Four people died on the US Capitol grounds Wednesday and 52 people have been arrested, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee said Wednesday evening, after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an unprecedented effort to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
Police in the US Capitol on Wednesday responded with drawn guns and tear gas as swarms of protesters stormed in and sought to force Congress to undo President Donald Trump’s election loss shortly after some of Trump’s fellow Republicans launched a last-ditch effort to throw out the results.
Police evacuated the House of Representatives and the Senate after pro-Trump protesters marched through the halls of Congress, forcing both chambers to suspend deliberations as they were meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election.
One protester occupied the Senate dais and yelled, “Trump won that election.”
Video showed police deploying tear gas inside the building. US Vice President Pence says protesters involved with violence at US Capitol will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
According to NBC, a woman was shot by a law enforcement officer. She later succumbed to her wounds.
Acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller said on Wednesday that the entire DC National Guard had been activated and he was prepared to provide additional support if requested by local authorities.
“We have fully activated the DC National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation,” Miller said.
An explosive device was found at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the nearby headquarters of the Democratic National Committee was evacuated after a suspicious package was discovered on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. Both headquarters are located near the US Capitol.
The explosive device at the RNC was destroyed in a controlled explosion and the package at the DNC has not been identified as of yet.
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) January 6, 2021
Protesters climb the wall of the US Capitol, January 6, 2021. (Credit: Courtesy)
The chaotic scenes unfolded after Trump, due to leave office on Jan. 20, addressed thousands of protesters, repeating false claims that the election was stolen from him due to widespread election fraud and irregularities. Lawmakers had been debating a last-ditch effort by pro-Trump lawmakers to challenge the results, an effort that was unlikely to succeed.
Lawmakers managed to take the electoral certificates with them as they left the building. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman of House Democratic Caucus, said that the House intends to return and continue certification of election on Wednesday.
Pence, who had presided over the joint session of Congress, had already been escorted from the Senate.
Capitol Police told lawmakers in the House chamber to take gas masks from beneath their seats and prepare to put them on. Officers at the front door of the House chamber had their guns drawn as someone attempted to enter the chamber.
Officers ordered people in the chamber to drop to the floor for their safety.
Election officials of both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the Nov. 3 contest, which Biden won by more than 7 million votes in the national popular vote.
Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Trump’s extraordinary challenges to Biden’s victory have been rejected by courts across the country.
Trump had pressed Pence to throw out election results in states the president narrowly lost, though Pence has no authority to do so.
The certification in Congress, normally a formality, was expected to stretch for several hours as some Republican lawmakers mounted an effort to reject some state tallies, starting with Arizona.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the effort, saying, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” McConnell helped give Trump some of the biggest accomplishments of his presidency, including deep tax cuts and confirmation of conservative judicial nominees.
The voters, courts and states “have all spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever,” he added.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called the challenges “an attempted coup” and said, “The Congress does not determine the outcome of an election. The people do.”
Protesters at the US Capitol, January 6, 2021. (Credit: Courtesy)
Outside the Capitol, members of militia groups and far-right groups, some in body armor, mingled with the crowds. Protesters chanting pro-Trump slogans overturned barricades and clashed with police.
On Twitter, Trump called on protesters to stay peaceful. He also urged protestors to go home in order to keep the peace.
Trump and his allies have continuously spread unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that have proliferated on social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook Inc .
Twitter Inc restricted users from retweeting a video and tweet from President Donald Trump on Wednesday “due to a risk of violence,” as hundreds of protesters stormed the US Capitol seeking to force Congress to undo the president’s election loss.
The social media company said it would take action against threats of and calls for violence and that it had been “significantly restricting engagement” with tweets labeled under its civic integrity policy due to the risk of violence. It said these tweets would not be able to be replied to, retweeted or liked.
In addition, Twitter said on Wednesday that future violations of the social media platform’s rules, including its “Civic Integrity” or “Violent Threats” policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account of US President Donald Trump.
Twitter then went on to announce that “the account of @realDonaldTrump will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these Tweets. If the Tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked.”
In response to the protestors, @YourAnonCentral tweeted “FYI: Antifa and Anons worldwide are now doxxing Trump loyalists that organized and participated in the #CapitolBuilding takeover. Refusing to wear masks is going to backfire in more ways than one, apparently.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) January 7, 2021
Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube took down a video from President Donald Trump on Wednesday that continued to make the baseless claim the election was fraudulent as he told protesters who had stormed the US Capitol to go home.
Later, Facebook stated that it will block the president’s page from posting for 24 hrs due to two policy violations.
Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen tweeted the social media company had taken down the video because “on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowers ordered a citywide curfew starting at 6 p.m. (2300 GMT).
Pence rebuffed Trump’s demand that the vice president unilaterally reject state electoral votes on the same day Trump’s fellow Republicans were poised to lose their majority in the Senate.
“We will never give up,” Trump earlier told thousands of cheering supporters on a grassy expanse near the White House called the Ellipse. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
Trump in his speech applied fresh pressure on Pence to try to reverse the election results. In a statement, Pence said he shares the concerns about the “integrity” of the election but that is not correct that he should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally.
The US Constitution does not give Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, but he is under pressure to do so from Trump.
Later, Pence condemned the violent supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol, as the US Senate resumed its vote count after an hours-long delay.
“You did not win. Violence never wins,” Pence said of the gang of people who responded to Trump’s call to protest his loss in November’s presidential election. Pence said the Capitol was secured, and urged the Senate to “get back to work.”
