The U.S. Capitol was the scene of chaos, violence, and domestic terrorism Wednesday afternoon as an overwhelmingly White mob of right-wing Trump supporters broke into the building while in session. Lawmakers were in the process of a ceremonial counting of the electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Incredibly, there was initially very little law enforcement visible as rioters broke windows in the Capitol building and forced their way onto the floor of legislative chambers. As of late Wednesday afternoon, law enforcement was still trying to clear out Trump supporters, and a 6 pm curfew had been put in place. One protester broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and was photographed with his foot on her desk.
The law enforcement reaction to this protest contrasts sharply with how protesters of police violence have been treated. Quite often, police have hemmed in and “kettled” protesters and arrested folks who were rallying and taking advantage of their democratic rights.
There is no excuse for the lack of police presence at the Capitol, as for weeks, President Trump had been calling for his supporters to gather in solidarity with him against Biden’s victory. In contrast, the state of Wisconsin mobilized its National Guard in anticipation of a violent reaction to the announcement that Kenosha police officers would not be held accountable by U.S. jurisprudence for shooting and paralyzing Jacob Blake. This, even though there had been no indication that there would be a violent response to the decision.
It has been reported that four mobsters have died, one, a 14-year member of the armed forces, having been shot while trying to break into House chambers. Several officers have been injured, and one has reportedly passed away. Additionally, there have been reports of pipe bombs found on DNC and RNC headquarters.
The reaction was swift from U.S. and world leaders alike:
Incoming Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-Mo.):
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson:
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
“Democracy is under assault unlike anything we have seen in modern times,” President-elect Joe Biden said from Wilmington, Delaware. Biden called the riot, “an assault on the rule of law. An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings. An assault on the people’s business.
“This assault does not represent who we are,” he said. “This is not dissent, this is disorder; it is chaos, it borders on sedition and it must end now.
“The words of a president matter,” Biden continued. “At their best, the words of a president can inspire, at their worst, they can incite. I call on Trump to go on national television and demand an end to this siege. This is not a protest, it is insurrection. I am shocked and saddened that our nation, so long a beacon of light for democracy, has come to such a dark moment. The certification of the Electoral College is supposed to be a sacred ritual,” Biden said.
Although Trump threw the proverbial rock by encouraging his supporters to come to the Capitol and support his effort to undermine the U.S. election results, he has subsequently attempted to hide his hand by tweeting out a video calling for the end of violence. Yet, he still maintained his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and a “stolen” election.
“We had an election; we won in a landslide but it was stolen from us,” Trump said. “This was a fraudulent election. We have to have peace, so go home. You are very special,” he said, delivering a mixed message. It was reported on CNN that White House aides had to beg the president to even address the situation. The New York Times reported that it was Vice President Mike Pence who approved the deployment of the D.C. National Guard, not Trump, who is still the commander in chief.
In a now-deleted tweet, Ivanka Trump called the mob “patriots.”
In spite of the violence and disorder, U.S. legislators vowed to return to the chambers and continue their work Wednesday night as a show of the strength and resilience of American democracy.
Update: Working late into the night on Wednesday, Congress did, in fact, finish the work of certifying the votes of President-elect Joe Biden. The inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take place on January 20, 2021.