In chaotic scenes in Washington DC, protesters stormed their way into the heart of American democracy
A mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday in a bid to overthrow November’s election result.
Dozens of protesters broke into the building and roamed the corridors as tens of thousands gathered outside in support of the president’s false claims of election fraud.
Congressmen who had gathered to certify the election results were forced to flee under escort as law enforcement lost control of the situation.
Despite these events, however, the US Congress has confirmed Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States of America, after they certified 270 Electoral College votes this Thursday, Jan 7.
After Congress approved Vermont’s votes, Mr Biden has reached the number of Electoral College votes needed to become the President of America. He has, therefore, defeated Donald Trump by 306-232.
Then, following the fatal events on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump committed to a peaceful transition of power for the first time.
In a short video posted on Twitter (below), Mr Trump said being president had been “the honour of my lifetime” and insisted that in spreading baseless claims of election fraud he had merely been “fighting to defend American democracy”. He also committed to a “smooth transition of power”.
The traditional outdoor ceremony is set to go ahead – though the coronavirus pandemic could scale back the usual celebrations.
Mr Biden condemned the events at Capitol Hill during a speech on Jan 7, calling them “one of the darkest days in the history of our nation” and “an assault on the rule of law.”
He added: “Don’t you dare call them protesters; they were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic, it’s that simple.”
Sent on their way by Mr Trump to march up Capitol Hill from the White House, the president’s vocal army of supporters descended on the Capitol Building.
They clashed with officers. Then some stormed the building. Congressmen were scrambled out of the chambers as reports of armed stand-offs emerged.
The first protesters reached the inside of the building around 2pm, shortly after both the Senate and the House began proceedings to certify the election results.
In the House chamber security officers pulled their guns to barricade the door. At least one pro-Trump protester made it into the Senate chamber, sitting with hand aloft in victory.
Photographs soon emerged of protesters having breached the floor. One showed a man in a bobble hat sitting in Mr Pence’s chair, arm aloft in victory.
As rioters shouted and waved Trump and American flags, people inside the building were directed to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
Thousands of the president’s faithful had gathered the night before, arriving after Mr Trump demanded support for his on-going claim that he, not Mr Biden, was the real election victor.
Wednesday was the day when Congress performs its largely ceremonial duty of signing off the results ahead of the inauguration on January 20, when Mr Biden becomes president.
Read more: Who is Jake Angeli, the ‘QAnon shaman’ from Arizona at the heart of the Capitol riots?
A US Air Force veteran has been identified as the protester killed in the Capitol building.
, who was married and lived near San Diego, California, was fatally shot in the chaos, her husband told US news channel KUSI. She appeared to have been shot in her neck, before a mob tried to attend to her. It was unclear who fired the shot.
Babbit, a Trump supporter, served for 14 years in the service and had been involved in four tours of duty, the channel reported.
U. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of injuries suffered during the riot, the force said in a statement late on Thursday.
“Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots…and was injured while physically engaging with protesters,” police said in a statement.
He succumbed on Thursday after being taken to hospital following his collapse upon returning to his divisional office, they added.
A 6pm citywide curfew was announced as evening approached. The events were widely described as a dark day for American democracy.
The entire District of Columbia National Guard, made up of 1,100 troops, was ordered into the city at the request of Washington mayor Muriel Bowser.
Robert Contee, DC’s Chief of Police, said firearms have been recovered by officers, including long guns and hand guns.
The mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, has also extended the Emergency Declaration until Jan 21, the day after Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
This gives city officials the power to order people off the street if a curfew is issued, reduce the hours of operation for businesses across the city, and expend funds as needed to protect public safety.
The mayor shared: “President Trump continues to fan rage and violence by contending that the Presidential election was invalid,” adding, “some persons can be expected to continue their violent protests through the inauguration.”
Mr Trump had addressed the crowds hours before they marched on the Capitol, telling them to “stop the steal” and doubling down on his false claims of election victory.
As the violence broke out Mr Trump later called for calm, tweeting: “I am asking for everyone at the US Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!”
Mr Trump later released a video calling his supporters to go home. He said: “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. We don’t want anybody hurt.”
But moments later, the president doubled down on his baseless claims of election fraud. Even as the Capitol is being assaulted, Donald Trump is continuing to tweet false claims that the election has been stolen.
