WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol has been secured by law enforcement Wednesday evening after angry supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building and descended into chaos — marching through the building; shouting and waving Trump, American and even Confederate flags; and forcing a halt to congressional deliberations over challenges to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. One person was shot and later died.
Rep. Ritchie Torres said on the PIX11 News at 5 that the Capitol was secured and that he had recently received an update.
Torres represents parts of the Bronx in Congress.
The violent protesters broke into the building as Congress was beginning the formal process of certifying the electoral votes that gave Democratic President-elect Joe Biden a victory over Trump in November. Vice President Mike Pence has the ceremonial role of overseeing that certification and resisted Trump efforts to pressure him to overturn the election results.
Biden addressed the nation, calling what was happening an “insurrection” and demanding Trump give his own address meant to quell his supporters.
“What we’re seeing are a small number of extremists,” he said. “This is not dissent, it’s disorder.”
“The words of a president matter,” Biden continued, “no matter how good or bad a president is. At the best, the words of a president can inspire; at the worst, they can incite. Therefore, I call on President Trump: Go on national television now — to defend the constitution and the end of this siege.”
Shortly after, the president released a video in which he continued tofan the flames of division, repeating unfounded claims of fraud while also telling protesters to “go home” and to go in peace.
“We love you, you’re very special,” he said to the group of violent supporters that overtook the nation’s Capitol.
Later in the evening, his video message and two other tweets were removed from his timeline and his account was suspended.
One person was shot inside the Capitol, according to the Associated Press. She later died, DC police officials confirmed to PIX11.
Federal authorities were being deployed to the area Wednesday afternoon, hours after the building’s security was breached and the situation had escalated, with Capitol Police clearly in need of assistance to quell tensions and stop violence.
In a raucous, out-of-control scene, protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the National Guard would be deployed to the area, along with “other federal protective services.”
The Department of Homeland Security is sending additional federal agents to the U.S. Capitol to help quell violence. A spokesperson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that officers from the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service agents are being sent to the scene. He said they were requested to assist by U.S. Capitol Police.
Though the president initially egged on the group and encouraged demonstrations at the Capitol, he later tweeted a directive for them to “remain peaceful” and called for “No violence” — only after cries from politicians and others for him to condemn his supporters in and around the building.
I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
Republican lawmakers have publicly called for Trump to more vocally condemn the violence and to call to an end to the occupation, which halted the joint session of Congress where lawmakers were beginning to count electoral votes.
Senators were being evacuated. Some House lawmakers tweeted they were sheltering in place in their offices.
Demonstrators initially protested to thwart a peaceful transfer of power fought with Capitol Police and then forced their way into the building, not long after a huge rally near the White House during which Trump egged them on to march to Capitol Hill.
Video and pictures showed movement supporters inside the chambers of the House and Senate, marching through Statuary Hall and wreaking havoc inside the nation’s legislature.
The protesters abruptly interrupted the congressional proceedings in an eerie scene that featured official warnings directing people to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
Lawmakers had convened for an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results but protests erupted outside the Capitol and government office buildings were being evacuated.
Though fellow Republicans were behind the challenge to Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to lower tensions and argued against it. He warned the country “cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes” with “separate facts.”
McConnell declared, “The voters, the courts and the states all have spoken.”
But other Republicans, including House GOP leaders among Trump’s allies were acting out the pleas of supporters at his huge Wednesday rally up Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House to “fight for Trump.”
“We have to fix this,” said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip.
The last-gasp effort is all but certain to fail, defeated by bipartisan majorities in Congress prepared to accept the November results. Biden is to be inaugurated Jan. 20.
Still, Trump vowed to he would “never concede” and urged the massive crowd to march to the Capitol where hundreds had already gathered under tight security.
“We will never give up,” Trump told his noontime rally.
Vice President Mike Pence was closely watched as he stepped onto the dais to preside over the joint session in the House chamber.
Pence has a largely ceremonial role, opening the sealed envelopes from the states after they are carried in mahogany boxes used for the occasion, and reading the results aloud. But he was under growing pressure from Trump to overturn the will of the voters and tip the results in the president’s favor, despite having no legal power to affect the outcome.
“Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
But Pence, in a statement shortly before presiding, defied Trump, saying he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.
Arizona was the first of several states facing objections from the Republicans as Congress took an alphabetical reading of the election results.
Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, and eight lawsuits challenging the results have failed. The state’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of an election challenge.
It was during required deliberations over Arizona that protests turned chaotic and the Capitol was subsequently locked down; the session later went into recess.
The joint session of Congress, required by law, convened before a watchful, restless nation — months after the election, two weeks before the inauguration’s traditional peaceful transfer of power and against the backdrop of a surging COVID-19 pandemic.
One U.S. Senator said staffers secured Electoral College ballots before the building was bombarded. Without them, Congress’ role in certifying the election would be compromised.
Lawmakers were told by Capitol officials to arrive early, due to safety precautions with protesters in Washington. Visitors, who typically fill the galleries to watch landmark proceedings, were not allowed under COVID-19 restrictions.
The session also came as overnight results from Georgia’s runoff elections put Democrats within reach of a Senate majority.
With the Senate results from Georgia streaming in and Democrats within reach of controlling the chamber, Trump amplified his pleas to stay in office as a veto check on the rival party. At the rally he said he had just talked to Pence and criticized Republicans who are not willing to fight for him as “weak.”
While other vice presidents, including Al Gore and Richard Nixon, also presided over their own defeats, Pence supports those Republican lawmakers mounting challenges to the 2020 outcome.
It’s not the first time lawmakers have challenged results. Democrats did in 2017 and 2005. But the intensity of Trump’s challenge is like nothing in modern times, and an outpouring of current and elected GOP officials warn the showdown is sowing distrust in government and eroding Americans’ faith in democracy.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters on Capitol Hill that Trump’s election challenge has “disgraced the office of the presidency.”
“We’ll proceed as the Constitution demands and tell our supporters the truth — whether or not they want to hear it,” Romney said.
Still, more than a dozen Republican senators led by Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with as many as 100 House Republicans, were pressing ahead to raise objections to individual states’ reports of Biden’s wins.
Under the rules of the joint session, any objection to a state’s electoral tally needs to be submitted in writing by at least one member of the House and one of the Senate to be considered. Each objection will force two hours of deliberations in the House and Senate, ensuring a long day.
House Republican lawmakers are signing on to objections to the electoral votes in six states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Hawley has said he will object to the election results from Pennsylvania, almost ensuring a second two-hour debate despite resistance from the state’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey, who said the tally of Biden’s win is accurate.
- US Capitol under siege — a timeline of events
- 1 shot as Trump supporters storm Capitol
- Trump calls for peace in tweet
- Local leaders react to DC chaos