capitol building, forcing the Senate and House sessions to shut down amid the counting of Electoral College votes. The Capitol was placed on lockdown, lawmakers were urged to wear gas masks, and the mayor of Washington D.C. ordered a curfew.
Capitol Hill descended into historic, surreal scenes of chaos, violence, and confusion. Rioters battled security personnel inside the building, broke windows, ran amok, waved flags, cheered, chanted, and literally climbed the walls of Congress. Additional security personnel poured onto the scene from white vans outside. One woman was shot on Capitol grounds and later died. At one point, armed guards barricaded doors and pointed their guns through windows at the clamoring mob in a tense armed standoff.
Some rioters breached the Senate chamber. Someone climbed onto the dais and yelled “Trump won that election!” according to a reporter on the scene.
Rioters fired shots into the House chamber, according to a reporter on the scene, after people had barricaded the doors.
A pipe bomb was found at the Republican National Committee headquarters and was successfully defused by a bomb squad, according to the New York Times. Pipe bombs were also found at the DNC, and safely detonated, according to a CNN reporter.
The Pentagon released a statement saying that the D.C. National Guard had been mobilized to support law enforcement.
“Acting Secretary Miller has been in contact with Congressional leadership, and Secretary McCarthy has been working with the D.C. government. The law enforcement response will be led by the Department of Justice,” said Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he was deploying the Virginia National Guard and 200 Virginia state troopers to the Capitol to help quell the riots.
President-elect Joe Biden called the riots an “assault on the citadel of liberty,” and demanded that Trump call off the mob.
“This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition and it must end now,” Biden said. “I call on President Donald Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution, and demand an end to this siege,” Biden said. “It’s not protest, it’s insurrection.”
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, who did not support the objections to Biden’s certification, posted a video while barricaded inside his Congressional office calling the storming of the Capitol “banana republic crap.”
“This is the cost of countenancing an effort by Congress to overturn the election and telling thousands of people there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election today even though you know that is not true,” Gallagher said. “We have got to stop this. Mr. President, you have got to do this...the election is over. Call it off.”
In a tweet at 3:13 p.m., Trump asked those at the Capitol to “remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law and Order.”
The president posted a short video later in the day in which he told the rioters to go home, but added, “We love you, you’re very special, you see what happens, you see the way others are treated who are so bad and so evil.”
The video has been deleted by Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.
The mob breached the Capitol on Wednesday after Trump’s speech in which he urged Congress to reject Biden’s victory and encouraged the crowd to march on the Capitol building and “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength.”
News cameras captured a woman being carried out of the Capitol on a stretcher as she appeared to be bleeding. It was later reported that a woman had been shot.
Protesters breached Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, with one man photographed sitting with his feet propped up on a desk and an American flag next to him.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat, posted a video showing rioters donning Make America Great Again hats, screaming and roaming through the Capitol building. “This is the chaos and lawlessness @realdonaldtrump has created,” she tweeted.
Video posted to Twitter showed a Trump supporter discharging a fire extinguisher inside of the building.
Another video showed Trump supporters fighting with the Secret Service and Capitol Police.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over Congress, was evacuated from the Capitol building, according to NBC News.
Earlier in the day during the session in the Senate, as rioters drew closer, Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, was interrupted in the middle of a speech by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who gaveled the session to a close.
Someone approached Lankford and said, hurriedly: “Protestors are in the building.” Moments later, legislators scrambled as security personnel raced to try and get control of the situation.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia tweeted that she had to evacuate her Congressional office because of a reported pipe bomb outside. She also said she could hear “what sounds like multiple gunshots.”
Washington D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser ordered a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. on Wednesday until 6 a.m. on Thursday. The National Guard was mobilized days ago in anticipation of potential violence.