The U.S. Capitol was declared secure on Wednesday evening, about four hours after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building and forced debate on Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College to be suspended.
“I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now,” Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a member of the congressional leadership and a veteran of the civil rights movement, said in a tweet. “Tonight, Congress will continue the business of certifying the electoral college votes.”
The Secretary of the Army said 1,100 National Guard troops had been deploying to the Capitol to bolster local police and other forces, some of which were seen massing on street corners near the main congressional building. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m. curfew after a day of chaos and violence.
A spokesman for the District of Columbia police, Alaina Gertz, said Wednesday evening that a woman had been fatally shot at the Capitol, providing no further details. Earlier, Police were seen providing aid to a bloodied woman lying on the floor inside the building. It not immediately clear if that was the woman who was shot.
More than two hours after his supporters overtook the Capitol, prompting Vice President Mike Pence to be evacuated, Trump ordered the National Guard to help secure the legislative complex, but still offered support to the protesters, saying “we love you.”
“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said in a video he tweeted more than two hours after the Capitol was breached. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order.”
The president’s remarks followed a series of chaotic scenes that included lawmakers grabbing their gas masks and loud booms echoing across the complex, protesters rallying on behalf of the president rushing past police barriers at the Capitol, and Trump vowing that he’d “never concede” his election loss.
In addition, two suspicious packages were reported near the offices of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee offices.
It wasn’t clear when Congress would be resume the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said “these thugs are not running us off.”
”I think we’re going to go back to the capitol they’re just clearing out the chamber now they’re clearing out the House so we can go back and forth and do our work,” Manchin told reporters.
As the turmoil unfolded, lawmakers fled the House chamber. Pence was evacuated from the Capitol just after 2 p.m. and debate over Biden’s victory was suspended. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, still a senator from California, is safe, according to a person familiar with the situation.
During the evacuation, reporters could see several protesters spread-eagled on the floor outside the chamber being guarded by police officers with machine guns. The group was moved to another location in the complex.
Dozens of Trump supporters were then seen walking through portions of the closed Capitol — as lawmakers hurriedly lined up to be escorted out of the House chamber by police and toward more secure areas. CNN showed what appeared to Capitol Police with guns drawn on the House floor after pushing a large piece of furniture in front of a door.
Another photo showed protesters walking on the floor of the House, one sitting in the chair normally occupied by the speaker of the House.
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.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) January 6, 2021
Biden called the developments an “insurrection” and said Trump needed to “fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution.”
“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America,” Biden said Wednesday in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “They do not represent who we are. What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.”
Those comments were echoed by House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, who told CBS that “What we are currently watching unfold is un-American. I am disappointed. I am sad. This is not what our country should look like.”
Even after authorities began re-establishing a perimeter around the Capitol, some protesters banged on the shields of riot police at the building, chanting “traitors!”
Although he belatedly called on his backers to stand down, Trump had encouraged supporters to come to Washington to support his efforts to overturn the result of the election. The protests interrupted a debate over whether Electoral College votes Biden should be accepted from Arizona.
As Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona began to speak, officers in the House chamber began locking doors and telling members not to leave and that the building was about to go into lockdown. Senior lawmakers including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican in the House, were all escorted out.
As debate resumed again, Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, screamed “this is all because of you.” Then lawmakers were told they needed to stay in their seats, then that they should duck and cover and that tear gas had been released and they should put on gas masks that were under their seats.
Soon after, pounding on the main door to the House floor — the door that the president enters when he delivers the State of the Union address — grew louder and officers began to barricade it with any furniture they could find. From the other side, a protester began to smash glass in the door and the police drew their weapons and shouted “Back away or we’ll shoot!”
Before the Capitol was breached, a notice sent to staffers Wednesday at the Cannon House Office Building, across the street from the Capitol, told employees to “move in a safe manner to the exits” and “proceed immediately to your designated assembly area” following reports of a bomb threat. The notice was later retracted.
News of the violence reverberated on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 Index giving up about half its gain on the day in wake of the headlines. The gauge was up 0.8% as of 3:29 p.m., after advancing as much as 1.5% earlier on optimism of further fiscal stimulus under the Biden administration. Treasury yields also gave up some of their advance, with 10-year yields at 1.03% after hitting 1.05% earlier.
The developments come on a day of already high tension in Washington. Thousands of people had gathered at a park south of the White House before sunrise, in support of Trump as Congress prepared to seal Biden’s victory in the November election. In addition, the results from two runoff elections in Georgia gave Democrats key victories, allowing them to retake the Senate, adding to frustrations of the president’s backers.
Leaning on debunked theories of a rigged vote, Trump addressed a crowed of his supporters near the White House for more than an hour, exhorting them to “stop the steal” and make a stand for his presidency.
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened, radical-left Democrats,” Trump said at the rally. “We will never give up; we will never concede.”
After his speech, a crowd began marching up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Among the leaders of the march was Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who has long promoted Trump on his InfoWars show and podcast.
Trump supporters waving flags and wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats at the morning rally in the Ellipse adjacent to the White House said they were there because they believe Trump was being illegally denied a second term.
“The election was stolen and we have to do something to save the country,” said Colleen Murphy, 53, who traveled from Wisconsin for the rally. “I think Trump has a trump card up his sleeve.”
Sporadic violence between pro- and anti-Trump protesters occurred in Washington just after the November election, before all the states had certified their votes. But the events on Wednesday were more grave.
While the counting of the Electoral College votes in Congress is largely symbolic, it had become a key point of contention among Republicans, ensuring a delayed confirmation of Biden’s win.
A 37-year-old woman from New Jersey named Lauren — she declined to give her last name — said she believes the November election was rigged by China’s Communist Party.
“I’m here to fight for the president,” she said. “The election was fraudulent.”
–With assistance from Anna Edgerton, Kriston Capps, Emma Kinery, Justin Sink, William Turton, Erik Wasson, Jennifer Epstein, Chris Strohm and Laura Litvan.