Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup.
Moments after an extraordinary rally by Trump seeking to overturn the election, a flag-waving mob broke down barricades outside the Capitol and swarmed inside, rampaging through offices and onto the usually solemn legislative floors.
One woman died in unclear circumstances after being shot inside the Capitol and others were injured, police said, with lawmakers evacuated and handed protective masks as police fired tear gas.
One Trump supporter in jeans and a baseball cap was pictured propping a leg up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, where a threatening note had been left, as throngs of others climbed onto risers set up for Biden’s inauguration on January 20, holding a banner that read: “We the people will bring DC to its knees/We have the power.”
Biden called the violence an “insurrection” and demanded that Trump immediately go on national television to urge his supporters to lift the siege of the Capitol.
“Our democracy’s under unprecedented assault,” Biden said in his home state of Delaware.
“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America,” he added.
“This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now.”
Trump soon afterward released a video in which he called on his supporters to leave but stood by his unfounded claims of election fraud.
“We have to have peace. So go home. We love you — you’re very special,” he said.
In a rare step, social media companies restricted or pulled down the president’s video, saying it could encourage violence.
Authorities said they succeeded in clearing out the Capitol of rioters after around four hours but hundreds of Trump supporters remained outside, defying a 6.00 pm (2300 GMT) curfew imposed across the city by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Sonya Fitzgerald, a 43-year-old Trump supporter from Florida, said on the Capitol steps: “You’ll hear about this in the history books.”
‘Inciting a coup’
The chaos at the Capitol came a day after Biden enjoyed a new triumph, with his Democratic Party projected to win two Senate runoff seats, handing them full control of Congress.
Historians said it was the first time that the Capitol had been taken over since 1814 when the British burned it during the War of 1812.
For more than two centuries, the joint session of Congress has been a quiet, ceremonial event that formally certifies the election winner — but Trump urged members of his Republican Party to reject the outcome.
“The President of the United States is inciting a coup. We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred,” tweeted Democratic Representative Karen Bass, in words echoed by multiple lawmakers.
Damage our republic forever:
Pelosi announced that Congress would resume its session later Wednesday, showing it would not be cowed by the violence.
Biden is certain to become president, with Democrats already controlling the House of Representatives, but more than 140 Republican House members and a dozen Republican senators have sided with Trump in challenging the results even though no evidence of fraud has been proven in court.
Republican Senate leader Senator Mitch McConnell, closely aligned with Trump throughout his presidency, denounced the challenge in an impassioned address, noting that the results were not even close.
We will never concede:
Trump had urged his supporters to march to the Capitol in an angry, rambling speech outside the White House.
Trump warned “weak” Republicans not to certify Biden’s victory and put direct pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, who ceremonially presided over the session.
“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told the cheering crowd, few wearing masks despite a spike in Covid-19 cases.
“I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do.” -BSS