On Thursday evening, Mr Trump acknowledgedthat a new US administration will take over on January 20 and condemned the mob that stormed the Capitol during a conciliatory new video address.
In a message of unity delivered to the camera, the US president said his supporters who broke into the Capitol had “defiled the seat of American democracy”.
Mr Trump called for punishments for those who had broken the law and urged calm, saying that “tempers must be cooled and calm restored”.
He also promised to work towards the “smooth, orderly and seamless transfer of power” in what was his firmest drawing of a line under the election results to date.
In his latest tweet, he claims that the vote has been “unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots”:
There are growing calls for Facebook and Twitter to remove the president’s incendiary posts, or delete his accounts entirely.
Mr Biden condemned the violence and called on protesters to fall back in a statement delivered to the cameras on Wednesday afternoon (see video below).
“Let me be very clear. The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America [and] do not represent who we are,” the president-elect said.
“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.
“I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Mr Pence issued a more forceful call for protesters to depart. “This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said that “violence is intolerable” and that the actions of the protesters were unacceptable.
The storming of the U.S. Capitol today is unacceptable. Lawlessness and rioting — here or around the world — is always unacceptable. I have travelled to many countries and always support the right of every human being to protest peacefully for their beliefs and their causes.
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leaders in the US House of Representatives and Senate respectively, demanded Mr Trump’s immediate removal amid outrage at his actions before the US Capitol was stormed by a mob of his supporters.
They publicly called on Mike Pence, the US vice president, to invoke the 25th Amendment, a mechanism that removes a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.
A wave of top officials quit the White House on Wednesday, turning their backs on Mr Trump.
A number of White House staff, including Sarah Matthews, the deputy press secretary, and Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff, resigned effective immediately. It was also reported on Wednesday evening that Chris Liddell, the president’s deputy chief of staff, has quit.
The US media reported that Mr Trump’s Cabinet secretaries were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president. The amendment theoretically allows for the removal of a president who is incapacitated or unwilling to perform their duties.
Seventeen Democratic congressmen signed a letter on Wednesday night calling on Mike Pence to enact the amendment and remove Mr Trump.
Boris Johnson called on the US to restore the rule of law. “Disgraceful scenes in US Congress, the British prime minister tweeted.
“The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. “
“To witness tonight’s scenes in Washington DC is a shock,” European Council president Charles Michel tweeted.
“In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege,” the European Union’s foreign policy supremo Josep Borrell said, in a separate tweet.
“This is an unseen assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law. This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected,” Mr Borrell said, referring to the US presidential election that saw Trump beaten by Joe Biden.
Speaking to Sky News, Kim Darroch, the UK’s former ambassador to the US, shared his belief that Mr Trump was not fit to be president, before suggesting Number 10 “got too close” to the Trump presidency.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced she is “furious and saddened” by the violence seen in Washington DC, and said Mr Trump shares the blame for the unrest among his supporters.
“I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday,” she said, before adding:
“Doubts about the election outcome were stoked and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has labelled the US electoral system as “archaic”, before saying it does not meet democratic standards- blaming the media’s politicisation for the deep unrest in the American capital.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, she shared: “The electoral system in the United States is archaic, it does not meed modern democratic standards, creating opportunities for numerous violations, and the American media have become an instrument of political struggle”.
Furthermore, a senior Russian lawmaker has said American democracy is “limping on both feet”. In a post on Facebook, Konstantin Kosachyov, the chair of the Russian upper house’s foreign affairs committee continued:
“The celebration of democracy has ended. It has, unfortunately, hit rock bottom, and I say this without a hint of gloating.”
“America no longer charts the course and so has lost all right to set it. And, even more so, to impose it on others.”
However, Chinese officials have indeed gloated over the chaos seen in DC. The state-owned outlets mocked US politicians who had spoken out in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong storming the city’s legislative building in 2018:
“@SpeakerPelosi once referred to the Hong Kong riots as a ‘beautiful sight to behold’ – it remains yet to be seen whether she will say the same about the recent developments in Capitol Hill,” read the Communist Party outlet, the Global Times, in their pinned tweet.
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News – Five dead in US Capitol riot after Donald Trump’s supporters storm Washington – everything we know