Washington: In an unprecedented assault on democracy in America, thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol and clashed with police, resulting in at least four deaths and interrupting a constitutional process to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the election.
The police, outnumbered by the maskless protesters, had a tough time in managing the mob, as hundreds of protesters breached security and entered the Capitol building on Wednesday, where members of the Congress were going through the process of counting and certifying the Electoral College votes.
Both the House and Senate and the entire Capitol were placed under a lockdown. Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were evacuated to safe locations.
Four people died on Wednesday, including one woman who was shot by a police officer, amid protests and rioting on Capitol Hill that resulted in dozens of demonstrators being arrested, police said.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee called the rioting by pro-Trump demonstrators “shameful” during a news conference alongside Mayor Muriel Bowser.
One woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police during the rioting. Police said three other people a woman and two men died after apparently suffering “separate medical emergencies” near the Capitol grounds.
The protesters dispersed following the enforcement of curfew in the national capital. Mayor Bowser announced the curfew to prevent the situation from escalating.
Officials said the Capitol was secured, putting an end to nearly four-hour violent occupation by Trump supporters. Heavily armed police personnel were deployed to disperse the crowd.
In a letter to colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said leaders of Congress have decided to resume the joint session tonight once the Capitol is “cleared for use.”
Trump, who earlier encouraged his supporters to head to the Capitol, urged them to abide by the law and go back home after the violent clash.
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home,” Trump said in a video message posted on Twitter. The micro blogging site later removed the video and some tweets in which Trump appeared to defend the actions of his supporters.
In an unprecedented move, Twitter and Facebook have suspended Trump’s accounts after he continued to push conspiracy theories about the November 3 election.
Twitter suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours and also blocked three of his tweets including a video of his address to his supporters.
Facebook said it would be blocking the president’s account from posting for 24 hours due to two policy violations.
President-elect Biden said he was shocked and sad to see the US has “come to such a dark moment”.
“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault. Unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. An assault on the people’s representatives and the Capitol Hill police, sworn to protect them. And the public servants who work at the heart of our Republic…,” Biden said in an address to the nation.
“Let me be very clear. The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are. What we’re seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. 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 Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution by demanding an end to this siege,” he said.
Multiple news outlets earlier showed protestors walking with ease inside the Capitol and hundreds of them occupying the inaugural stage. A large number of them were seen climbing the wall.
Video taken at the US Capitol showed some rioters breaking the glass of a window and then climbing through the shattered pane.
“We’re actually looking at video right now of these anarchists… these people who were involved in this insurrection. They broke the glass in the United States Capitol and now they are climbing through the window,” CNN correspondent Dana Bash described the footage.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building,” Pence tweeted.
“…this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, he said.
This is possibly for the first time in the recent history that such a large number of people have breached into the Capitol and disrupted the constitutional provisions.
Congress had certified just 12 votes before the riots broke out. All 12 of those votes went to President Trump. There are 538 electoral votes in total.
Trump – who lost the popular and electoral college vote – continues to dispute the results. He alleges that there was a massive voters’ fraud and electoral malpractice. Election officials have denied the allegations.
All four living former US presidents — Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — condemned the actions of the pro-Trump rioters who forced an evacuation of the House and Senate chambers of the US Capitol and underlined the need for a peaceful transfer of power.
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen called the violence at the US Capitol “an intolerable attack on a fundamental institution of our democracy.” –PTI