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stressed that ADL has said “again and again, [that] extremists must be taken at their word.”
“First there was volatile rhetoric online, then explicit calls to violence and now people are acting on those calls in the nation’s capital and flagrantly breaking the law. It must end now,” added Greenblatt. “The President has promoted sedition and incited violence. People assaulting law enforcement officers or breaching government buildings must be arrested and held accountable.”
The ADL head added that “what is happening right now at the Capitol is a direct result of the fear and disinformation that has been spewed consistently from the Oval Office. President Trump has a responsibility to call for an end to this violence and unrest that he has sowed. His campaign of disinformation is a clear and present danger to our democracy.”
Greenblatt called on social media companies to suspend Trump’s accounts.
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol Police stand detain protesters outside of the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Barack Obama released a statement about the protests, in which he blamed President Trump for “baselessy lying about the outcome of a lawful election”, and claimed that “history will rightly remember todayy’s violence at the capital… as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our country.”
At the same time, he stated that he was “heartened to see many members of the President’s party speak up forcefully” against the protests, and that “we need more leaders like these.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 7, 2021
“We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath,” US Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wrote on Twitter even though there are just two weeks left before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Calls for impeachment spread rapidly across social media from Democratic lawmakers, commentators and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans.
“Inciting a coup has to warrant impeachment,” NAACP Chairman Leon Russell wrote on Twitter. Russell, among others, also urged Trump’s cabinet to initiate the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, which transfers power to the vice president if the president becomes unable to do his job.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed to lead a delegation of Republican leaders to the White House “to tell Trump that he has to resign immediately – or they will join with Democrats and impeach him.”
Some Republican lawmakers tried a last-ditch effort to challenge the election results, encouraged by Trump with his unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Trump’s former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told Reuters via text: “Donald Trump and elected officials need to be impeached and removed from office. They have damaged our standing in the international community and are now threatening our way of life.”
Trump was acquitted in February 2020 by the Republican-controlled Senate after an impeachment trial led by the Democratic-controlled House on charges of trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
A handful of US congressional Republicans turned on President Donald Trump.
“We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now. @realDonaldTrump, you need to call this off,” Representative Mike Gallagher, a Republican who supports Trump, posted on Twitter as demonstrators broke windows to gain entry to the US Capitol.
Representative James French Hill, who has voted with Trump more than 95% of the time, told CNBC: “The president bears part of the responsibility for the heated rhetoric.”
Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, called it “an insurrection” for demonstrators to storm the Capitol, smash windows, occupy offices, invade the halls of Congress and threaten the safety of duly elected officials.
“I could not agree more with President-elect Biden’s statement to the nation,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, said in a statement on Twitter that did not mention Trump.
Without naming Trump, Republican former President George W. Bush said in a statement, “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”
Senator Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump critic, pointed the finger directly.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States,” Romney said. “Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”
Secretary Pompeo tweeted that “lawlessness and rioting is always unacceptable,” and that “putting at risk the safety of others including those tasked with providing security for all of us, is intolerable both at home and abroad.”
He also called to “bring bring justice to the criminals who engaged in this rioting.”
Rep. McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who both planned to object to the certification of Biden’s electoral win, have announced that they will change course and vote to uphold certification of Biden’s win.
On the other hand, Derrick Evans, a newly elected Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, was among the preotesrots who broke into the US Capitol on Wednesday, according to a video he posted on social media, which has since been deleted.
In the video, he joins the protestors in chants of “Trump” and enthusiastically encourages them to “keep it moving” once they manage to break into the Capitol.
Supporters of President Donald Trump staged rallies on Wednesday outside statehouses in several cities, including Atlanta, Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City that coincided with the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, local news media said.
Protesters swarmed into the Kansas statehouse in Topeka and gathered inside the first floor of the Capitol rotunda, though the rally remained orderly, television station KSNT reported.
There were no immediate reports of violence, despite the flurry of demonstrations by pro-Trump demonstrators echoing his baseless claims that he was robbed of a re-election victory due to voter fraud.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said on Twitter that he had instructed city agencies to close municipal offices early in Colorado’s state capital “out of an abundance of caution” after about 700 demonstrators gathered at the statehouse downtown.
“My hope is that this situation will be resolved quickly. Pray for our nation,” he tweeted.
A major courthouse complex and two other government buildings in Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, were also ordered closed due to protests near the statehouse.
Among those whose daily routines were altered were aides to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican election official pressured by Trump in a weekend telephone call to “find” enough additional votes for the president to overturn the November victory of President-elect Joe Biden, due to take office in two weeks.
Raffensperger’s spokesman, Walter Jones, said staff left their offices after lunch out of an abundance of caution because of protests. He said Raffensperger was not in the office at the time.
In Salt Lake City, Dana Jones, director of the state Capitol Preservation Board, said she had asked building staff to work from home on Wednesday afternoon on the advice of the Utah Highway Patrol and public safety commissioner, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The precaution was taken, the newspaper said, in response to a crowd of about 250 pro-Trump demonstrators who posted signs on the Capitol building that read: “Stop the steal!” and “Trump won!”
A Utah state police spokesman said security had been beefed up at the Capitol, though he said protesters there were “very peaceful,” the Tribune reported. It said one of its photographers was pepper-sprayed by individuals upset that he was documenting their protest.
Several hundred Trump supporters also staged a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix, cheering and jeering while exhibiting a guillotine.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.